location, location, more locations: location intelligence and geocoding for growing the business

I’ve been browsing through the job broads too much recently. Yes, TOO MUCH, which makes me so anxious and angry sometimes. The employers out there just wanna you to do everything. Only the GIS job kinda things I am really interested in now, the employers want me to use ArcGIS for years, know all the spatial analysis/statistics, and also know open source data sources, and different satellite images processing—OK, I could do that. But I also need to be able to code via C++, Python, Jave, CSS and HTML, AND if I know the popular statistical and mathematical tools, like SAS, STAT, R, or MATLAB is plus. What about you could also use Adobe illustrator to make the most awesome maps and you better speak second and third foreign languages. The essential duties for the job position are …. a list of 20 duties, and requirements… another 30 of them and additionally… you must have xxx years of social, economic and environmental science related work experiences in Africa, Asia and South America…. I get it, I am never gonna be a good candidate. But, employers out there, come on… you don’t need a technical slaver, or Mr./Ms-knows-everything, you need the employee who can learn and wanna learn, and who can really evolve with your business and passionate about the job you give to them. When the employers refuse to give you the job offers that they are also so confident that they are gonna find someone right fit the position very soon, which terrified me the most. YOU ARE NOT THE BEST— that is the message I got everyday while I’m browsing through the job boards!

Back to the location intelligence. Business people, enterprise and industries leaders out there have grown their interests on analyzing your shopping behavior, habits and locations. Yes, it all about us. U.S Census bureau has launched two programs about the location analysis/intelligence for small business people who wanna start they own business, one is called country business pattern and another one is ZIP code business pattern.It aims to help small business people. The data are from 1998 to 2013, I never have a chance to use them but it could be super cool to dig out the information and pattern through the data. Future business starters would need more and more of this kinda information. From my own opinion is that: firstly, the business pattern would help you to analyze or map out the similar business you wanna run out there in your town, county or even nationally; secondly, the ZIP code business pattern could do the similar thing like business pattern analysis , but the ZIP code could also be used to analyze your potential customers’ behavior, race and so on, which means just map out your potential customers largely; the last step could be the real location analysis/intelligence, which would help you to analyse where is the best location to build/start your business, to avoid the potential business competitors but target to a bigger group of future customers. It’s certainly a mixing of information science, spatial analysis, statistics….

I only know about the ZIP code/geocoding so far, but it’s way too cool, and just wanna make a little note to myself in this blog. For an example you could go back to see my first blog in this blog site. The main process for matching the addresses/ZIP codes is: 1) Build/obtain reference data, which could be points, e.g. cities, counties, nations, or houses; polyline, e.g. streets, roads, and polygons, e.g. independent house, business centers; 2) Select address locator style, they are US Address-Dual Ranges, One Range, Single House, Street Name, City States, ZIP 5 Digit, ZIP +4, General-City State Country, General- Gazetteer, General-Field; 3) Build address locator, and then 4) Perform address matching. ArcGIS geocoding could do process this for you, and you could just run the geocoding through it. In the spatial analysis, besides the locations, the scale of your interest in are very important, for example, independent house and shopping mall are polygon in bigger spatial scale but they become points when you zoom out to a smaller scale.

location map

Creating interactive maps inside existing business systems can help users see patterns that graphs and charts cannot reveal. (ESRI)

Reference for the blog content except the complaining at the beginning and my own thought:

  1. location analysis for business from ESRI;
  2. Geocoding on WIKI ;
  3. Business pattern analysis data from U.S. Census;
  4. Business strength geocoding;

Why it has to be an ESRI certification?

