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What I ask of Surveyors

latahgps
(@latahgps)
FNG Member

When I first started working in the survey profession, many new activities I quickly learned, others took years to perfect. The two pieces of advice I heard most often in the beginning of my training were: dig the hole a little wider and deeper and hold the dumb end of the chain.

The L.S. I worked with, named Jerry, was an excellent trainer, and he made certain that I became skilled at completing a task before he would allow me to do anything on my own. He accomplished this by having me look over his shoulder, and he was always asking a thousand questions (or it at least seemed like it was that many). Then he would allow me to try the task and again ask me a lot of questions. It was his way of training and making sure that I was ready to work without him being there.

My background had been as a manufacturing engineer, so I had solid math skills. One day when we were working in the field, he was doing calculations for the next corner we were going to search for. The math he was doing was looked remarkably familiar. I asked him what he was trying to figure out. He said he was computing the “inverse” to next corner. To which I replied, “You mean the angle and the distance.” He looked up and said, “No, the inverse. You’re a surveyor now, not an engineer.”

When I first started working with Jerry, I just couldn’t understand how he could find those section corners in middle of a field or in the middle of the woods. Some of the corners, he told me later, had not been recovered for years. I can remember as we walked to some of those corners that I keep asking myself, “Why don’t we just walk around the swamp; wouldn’t be a lot easier?” That’s when I started to understand the term, “Walk in the steps of the original surveyor.” I was also starting to understand why he spent all that time in the office reading old survey notes, maps, and drawings.

Remember when retracing a survey: ALWAYS WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE ORIGINAL SURVEYOR. That is such a simple statement, yet it has a far-reaching meaning. You must correct your chain and compass to his or her chain and compass, not theirs to yours. If the original surveyor did not record the declination that was used, it is possible to recreate it by using the annual change from the isogonic chart. Try to locate the chart that was in use at the time of the original survey and use the declination given

It really hit me when several years later I was working with a summer employee doing my own corner search. The two of us had walked about a half mile into the woods to GPS a corner. After we found the corner he asked if I had ever been to this corner before, and I said no. I didn’t tell him that I saw an RP plate on one of the trees as we got close. While we were checking the corners RPs, the summer worker asked if I smelled out the corner. I told him it was a great trainer I had who got us here.

Over the years I have been a speaker at numerous survey conventions. Every time I find myself in a group of older surveyors, the subject of the lack of qualified surveyors always comes up. They normally repeat the same complaint: The schools just don’t train them before they graduate. I always upset a few of them when I ask, “Who have you trained lately?” Or “Who did you offer an internship to last year?”

All I can say is thank you Jerry for taking me under your wing and making me into a surveyor whom the local community looks up to. I’m sure each one of you have someone whom you look up to, who helped make you into the skilled professional you are today.

We need to train our young surveyors how to work in the field. They can’t teach everything in school. They need to be able to find that worn “X” on a rock face or be able to tell which tree has an over grown RP. The only way young surveyors will learn this type of skills is in the field with you, a skilled trainer

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Topic starter Posted : September 10, 2021 8:31 pm
ncsudirtman, Learner, BushAxe and 10 people liked
holy cow
(@holy-cow)
10,000+ posts Member

Amen, Brother.  You have walked the walk and talked the talk.

The answers in surveying don't come from pushing a button.

BTW, I am a PE and an LS.

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Posted : September 10, 2021 9:50 pm
Learner, BushAxe, FL/GA and 2 people liked
latahgps
(@latahgps)
FNG Member

About a month ago an Engineering company called and asked if I could setup some GPS equipment to do a survey job.  They needed someone to topo a building site and were gong hire someone to do the job.  First I asked if they had a LS working for them or are you going to use a LS for the job.  No, we just need someone to walk the site and push the buttons.  I told them that I wouldn't help unless the job was completed under the direction of an LS and hung up. 

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Topic starter Posted : September 10, 2021 10:10 pm

Jitterboogie
(@jitterboogie)
1,000+ posts Supporter

@holy-cow 

My recent Surveyor was same. It's a weird affliction, and I benefited because of it. Damn that Manning equation!!!!

