Teammate Spotlight: Derek Waskel

June 29, 2018

Position: Lead Software Engineer

Length of Employment with GIS Workshop: 6 years

What brought you to GIS Workshop?

I initially started at the company as an intern. GIS Workshop was the top company on my short list when applying for college internships. I was attracted to the company for its unique take on complicated solutions. During the interview process, we discussed several seemingly simple tasks such as calculating the area for shapes on a map. I was amazed at the level of detail it took to accomplish that task accurately. There were so many factors I hadn’t realized existed until really getting under the hood. The skill the GIS Workshop software engineers demonstrated in hiding all the technical details into simple tools for the end user made me realize just how powerful GIS is.

What is your favorite part of working at GIS Workshop?

I love being able to take the real-world problems and create compelling, simple solutions. It is never trivial to make something simpler or easier, so every day is unique, challenging, and ultimately rewarding.  At GIS Workshop, our team of software engineers does a great job of challenging each other to push for smarter solutions for our clients and end users. That constant push and teamwork help us come up with effective solutions.

What do you enjoy most about your role as Lead Software Engineer and why?

I am always amazed at the amount of evolution that happens here every day. My team is unique in that the projects we work on and their requirements change continuously. Technology and software development are always changing, so we still must be on our toes and pull the future into the present. If we don’t account for the past, the present, and the future, our solutions won’t have long-term success or sustainability. With this effort, our software and infrastructure grow and becomes stronger every day. It’s incredible to look back at where we’ve come from and then forward to where we will go.

What has been your favorite project at GISW and why?

My favorite project has been revolutionizing our data synchronization process. We host many websites for our clients where much of the data comes from a third party. That data needs to be synchronized with our GIS data daily, so the site is always showing current information.  We used to do a lot of the synchronization work manually at set intervals, which made it error prone. The new architecture we developed made this process safer and more consistent for our clients. I enjoyed how robust we were able to get the tool and how many fewer issues we experienced because of this upgrade. The data sync process is also one of our most sophisticated tools as we can synchronize hundreds of clients over a few hours. My team enjoys maintaining it because it visibly reduces issues for the clients.

What made you want a career in GIS?

I started building my computer when I was thirteen. I had to mow lawns and help neighbors to save up enough money, but I loved it. After I built my first computer, I had to be able to use it effectively. I was captivated by the depth of complexity of a computer. I had to know how every piece worked and how to use it properly. So I started learning programming languages so I could make my computer work for me. I have now been doing that for half of my life, and it only gets more exciting as time goes on.

What’s your favorite Client Story

My favorite client story is about a government client that made it a point to engage their citizens and make them aware of their new tools. Once their citizens understood the tools existed, which took some time and reinforcement, the workload for that client dropped tremendously. They saw significant improvement in several metrics they had. That client now has more time to accomplish the tasks that are important to their job. I find much satisfaction in that story because we know our hard work and products are making the client and their citizens happy. We strive to create simple solutions that make people’s lives easier.