After I signed up an ESRI ArcGIS certification exam, I felt regret immediately. It just sounds a bit  stupid that whoever wanna be certified that how good and efficient of they could use a software (platform), even though people do that all the time. As some of you might know that I just moved to the states from China and recently have been looking for a job as a geospatial analyst. Every single job that I wanna apply have a sentence directs to ESRI and ArcGIS skillets e.g. “GIS-related applications including…… ESRI ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Suite (ArcMap, ArcSDE, ArcCatalog, etc.”. That’s the initial reason I signed up for the certification exam from ESRI, if I could think of one. Of course I am also very curious that why people are so obsessed with ESRI since there are several alternative tools out there could get spatial analysis done.  Don’t get me wrong that I’ve been using ESRI products for years, and I think they are super powerful, only thing I really need is showing the proof that I could do the spatial analysis to the future employer.
I am just trying to think one or two things might explain why I need a certification and why it has to be from ESRI. Firstly, why we need a certification on GIS:
  1. Geospatial technology is a growing industry itself, and a lot of employers need to identify the future employees who claim they got the skill-sets they want;
  2. There are no a really good certification that could be pursued in the geo-industry standard really, and GISP sounds supper high-ends that only 7000 people have it and 5000 of them are in the states. For whom are in the field and wanna take the exam, Geographic Information System Certification Institute (GISCI) just announced a GIS profession certificate exam several days ago: http://www.directionsmag.com/pressreleases/gisci-announces-exam-application-period/454179.
These two reasons are what I could think about why I need a GIS certification to certify people who have the skill sets. But why it has to be the ESRI certifications. I’ve been asking around that why in GIS professional groups. I posted a question on GIS group to ask people “if having a certification from ESRI would really help me find a job in the states”. There were no direct question for it, if you’re interested in seeing how people responded to that you could go to: https://www.linkedin.com/grp/post/49657-6042661347865489408. To answer that why it has to be ESRI certification:
  1. ESRI has included the dominated geospatial skill-sets that an industry/company could asks for, from very basic desktop analysis skills to enterprise big data analysis;
  2. ESRI has a 43% of share in GIS market, and the second-largest supplier share 11%, which tells that ESRI is leading the geospatial Market; They are keeping the core GIS coming from many talented employees, and ESRI’s core GIS is used by more than two-third of Fortune 500 companies;
  3. ESRI has great educational platform. I mentioned in my last blog post that ESRI is promoting it’s ArcGIS Online, the online campus classes have more than 5000 students participated and the number is growing everyday; Other than that they also have a lot of free online tutorials (some are not) for people from beginner to developer;
  4. The marketing strategy is selling stories rather than fancy technical functions that ESRI ArcGIS could preforms. I am a huge fan of them since I brought 6 big books last year and went through most of them. they are: ESRI ArcGIS Desktop Associate Certification exam book, GIS Tutorial Basic Workbook, GIS Tutorial Spatial Analysis Workbook, GIS Tutorial Advanced Workbook, Python scripting for ArcGIS and The ESRI Guide to GIS Analysis. The real-world problems/stories that provided behind the data and spatial analysis just keep motivating me to try more and learn more. The overall theory behind the problems/stories are very solid, and I feel the hand-on analysis exercises, solving the real world story, really enhance the knowledge and theory I learn.
  5. ESRI also provides some cool blogs, e-magzines, and materials that you could extent the knowledge as a GIS fan.

黎明

You’re welcomed to share any insights here.

More links about my work:

Data visualization via ArcGIS: from data to information and my Geo-Cases 4 and 5

Spatial analysis through Geographic Information System is very powerful that allows us to dig out the pattern and the message behind the random look data we collected. Geospatial analyst believes that the information is there, and it’s just how we could find it out and visualize it.

ESRI ArcGIS provide several spatial statistics tools, e.g cluster,regression,geogarphic relationship. I am playing with datasets of two separate cases today. First case is mining the crime data of 2008 in Pittsburgh, PA; the second case is analyzing population at risk from earthquakes in California city. The data-sets are provided by ESRI ArcGIS tutorial.

Knowledge needed: Geospatial statistics, mainly on buffering and cluster.

Geo-case 4 crime data mining from Pittsburgh, PA in 2008. The dataset I have here only have larcenies in Pittsburgh from 2008, the data included crime date, locations, the age, gender, race. To map out the larceny frequency for each neighborhood, and the criminal features are what I am going to present here. Group cluster analysis is used to dig out the pattern and message behind these random data.

Map results:

crime data mining in Pittburg-densityFrom the frequency/density of larcenies, there are more larcenies in some area especially the up right corner of the city. However, some areas are safer in term of larceny density, and have marked with a hollow fill.

crime data mining in Pittburgh1

Using group cluster analysis, six groups of larceny criminals are mapped on the map above. Each group contents race, gender and average age of the criminals.

