GEO Jobe Employee Spotlight – Meet Courtney Kirkham, JR Application Developer

GEO Jobe has been serving our clients and partners since 1999, but you may not be too familiar with the faces behind the company. We’ve shared a short Q & A with our JR Application Developer, and former Intern, Courtney Kirkham (@therealckirkham)


GEO Jobe kicked off 2018 with plenty of momentum carrying over from an awesome 2017. With that has come growth of the company in the form of several new hires. This Spring we were pleased to welcome Courtney Kirkham to the team. Actually, Courtney came to us several months prior as a GIS intern, gaining valuable experience and earning herself a full time position on the team. 

Q: What is your role at GEO Jobe?

A: My official job title is Junior Application Developer. That means I’m one of the people that write the software when a client hires us to develop a custom application for them. When I’m not working on a project, I spend a lot of time reading articles to learn more about GIS, proofreading some of the content we produce, and helping out wherever I can.

Q: What is your Educational/Professional background, and how did you wind up at a GEO/GIS company?

A: In December of last year, I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. While at USM, I worked with the NASA DEVELOP program and interned with the Naval Research Lab at Stennis Space Center. Both of those positions involved working in GIS, and it got me interested enough to take a few courses.

Q: What were you up to before life at GEO Jobe?

A: Before I joined the team here, I was a full-time college student. For most of my academic career, I was working more than one part-time job as well. It didn’t leave much time for anything else, but I learned a lot and made some great connections.

Q: How did you hear about GEO Jobe and what attracted you to joining the GEO Jobe team?

A: I actually used to rent from GEO Jobe’s COO, David Hansen. When he found out what I was studying, he kept telling me about the work GEO Jobe does and invited me to visit the office a few times. On one of my visits, I connected with Jamie Thompson, who worked for GEO Jobe at the time. She told me more cool stories about the company. By the time I graduated, I was so excited about GEO Jobe I got a new place and started interning here. Working here was invigorating. Everyone in the office is a huge nerd and it’s fun when we all grab lunch together; the work was challenging and I often found myself getting so drawn into what I was doing time slipped away. When my internship was over and I was offered a job, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

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

A: In my free time, I like to hit the gym, read, or hang out with my friends. We usually play board games or tabletop RPGs. Now that I’m out of college and have more time, I’m exploring more hobbies. It’s warming up, so I’m excited to get outside and explore some activities like hiking or kayaking.

Q: Do you have a favorite newspaper, blog or source of inspiration?

A: Reading is a great way to learn, so I try to make time for it every day. I’m still learning, so I don’t have a lot of GIS blogs I follow yet – mostly just GEO Jobe and Esri’s stuff. If anyone has any recommendations though, I’d love to hear some! As for other content, I’ve been listening to a bunch of self-improvement stuff lately, so I’d recommend checking out Impact Theory, Tim Ferris’s podcast, or some of the speeches from Simon Sinek for that.

Q: What kind of technology do you prefer and why? (Mac or PC, iOS or Android, and other cool tech). Favorite programming language or tools?

A: Oh gosh, the dreaded question, haha. I don’t have a lot of experience with Apple products, so I have to say I lean towards Windows and Android, but it’s not because I feel strongly one way or another; I just haven’t taken the opportunity to explore all the options. Trying new things is an important part of staying current on advancing tech, though, so my next phone will probably be an iPhone or a Pixel.

As for my preferences as a developer – I usually use Visual Studio Code. Before I came to GEO Jobe, I used Notepad++, but the overall UX of VSC is better overall. I especially love how engaged the community is making extensions – code outline is a huge timesaver.

Q: You were an intern at GEO Jobe prior to being hired FT. Can you share how that happened and how that experience was for you? What would you share with other students considering internships?

A: My internship was pretty intense – in the best possible way. I loved it. Before I started interning here, I was actually looking at moving to the Pacific Northwest and exploring options outside of GIS, just to see what else was there. But my experience interning with GEO Jobe was so powerful, I turned down every other offer I got and decided to build my launchpad here – both geographically and in terms of my career. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

For about three months, I came into the office every day I wasn’t scheduled at the part-time job that got me through college. At first, I was put through a crash course in web development that was far more in depth than anything I’d learned while at university. After that, I moved on to learning Web GIS specifics. A lot of that was just going through the tutorials and training that ESRI offers online (a lot of which are free – great for students looking to learn) or reading documentation for things like Dojo. Then, when they felt I was ready, GEO Jobe gave me the challenges they give all their new hires. The time I spent working on those challenges was a big part of what made my decision to keep working in GIS. They were challenging puzzles I could dig myself into. At times they were frustrating, but it was so invigorating to overcome challenges and see how much I had grown as a developer since I had started my internship – not just in terms of what I knew, but in terms of how comfortable I was going to find answers when I DIDN’T know how to do something.

The most important part of my internship, though, wasn’t about the work; it was about the people I was working with – and that was what I really fell in love with. It’s very important to me that the people I work with can work together and help each other learn new tools, and, even as an intern, I was part of the team. People invited me to lunch and talked with me about what I was working on. Whenever someone had something cool they could show to an intern (NDAs are so much fun), they’d call me over and let me watch them work for a while. The environment at GEO Jobe really feels like a team – people are happy to help each other out, and we all share in our victories. Heck, half the office even gets together at a local game shop every other weekend. If that doesn’t describe how people feel about each other and the environment here, I don’t know what does!

For students considering internships, I would say go for it. It will tell you more about what you want to do and how you work than anything you can learn in university. The opportunities to network, find mentors, and learn are invaluable as well. It can be a bit intimidating, but it’s really important to get comfortable being uncomfortable in any field – that’s how you grow. It’s how you learn. Furthermore, internships are such a great way to meet people, and you can’t build a career on your own. The sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be.

Q: I know you’re relatively new to GEO Jobe but can you share something about a cool project you enjoyed working on lately?

A: This is one of the things that makes working at GEO Jobe so exciting. A client contacted us asking if we could develop an application for them. Some of the tools we need to develop the application were just released the week before, and we weren’t sure if they would work for what the client already had. I went to Eric Goforth, the Senior Front-end Engineer here, and we had a brainstorming session and came up with a really creative way to get around some of the hurdles to get the tool to work for what the client needs.

Q: Is there one or two things on your desk or in your office that you absolutely couldn’t do without?

A: There are three things on my desk that are important to me. The first is a tin 1UP mushroom my brother gave me when I was younger. It’s been on every desk I’ve ever had and reminds me that there’s always another way to approach a problem when it knocks you down – and that my family always has my back. The second is a fortune cookie fortune from one of the team lunches we had shortly after I started. It says “Advancement will come with hard work.”, and it just struck me as a particularly motivating phrase, so here it sits. The last one’s kind of silly, but when I submitted my last challenge for review at the end of my internship, I had to explain my code in front of David Hansen, our COO. I keep the expo marker I was writing with as a sort of good luck charm. It reminds me to be humble and that sometimes the things that make you really nervous are worth it.

Thanks to Courtney for sharing! I’m sure many young GIS professionals will appreciate the tips you’ve shared… Good Luck with your career. 

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