Q&A with Danny Menikheim

Here is a short Q & A with Director of Operations, Danny Menikheim. Danny is based out of our Center for Research and Engineering (C.R.E.) in Gulfport, MS. Danny joined our team as a Project Manager in October of 2017 and today holds the role of Director of Operations.

Danny Menikheim, Director of Operations

Q: What is your job at GEO Jobe, and what does it entail?

A: I am the Director of Operations here at GEO Jobe. My primary duty in this position is to supervise the various operational teams in the company so that everyone else can do their job without worrying about the small details. These teams include sales, support, marketing, and financial. I also work closely with David Hansen, our Chief Executive Officer, in order to help make decisions that guide the company and the path it takes. One of my duties is to attend conferences and act as an ambassador for GEO Jobe with many of the institutions we work with, like Esri for example. I often meet with representatives for Esri, potential clients, and other companies we partner with to discuss everything from future plans to growing our business.

Q: What has your career path at GEO Jobe looked like and what attracted you to join the team?

A: I was actually approached by David, then Chief Operating Officer, about two years before I started. David was looking to expand the software development team and was looking to have me join up as a developer. Even though I was not a programmer, I have to assume he thought I had potential to grow into the role. I had considered it then, as my original major in college was computer science, but later discounted the idea as I received several promotions at my then-current career. I later left that position and David approached me again, but this time with project management in mind. This seemed more in line with the work I was doing at the time so I agreed to consider it.

I remember being given a tour of the former Biloxi office, located right on the beach. It was a nice location and I was fascinated to learn what GEO Jobe actually did. At the time I did not know that there was an entire industry revolving around geospatial science. I had read The Hobbit at an early age and the book came with a giant foldout map of Middle Earth. I thought it was interesting you could draw a map for a place that did not exist and began drawing my own maps for fun. They would be maps for stories in my head or for theoretical video games I might make one day. My grandmother, seeing this, used to send me the maps out of her National Geographic magazines. They were paper maps that had infographics and also told stories. I still have a big box of them tucked away. So working for a company that is involved with mapping technology seemed like a bonus.

View of the beach near the current Gulfport office and former Biloxi office.

Q: What jobs and experiences have led you to your present position?

A: My family moved quite a bit when I was young since my father was in the U.S. Navy, and to be honest, my career path has not exactly been a straight line! I have been in construction, graphic design, retail, management, and more. After I graduated college I moved out to California to be a graphic designer, but as soon as I got here the booming dot-com bubble finally burst and work was difficult to come by. I ultimately moved back to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and have been following opportunities when they arise.

I think my varied careers and experiences growing up have given me a better world view, as well as a more rounded education and skill set. My time as a graphic designer has helped with marketing, my experiences in retail have helped with sales and support, and my extensive management experience has helped with the financial aspects of running a business, as well as being able to coordinate all of these at once.

Q: As a leader in the company, how do you feel about GEO Jobe’s future?

A: In a word, optimistic. When I started, GEO Jobe was much smaller and I remember thinking that I might spend a year here and then move on to something more stable. It was not long, however, before I realized that GEO Jobe was expanding and growing at an incredible rate. We provide products and services that you can’t find anywhere else and that has led to rapid growth. 

The team has almost doubled in size since I started and we are looking for more people all the time. Additionally, we have been able to add or augment more and more benefits for the employees as well, such as bonuses, health insurance, extensive leave, and leave buyback, with more on the way. It is only because we are doing so well, that we are able to do this. What was only supposed to be a year for me has already become almost three years, and I have no plans for leaving anytime soon.

Q: What particular skills or talents are most essential to be successful in your job?

A: Speaking in broad strokes, I think the ability to work with people and the desire to learn are probably the most essential tasks. Being able to empathize with a person’s situation has helped both internally, as well as with external customers. I can usually adapt to the needs of whomever I am working with to ensure a solution that is mutually beneficial. 

Additionally, being able to learn is definitely important. I have always been tech-savvy, but my background is not in GIS or IT at all, however, I have been able to learn enough to speak to these topics fairly competently. (Or at least no one has told me otherwise yet!) I am often reading, watching videos, or consulting with others in order to gain the knowledge I need to do my job. I am not afraid to ask questions even if it betrays my lack of knowledge in an area. I am also currently just over a third of the way through a master’s program for IT management. If learning something new helps me do my job better or improves my skill sets, I’m all for it.

Q: Any advice for recent graduates entering the job market and aspiring to a similar role?