Geo-case 5. Population at risk and number of death from earthquake since 1985.

Result map: Clifornia earthquak risk

Map interpretation: the points on the maps are the earthquakes distribution in California from 1720 to 1994. Only MMI higher than 6 were presented here. MMI,stands for Mercalli Intensity Scale, from 6 to 12 correspond to increasing damage, from considerable damage of poorly constructed buildings through total destruction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercalli_intensity_scale). Only death from the earthquakes since 1985 were counted. 440 death and 70% of them are from a earthquake in southern California in 1992. The circles on the map are the areas that significantly impacts by the earthquakes since 1985, and the number labeled are the death.

** data presented here might be modified and uncorrected, and I DON’T TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the correctness of the information presented here. They are JUST the practice and assignments I’ve done for the professional certification test on ESRI ArcGIS 10.2. Please don’t use THE maps for any other purposes. 

**************************************************************************

*** I have a legal work permit in the states, and am now open for a job position in Geospatial Analyst/GIS Analyst around DC area (or telecommuting). I have knowledge on: 

  • Utilize advanced modeling techniques
  • Apply fundamental spatial statistics
  • Perform advanced vector and raster analysis
  • Perform surface modeling and analysis
  • Understand and apply python scripting
  • Perform fundamentals of spatial database design
  • Determine and define an appropriate coordinate system
  • Demonstrate proficiency in application configuration
  • Apply advanced visualization techniques
  • Understand fundamental network analysis concepts
  • Perform some basic network analysis

I mainly using ESRI ArcGIS 10.2, ArcGIS online, server, and have experience using open GIS softwares and platforms on QGIS and GRASS, and spatial modeling scripting via R and Python. I will present the knowledge above in the  geo-cases I’m doing in my future blogs. English is my third language, and any comments, proof reading, and advice on language polishing and even the content revision are welcomed.

Everything is spatial and they all can be mapped and my Geo-Case 3.

I majored in Geography for my bachelor degree and did Ecological Economics for my PhD. I often got questions from people asking if I am more an economist or an ecologist, I would say I am more a geographer.  “Oh, I never knew Geography is a major” or “what is that?” If you ever asked me these kind of question, please don’t feel bad about it, because you’re not the only one, and I bet my peers got these questions and response all the time.

One thing you might not know is Geospatial Technology has been listed as the top emerging industry in next decades by United States Department of Labor. To me Geospatial Technology is a combination of art, science and engineering. It’s the art of data visualization, and the thought and skills the analyst/cartographer put behind it. I usually got question about what is my ideal job from friends and family, I would say it’s probably Geographic Information System (GIS) analyst or geospatial analyst within the Geospatial Technology since I moved to the states . It’s difficult to become a good GIS analyst in China, even though China got a huge group of GIS analysts and good Geo-programers because it’s more difficult to access to geo-data there, and the field develops just recently and the fundamental data sources are so limited. You have to work for top research institutes or universities to be able to get the data to do further geospatial analysis, and of course you have to build up the network with the state agents first to be able to have the access to the data. However, the story is so different in the states that you have so much open source database run by the state department, and the people are so willing to share their data, the analysis. I got too excited I guess lol and decide to be one of them….This is a link to more than 300 free GIS datasets shared by Prof. Robin Wilson: http://freegisdata.rtwilson.com. Of course, like you’ve just guessed most of free datasets are run and shared by the research institutes, NGO, state lab and universities in the states.

You’re probably would ask about ‘what is exactly geospatial technology?’ I would say they are just the maps you’re using every day, for example, the fastest or least traffic driving routs that google map tells you to get to airport; the map of the best Thai/Mediterranean/Mexican restaurants Yelp shows you; The price of housing around your neighborhood that your real estate agent tells you; or how about the crime map for police station in your area, some area attracts more serious crimes and some are low. Actually, you only need a very basic mapping skill with good platform to map these data that I mentioned above. Of course, you could do more sophisticated analysis with the geo-datasets you have access to, e.g. the medicare spending in some states (countries) are higher than others? Is that because they have less accessibility to good and clean water/food? Or there are just more health facilities happen to be there? Do people become healthier  after they spend more on the medicare and health? Or how about having a protected area in this location and why not a thousand miles away? How much we need to spend on protecting this wildlife? And where would be the most cost-efficient way to fund it?