 

 

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Posted : September 10, 2021 10:29 pm
holy cow
(@holy-cow)
10,000+ posts Member

@jitterboogie 

Open channel flow is a piece of cake compared to manifold pipe flow.

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Posted : September 10, 2021 10:53 pm
Stacy Carroll
(@stacy-carroll)
500+ posts Member

I had an interesting blend of mentors. My Dad, who many times was waiting for me when I got off the school bus to go survey somewhere. Pope, the 40+ year county surveyor. Max, dual registered, always the peacekeeper. Dean, always the example of professionalism to us younger guys. There are many more. Some taught me what not to do. Even those were Valuable lessons. And there is John, who got his license under my supervision a couple years ago. He was already an LSIT and a great heavy construction surveyor when we started working together. Always asking the question that challenged the decision making process, I had to stay on my toes. The mentor learned a few things from the apprentice along the way. There is always a lesson to be learned wherever you are, you just have to look for it sometimes.

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Posted : September 11, 2021 2:36 am
ncsudirtman, christ lambrecht, BushAxe and 5 people liked

Murphy
(@murphy)
200+ posts Member

The best mentor I had was a professor at White Mountains Community College.  Universities become beholden to administration and the uncompromising process of receiving ABET accreditation.  An A.S. in land surveying, taught by an active PLS, through a community is an excellent way to raise the PLS bar.  

I don't disagree that a PLS should mentor employees.  I just think an emphasis on getting quality PLSs to become instructors at community colleges is the attainable option.  Granted, the requirement to have a Masters degree to instruct at the CC level is a major roadblock for this approach.  Too bad the new aristocracy will not allow years of experience and measurable success to be a worthy substitute for their radiating brilliance.

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Posted : September 11, 2021 4:15 am
ncsudirtman, RADAR, Nate The Surveyor and 3 people liked
Jitterboogie
(@jitterboogie)
1,000+ posts Supporter

@stacy-carroll 

That is a zen goal....when the teacher becomes the student.

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Posted : September 11, 2021 6:01 am
Brad Ott liked
BStrand
(@bstrand)
1,000+ posts Member

They normally repeat the same complaint: The schools just don’t train them before they graduate.

Clearly there's a misunderstanding about the purpose of schools in your area.  Schools teach a broad swath of fundamental concepts so that the student knows a little bit about everything so they aren't clueless, but maybe not necessarily enough to hit the ground running.  It's on the employer to show the graduate how they want things done.

What's funny is I can almost guarantee that if schools were factories that cranked out button-pushers then there'd be complaints about that instead.

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Posted : September 11, 2021 6:36 am

Rover83
(@rover83)
500+ posts Member
Posted by: @bstrand

Schools teach a broad swath of fundamental concepts so that the student knows a little bit about everything so they aren't clueless, but maybe not necessarily enough to hit the ground running.  It's on the employer to show the graduate how they want things done.

Agreed. Without structured, rigorous instruction in the theoretical concepts that underpin the day-to-day work we do, it takes far, far longer to connect the dots between "doing a surveying task" and practicing professional land surveying. Often it doesn't happen at all, and in too many cases, a mentee comes away with a fragmented, warped, or even flat-out wrong notion of why we do what we do.

A licensed practitioner shouldn't have to teach 2-4 years' worth of high-level coursework on the job - their role is to reinforce key concepts, demonstrate their real-world applications, and provide the guidance that allows a prospective licensee to have those "a-ha!" moments when they are able to fully and deeply understand the work.

Formal education has its place. So does mentorship in the real world...this profession requires both theoretical and practical knowledge. We wouldn't be a profession if it didn't.

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Posted : September 11, 2021 7:44 pm
latahgps
(@latahgps)
FNG Member

Most schools miss one of the best tools they have.  That being internships.  They are a few schools that rotate their students.  Many be a quarter in school, a quarter in the field.  This give the student to learn much better education and are far more prepared to work in the profession.

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Topic starter Posted : September 11, 2021 11:03 pm
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