Thomas’ Story: Mapping the Earth with Python
Tell us your story – why do you need to stay relevant in tech for your role at the Center?
I’m a GIS Developer at the Polar Geospatial Center, University of Minnesota. My work involves managing several petabytes of satellite imagery and producing products such as orthorectified images for maps and digital elevation models. To do this at scale, PGC uses several different compute clusters, including NCSA’s Blue Waters system. I try and keep abreast of parallel and high performance computing. Python is found in nearly every GIS product — open source and otherwise — around, so Python in a parallel environment is my focus. The resources Mapt makes available are valuable for both learning and reference.
How do you learn, and why did you choose Mapt?
I learn well by example, but learn more broadly through a structured approach, so I was attracted to the idea of Skill Plans and Skill Cards. Working through the material, at my own pace, has helped me fill in gaps in my knowledge. I also enjoy the variety Mapt offers, there seems to be a book or video for every topic I care about, even narrowly focused ones.
What’s been your main area of focus? Have you set up a Skill Plan to help guide your learning journey?
I started out with the basic Python plan and while I knew most of the material already, it was a good review and I did learn a few things I hadn’t known before. I am currently working through the Object Oriented Python plan and intend to cover other Python-related plans, particularly involving data analysis, high performance computing and cloud services.
What’s the coolest thing you are going to do with your new or improved skills?
PGC’s chief mission is to assist with polar science. We are in the midst of building a 2m DEM of the entire Arctic. I want to make it easily accessible to everyone who can use it. As a scientist, what can you do when you can see everywhere on Earth? The possibilities are staggering.
Do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share about Mapt?
My Mapt subscription is the best money I ever spent. Having all that material on hand as a reference is great, but browsing at random through everything that looks interesting has been eye-opening. I am imagining possibilities I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few months ago. Computing is an expanding universe, but Mapt can take you everywhere.