Everything is spatial and they all can be mapped. Map is so powerful that you definitely could tell the story from the data presents on it. Even though a lot of data is open in the states, but to become a GIS analyst, who works for states department, needs to have a security clearance. It becomes impossible for a non us citizen then. It’s such a dilemma, right? However, there are already such a good and open data source in the states, and I’ve seen so many cool analysis have been presented. Therefore, the work ethics have been highly valued in the field, including what message you’re presenting in the maps and who you present to.

Back to my Geo-Case 3, I had an experience to work with a national nature reserve (state protected area) in China this July. I tried to quantify the habitat quality for future biodiversity conservation under human disturbance and climate change, and to target a location for avoid the impacts from both human disturbance and climate change. We’ve been working with the natural reserve for years and have able to road network, villages location, socioeconomic and demographic data, and historical land-use maps, soil map, vegetation type and so on. My colleagues in World Agroforestry Centre run climate change models, and they impacts on land-use change, which were the land-use change simulation rule for me to run the land-use scenarios.

Data description:  To run this geospatial model of wildlife habitat degradation under human disturbance would need the land- use maps in recent years, climate change data, soil, vegetation type, socioeconomic and demographic and so on. I run the habitat degradation models though InVest (you could get more information through here: http://www.naturalcapitalproject.org). It a platform that allow you to value natural capital.

Knowledge need: remote sensing imagery processing for the land-use mapping; Geo-statistics/geospatial through ESRI ArcGIS; InVest, especially, habitat quality and habitat risk management. (Leave me a comment if you need more detail information).

Result maps:

land-use

hibitat degredation

No surprise that human disturbance have more impacts on habitat quality in the nature reserve, which you could tell the degraded areas are along the road network; and the core area for the nature reserve, which has the least human disturbance, would maintain the highest habitat quality (yellow corner on the left corner of the map.).

*** I am now open for a job position in Geospatial Analyst/GIS Analyst around DC area (or telecommuting). I have knowledge on: 

  • Utilize advanced modeling techniques
  • Apply fundamental spatial statistics
  • Perform advanced vector and raster analysis
  • Perform surface modeling and analysis
  • Understand and apply python scripting
  • Perform fundamentals of spatial database design
  • Determine and define an appropriate coordinate system
  • Demonstrate proficiency in application configuration
  • Apply advanced visualization techniques
  • Understand fundamental network analysis concepts
  • Perform some basic network analysis

I mainly using ESRI ArcGIS 10.2,  ArcGIS online, server, and have experience using open GIS softwares and platforms on QGIS and GRASS, and spatial modeling scripting via R and Python. I will present the knowledge above in the  geo-cases I’m doing in my future blogs. English is my third language, and any comments, proof reading, and advice on language polishing and even the content revision are welcomed.

Geo-Case 2: analyzing a household hazardous waste participant for a NGO

Case description: The Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) is a non-profit organization (NGO) that into environmental protection. Recently, PRC is helping homeowners in many counties in Pennsylvania collecting and disposing of common household products such as paint, solvents, automotive fluids, pesticides, insecticides, and cleaning chemicals, which could not recycling easily. To better develop education and outreach materials response to their work,they want to map out the participants who are volunteering for the program.

Geospatial skill needed: Geocoding.

Data: In this study, only zipcode of the household participants have been recorded. 

Result: the location

Geocode household hazardous waste

In this case study, only participants around Allegheny county are presented. The result shows that more people who can access to PRC are more willing need to participant the program at this point. 

I would try to write more blogs here. The purposes are:

  1. wanna get better on writing in English;
  2. trying to sale my Geospatial analysis skill to the potential employers and customers;
  3. Put up the geospatial cases I’ve done and passion about, and would help me to build my own GEO case file in the future.

I am doing case study instead of putting up the programming,coding and mapping skill, because I believe that mapping is a kinda art and you won’t really interested in how I made them.If you are interesting in these skills, you could contact me for lectures, mapping and analysis work through: yi.zhuangfang@gmail.com. Any language editing, case presenting and map cartography comments are welcomed.

