Subject Matter Expert: Jenn Schmidt, GISP

Photograph by Stuart Isett. ©2018 Stuart Isett. All rights reserved.

Jenn Schmidt, GISP, is a Spatial Science Director at Herrera with 17 years of experience using GIS and related technologies to map and model geospatial trends in rivers and floodplains across the Pacific Northwest. As a project manager, Jenn is an expert in identifying rigorous and cost-effective data analysis methods to help support effective decision making. Check out Jenn’s advice to other environmental professionals below!

How has the industry changed since you started?  

GIS has changed dramatically in the 18 years that I’ve been with Herrera, both in terms of the technology itself and the different ways that we are able to apply it. I think that folks originally saw it as a support service for creating maps for reports and running calculations, kind of like a glorified version of Google Earth. Now it is a core element of pretty much every project we pursue, from collecting data to analyzing it to sharing that data back to our clients and the public so it is easily understood. Environmental issues are spatial issues.

What advice do you have for communicating scientific or technical information to the public, organizations, or internal audiences?

I have always loved the Einstein quote “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I think the most important part of communicating information is to first understand what you’re trying to communicate in a way that you could summarize in a soundbite, and then tailor the level of detail and presentation format to the specific audience you’re trying to reach. I am a big fan of StoryMaps and other interactive deliverables like dashboards.

What do you consider to be your biggest professional accomplishment?

The GIS group at Herrera has grown from a couple people back when I first started to a team of nine. Leading this group of super talented GIS professionals and growing the scope of spatial science services that Herrera offers is my biggest professional accomplishment. Finishing graduate school while working full-time is a close second.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I feel very fortunate to have had wonderful mentors working at Herrera. I think the best piece of advice I’ve received from them is that when you make a mistake, the most important things are to take responsibility, do what you can to make it right, learn what you can so you don’t make the same mistake again, and then to move on. We are all human and mistakes are inevitable, so learning how to handle them with grace and be kind to ourselves is important.