Lakshmanan Venkatesan: “When my wife texts me “Where are you?”, I respond with coordinates”

Lakshmanan Venkatesan
Lakshmanan Venkatesan

Lakshmanan (@iamlaksh1) is a domain consultant, GIS enthusiast, developer, and a blogger.

Lakshmanan was interviewed for GeoHipster by Bill Dollins.

Q: Thank you for agreeing to talk with GeoHipster. Let’s start by discussing your background. Please tell us about the region of India from which you come. Would you also discuss your educational background and your overall experience in the GIS field?

A: First of all thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. I am really excited and happy to connect with GeoHipster. I come from the Southern part of India — State of Tamil Nadu. I did my graduation in Civil Engineering and Masters in Transportation Engineering. I have more than 10 years of experience in spatial software development and domain consulting in Energy industry. Most of my experience is with Esri products, Microsoft technologies, and some bit of open source. I’m still a learner and GIS enthusiast.

I’ve started my career as a researcher in one of the premier technical institute in India (IIT Madras). I have developed a desktop GIS application which tracks vehicle information feed from GPS. We have conducted different experiments, published papers in international journals and conferences. Thereafter I was working in IT industry on various roles (as a developer, technology lead and consultant) in geospatial technology.

Q: Would you mind telling us about your current work?

A: Currently, I work for one of the top IT firms based out of India, and my client is a large Energy major. I play the role of Geospatial Analyst/Domain consultant, and take care of their ArcGIS Portal and custom JS applications along with data management. These days in addition to Geomatics, I do work with lot of other E&P (Exploration and Production) products and tools.  Everyday I do different tasks — writing Python code, database activities, upgrading ArcGIS infrastructure, creating reports or preparing road map etc.

Q: What first drew you to software development and GIS? What challenges do you find most exciting today?

A: I learnt BASIC and FoxPro during school days. I am always interested to work in computers and programs. Hence I decided to make a career in the IT industry. As part of the curriculum (in Civil Engineering), I needed to do thesis, when most of my friends decided to design a building or water tank or do some field experiment, I chose GIS. I started working in GIS (in year 2001). I started with  ArcView 3.1 (Avenue scripting). Working with shapefiles and preparing thematic maps and charts was so fun. It was a wonderful project and got a good grade too. I decided to stay in GIS.

I have been working in GIS for close to 13 years, challenges are many, solving complex spatial problems; projections; integration between systems, enterprise data management, automations, etc.

Q: When I first started blogging in 2006, your blog was one of the first I found. You may not know this, but the format of your blog was an influence on mine in that you blogged about concrete, useful solutions to technical issues. I realized I wanted to strike the same tone. You have since moved on from blogging and I am curious how valuable a resource you find blogs and social media to be today? How, if at all, do you use them in your daily work?

A: Thanks for your appreciation. I’m not moved from the blog because I was lazy to be honest.

I have plan to convert my blog to my own website near soon. This is in my To-do list in 2016.

One fine day, I decided to start the blog on my own. Initially I don’t know what to write and how. I decided to share my day to day technical challenges and solutions. I read a lot those days (even now); in addition to Esri forums, I started posting solutions to technical problems and tutorials on my blog. A lot of people liked this and many students, professionals connected with me through the blog. Blogging has opened new doors to me. I have connected with many professionals and fellow developers across the globe.

I receive at least one email per day on career guidance or technical problems. Several people appreciated me via emails, phone calls, and in person. I treasure appreciation from Jim Barry of Esri on my blog, and your appreciations and feedback.

I still believe individual blogs and technical forums were main source for learning new things or finding tips to solve any technical issue. GeoDev meetups, online events and organization level meetings were other sources for learning and development.

I like Twitter these days, where we can get an all updates/news in a quick glance.

Q: How has the GIS industry changed since you began your career? Which changes have had the most impact on you? What advice would you give to a young person entering the GIS industry today?

A: Industry has undergone tremendous changes. I feel that GIS industry focus has been changed shifted from mapping to data management to analytics. One of the biggest impacts is penetration of smartphones and gadgets. The maps /apps (GIS) is need for every organization. The evolution of Portal (Esri ArcGIS) and Javascript libraries (open source and Esri) brought major changes in the mapping industry. I would suggest young person to focus on mobile and cloud computing.

Q: As someone who has implemented geospatial systems for a long time, what recent developments in the geospatial industry have you most excited? How do you hope to integrate them into your current work?

A: Few weeks before, I was in meeting — where one of Esri product manager participated, we were discussing about Hadoop and tools for big data processing. In energy industry, there is so much heavy weight data that needs to be processed quickly for taking a decision in a timely manner. This is one of interesting areas which I would like to work on.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: During weekends, I will play cricket with my friends. My kid occupies most of my time these days. I read a lot via Facebook and Twitter feeds. I’m preparing for some technical certifications too.

Q: Complete this sentence: If I were Jack Dangermond for a day, I would…

A: Be more open (now they have started) to users unlike standard support process. I’ll make sure to simplify the licensing terms (especially credits) and costs.

Q: What does the term “geohipster” mean to you? Based on that response, what is the most geohipster thing you’ve done?

A: Geohipster means something new or different. Individuality I would say. Crafting their own future. In one of client presentation — I coined a term “#We Map your success”, it was well received and appreciated. My mind automatically converts any object into point/line/polygon. When my wife texts me “Where are you?”, I usually respond with coordinates 🙂






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