To get a GIS analyst job that questions you would be asked in the interviews and questions I have

I am research fellow at an international research organization, Chinese citizen, and have moved to the states in 2014 with work permit in the states. I found myself is not that into writing peer-reviewed journal articles but love geospatial analysis and I’ve been doing it since 2005. I tried to look for GIS analyst job in the states, basically in DC area. However, I just realized I am in such a awkward position now:

1) a lot of positions ask for security check, which is impossible for a Chinese citizen to pass it in the states;

2) Do employers normally not employ people whoever is overqualified? I have PhD degree in ecological economics from China, and I was told I am overqualified while I try to apply a GIS analyst position. I am not that competitive while I wanna a higher and more advance positions, but I am overqualified when I want a entry level job. To be honest, i am just like to play with data, and just wanna get a job in the states while my husband is in a med school here.

3) How can approve to my future employer that I have the GIS knowledge they ask for. As you known, people usually claim they are GIS pro however the skills do vary. I could program in Python and also in R, e.g. general geospatial analysis, hydrological balance modeling. I’ve gone through the book of Esri ArcgGIS Desktop Associate Certification Study Guide, and I am confident I could pass it, so I decide to go for the professional certification directly. I’ve started to go through the books and materials that Esri ArcGIS Desktop Professional (10.1) a month ago. I am half way through now, and am start to wonder if the certificate is ever going help for getting a job in GIS industry. It’s going to be great to hear more of your insights.

I know it’s a long way to go. I’ve been check job board quite regularly and these are questions might come to me (or you) in the coming interviews. look like I have a lot of homework to do.

Skills

  • Tell me about a new skill you taught yourself (need not be GIS). How did you teach yourself?
  • Here’s an online map. What works well? Why? Where do you see room for improvement? Why?
  • How would you describe what GIS is to a sixth grader?
  • What’s your favorite programming language? Why?
  • What’s the topic of the last GIS presentation you gave for work or school? How did the presentation go? How did you prepare for it? What would you have changed, looking back on it?
  • What book or website do you reference the most in doing your GIS work/homework? What sort of information are you typically seeking?
  • What are three things you might do if you got stuck while working on a school or professional project?
  • What can you tell me about open source? How do you feel about it? Have you used it? How? Why?
  • What can you tell me about open data? Have you used it? How? Why?
  • What do you know about OpenStreetMap? Have you contributed? Why or why not?
  • Do you use a GPS in your car/bike or on foot? Why or why not?

Interest and Motivation

  • Tell me about a map or mapping project you did outside of work or school.
  • What’s the next thing you want to learn about in GIS/geospatial technology? Why?
  • What first got you interested in geospatial technology?
  • Who was most influential in spiking your interest in GIS?
  • If you are the GIS person in the backroom, why do you think what you do should be in/on the ________ (boardroom/sales team/training team/etc.)?

Professionalism and Industry Awareness

  • What do you like best about your current/last job/GIS courses at school?
  • Give me your elevator pitch for why this company needs your GIS skills.
  • Are programming skills important in GIS? Why/why not?
  • Will the GIS profession go the way of the office secretary/typist?
  • Does GIS belong in IT or elsewhere (planning, engineering, etc.)?
  • Do you think like a geographer or a ______ (marketer, forester, geologist, programmer, etc.)?

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Geo-Case 1: how to promote your art activities for the potential market of your company

(In my blog, I will use a lot of abbreviation, one of the most frequent ones would be GIS, which stands for Geographic Information System)

GIS knowledge needed: Geocoding;

Data source: Pennsylvania (GIS Tutorial BOOK 1)

Analysis purpose:  There is an art event sponsored by an arts’ organization in Allison Park, Pittsburgh, called FLUX. The event planners of FLUX would like to know where the event attendees reside for planning and marketing activities in the future. There are only attendees’ ZIP codes have been recorded. So simply, we are going to produce a map for FLUX by using ZIP code that attendees provided to tell where they are from in the area.

Data summery: 1487 attendees, and about 86% of them are from Pennsylvania;

Map result:

Tutorial8-1

Conclusion: FLUX needs more planning and marketing for Pittsburgh, especially the southeast corner, since there are more attendee from that area, and they could be the main customers for the future art events marketing who drove far up to north for the art event. However, there are always more information could be visualized, for example, the age, occupation and so on!