Beyond the Scope: The True Value of State Conferences
Professional Surveyor Magazine - April 2008
Bill Beardslee, PLS, PE, PP
During January and February, there were approximately 25 state conferences throughout the country. From coast to coast, surveyors are migrating to the chosen site in their state to meet. Some go cheerfully and some with great disdain. Some will stay for the entire conference or turn it into a mini-vacation by adding a few extra days. Others will come for one day or the minimum amount necessary.
The "necessary" portion of the conference has evolved from the creation of continued competency requirements in many of the states. I will save the lengthy discussion on the merits of continued competency for a future article.
Many of the states offer speakers from all over the nation to expound on a great variety of topics. Be it surveying procedures, mathematics, the application of law to surveying, business practices, or project planning, you are likely to find a course of your liking at the conference. This provides an opportunity to experience "outside the box" topics that normally aren't discussed in the everyday work environment but are important to the expansion of our knowledge.
The information you collect from the instructors may help you work more efficiently, collect more effectively, expand into a new service area, or obtain a critical data source. But to me, it is, and will always be, about the people—the great surveyors of your state.
It is a great pleasure to sit and converse with a surveyor from the other end of the state whom I get to spend time with only once a year and, if not for the state society, whom I most likely would never have met. We have so much in common, the conversation flows easily.
You find out about families and tragedies, interests and hobbies. You are fascinated by what some surveyors are involved in. I personally enjoy hearing about their hobbies, some of which are mentioned in each edition of this column.
At some time during each seminar or class (and whenever a few surveyors are just sitting around talking) the most valuable part of the conference arises— the "war stories." They are as much a part of survey lore as Lewis and Clark. At every conference I attend, at least one time during the telling of these stories I say, "Wow! I never thought of that!" It may be a place to get information, a person to contact, a way to solve a field problem, a method of handling a personnel issue, a way to increase collections, or an item to include in proposals—each one coming from a surveyor's personal experiences. There will always be that one gold nugget from your contemporaries that makes the trip worthwhile.
At the conference, you have an opportunity to talk in a much more relaxed and productive atmosphere, with no one yelling, no phones ringing, no crisis to deflate. It's just a conversation between friends.
I am fortunate to have attended more conferences in numerous states than I could ever remember. The overall value of those events is the number of great ideas I have discovered and the friends I have been blessed to have all over the country.
During the awards ceremony at a recent conference, the recipient noted that after all the years he has been in this wonderful profession, other surveyors were no longer just his friends, they were his surveying family! This really prompted me to think, and I couldn't agree more. All those friends I meet at conferences are really my surveying family!
Attending the conference is like going to a wedding. You see more family members you only have an opportunity to see at weddings. You promise many you will be in touch. You hear, "Let's get together for dinner," or golf, or other activities. And, just as importantly, you would be ready at a moment's notice to help anyone in either of these families.
The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates won a world series with the fans and the team united by the sounds of "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge. Why don't we keep that in mind when we attend the next conference and when we interact with our surveying family throughout the year? Maybe it will help us work together to reach greater heights.
Our peers - Our people - Our family
This month's hobbies again show that surveyors are an extraordinary lot with interests as diverse as the universe. How about a surveyor/college hockey referee? And, my personal favorite, a surveyor/UFO investigator! (He is on call for two groups whenever there are sightings anywhere in the USA.)
About the Author
Bill Beardslee, PLS, PE, PPBill Beardslee is the past president of the New Jersey Society of Professional Land Surveyors and their 2006 Surveyor of the Year.
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