A: That is a good question. I would say learn all you can and don’t expect it to happen overnight. A college education is great, but real-world experience is very important in this industry, in many for that matter. Take the opportunities where you can get them and don’t discount the social aspect of career advancement, grow your network whenever you can. Create and maintain a LinkedIn profile, attend conferences, and learn as much as you can about your target career.

Q: What technologies and strategies do you use in your day-to-day work that are key to success?

A: As a company, GEO Jobe leverages the Jira stack for project management and tracking including BitBucket for code repository. Additionally, we use the Google suite of products for office applications and email. I think the most unique application that I use though is Trello. Trello is great for keeping track of everything going on and making sure I don’t forget anything unless I forget to put it in Trello. In the strategy department, I like to run things in a somewhat Agile method. I have a standup meeting with my team each morning to discuss their short term and ongoing projects. I think this has helped even more now that we are all working remotely due to COVID-19. I am able to stay in touch with my team and lead as best I can under these circumstances.

The Middle Earth map that inspired Danny to make maps of his own.

Q: What would you like to learn more about or incorporate into your daily work?

A: I always enjoy learning more about Esri’s technology. Nearly all of the work GEO Jobe does is leveraged around the ArcGIS platform. We have a team for creating custom applications based around it, a team for developing products for it, and a team that implements and utilizes the platform for our customers. Strictly speaking, I don’t use ArcGIS to do my job, but it does help to know more about it as most of the people I interact with do use it. Most recently Esri awarded GEO Jobe with the ArcGIS Hub Specialty and I find Hub very interesting. ArcGIS Hub is an engagement platform that allows an organization to share data for public interaction and consumption.

Q: On a more personal side, do you have a favorite newspaper, magazine, blog, or sources of inspiration?

A: On a personal side, I would say there are actually two that come to mind. Artstation.com is a great site for viewing what other artists are doing, learning new techniques, and interacting with other artists working professionally. I often go there to browse the user galleries and portfolios when I am looking for artwork inspiration. 

The other I would mention is actually YouTube. Granted there is a lot of content within that does not necessarily inspire, but there is useful content nonetheless. It is one of my go-to websites for learning how to do something like a car repair or home improvement project. Often I will wind up watching a slew of unrelated videos on fascinating topics that I would have never thought would interest me. For example, there is a guy in Japan that posts videos that are about fifteen minutes in length, with no spoken words, that illustrate his ability to make a sharp functional knife out of nearly any material. Some of the materials make sense, like carbon fiber or resin, others seem impossible, like jello or seawater. It is inspiring to see what people all over the world can accomplish and share.

Q: What kind of technology do you prefer and why? (Mac or PC, iOS or Android, and any another cool tech)

A: I prefer PC and Android. PC because that is what we owned in my house growing up and I used to tinker with the family computer quite a bit. This ultimately led me to where I build my own computers now. My current rig is over 7 years old, which is ancient by technology standards, but I am just now where I want to upgrade. As an artist and a gamer, I like having control over what goes into my computer and being able to configure it. I hope to build my next computer to be powerful enough to take advantage of the emerging virtual reality technology. As far as Android, my first smartphone was a Motorola Atrix and I have stuck with Android after that. I currently have a Samsung Galaxy and Tablet, both of which are Android.

Apart from computers and smartphones, I like drawing tablets and video game consoles. I currently have a Wacom Intuos which allows me to draw and paint digitally directly in applications like Adobe Photoshop. The Intuos is a little lower end so it basically looks like I’m drawing on a piece of plastic, but there are some higher-end models that are monitors you can draw on directly with a special pen. As far as consoles, I have a PS4 and a Nintendo Switch and look forward to the PS5.

Stained glass work that Danny has done.

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

A: That is a big list, that I don’t have enough time to act on. As I mentioned above, I am an artist so I like to work on that when I can. I draw and paint with traditional mediums as well as digitally. I also do some stained glass work when time allows. Having a background in construction has also been nice for doing home improvement projects. Though I enjoy the accomplishment there, rather than the task itself sometimes. 

Additionally, I like to play board games, when there isn’t a global pandemic. Board games have recently started trending again in popular culture, to include more complicated fare and even games where you play cooperatively against the game, instead of competitively against other players. My fiance and I have collected so many interesting looking games that we probably wouldn’t have to buy any for a while and still have something new to play on a regular basis. It is the kind of problem you want to have! I also like to read, play video games, collect coins and comics, fish, cook, and more. In fact, I had better wrap this up, my duck should be just about done roasting.

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