Where are they now? Kurt Menke

Kurt Menk

Exactly 7 years ago I had the chance to Interview Kurt Menke. You may know Kurt from his books, Discovering QGIS. You may know him from his consulting days over in New Mexico. You may know him from his interviews up here. At the end of the interview 7 years back Kurt said “For me the application and the data are more important than the actual tools used. Mainly because every 5 or 10 years the tools completely change. Don’t get me wrong, that’s part of what keeps the job interesting day to day, learning new tools, but it’s the applications that can have a lasting impact.”. So where is Kurt Now?

Q. So when we last spoke in 2017 you were out in New Mexico drinking coffee, writing qgis books, and doing some amazing mapping – How’s New Mexico? 

Godt spørgsmål! Jeg har ikke boet i New Mexico i mere end 3 år! I januar 2021 flyttede min kone og jeg til Danmark. Nu arbejder jeg for Danmarks største open source geospatiale virksomhed, Septima, og ja, jeg er ved at lære dansk. Faktisk bestod jeg Danskprøve 3 (PD3) i december. PD3 er en fem timers dansk sprogtest, som er påkrævet for at få permanent opholdstilladelse. Jeg undervurderede, hvor svært det ville være. At bestå denne test er måske min stolteste præstation, langt sværere end min kandidatgrad.


“Great question! I haven’t lived in New Mexico for more than 3 years! In January 2021, my wife and I moved to Denmark. Now I work for Denmark’s largest open-source geospatial company, Septima, and yes, I’m learning Danish. In fact, I passed Danish Test 3 (PD3) in December. PD3 is a five-hour danish language test that is required to obtain a permanent residence permit. I underestimated how difficult it would be. Passing this test is perhaps my proudest achievement, way more difficult than my Masters degree.” 

Wait – You’re not in New Mexico Anymore? Where are you? 

56.02N, 12.19E Helsinge, Denmark. The pandemic oddly created a perfect situation for my wife and I to move. We already knew we wanted to sell our house, and downsize at a minimum. Meanwhile I had been trying to get a job in a nordic country. We had been to several QGIS conferences in Denmark and fell in love with the place. When everything shut down, my wife was forced to close her business. That removed the last anchor holding us in New Mexico. I ended up getting a job with Septima in Copenhagen. So while everyone else was sitting bored at home, we were selling all our stuff, getting permits and getting ready to move. It was a crazy time. We sold 98% of our stuff and shipped just 4m2 of the essentials. Along the way we had a ton of help. For the first 7 months we lived in Lene Fischer’s summer cottage with just what we brought in our suitcases. She helped us get us registered, get bank accounts etc. We ended up buying a house in a small town named Helsinge which is about 45 minutes north of Copenhagen. With an address, we could finally receive our shipping crates. It was surreal starting a new job, in a new country with everything shut down due to COVID. Now we feel at home here and love it. We are about 10 minutes from the beach and even closer to several forests. 

You’re also working for Septima? How is that – what do they do? 

Septima is a Danish company specializing in FOSS4G system development, services, products and training. We were formed 10 years ago on the day Denmark open-sourced a lot of the national data, such as infrastructure and property boundaries. We now have about 30 employees, most are Danes, but we also have three from Sweden, two from Norway and then there is me. The vast majority of our customers are Danish. I am the oddball because I still work for some of my US based conservation clients and teach internationally. We are heavy users of PostgreSQL/PostGIS, GeoServer, QGIS Server and QGIS. We also have our own web mapping solution named Widget. Recently we became partners with Mergin Maps and we are Sustaining Members of QGIS.org. My job involves teaching QGIS, providing QGIS support, working on geospatial analyses and data visualization. My office is in Copenhagen. I take the train in 2-3 days a week and work from home the other days.

Since 2017 you’ve co-authored several books. I hereby ask for your favorite. 

Discover QGIS 3.x – Second Edition with Locate Press is my favorite. This is simply because it my brain child. It has evolved through the editions. It’s roots lie in this old curriculum named the GeoAcademy, but has evolved to include other commonly used workflows from my own consulting career and important new features in QGIS. It is used in the classroom and as a bookshelf resource by many. It can be used to learn GIS via QGIS and learn new QGIS workflows. It is pretty thorough, including exercises on spatial analysis, data management, cartography and more advanced data visualization exercises. The latter include working with geometry generators, mesh data, point clouds, creating temporal animations and of course the 3D environment. It is a labour of love. 

Coolest place you’ve visited in Denmark?

For the coolest place in Denmark I chose the Jelling Stones. The Jelling stones are massive carved runestones from the 10th century, found at the town of Jelling in Denmark. The older of the two was ordered by King Gorm the Old in memory of his wife Thyra. The larger of the two stones (in the photo) was raised by King Gorm’s son, Harald Bluetooth, in memory of his parents, celebrating his conquest of Denmark and Norway, and his conversion of the Danes to Christianity. Yes, Bluetooth technology is named after Harald Bluetooth. This larger stone is also the first time Denmark is mentioned, and has been called Denmark’s birth certificate. The current King can be traced all the way back to Gorm the Old!

Last Question:  Favorite thing about Denmark? Least Favorite? 

This is a difficult question and I think I need to give a short list for each.


  • QGIS / PostgreSQL-PostGIS are widely adopted and Denmark has one of the largest QGIS user groups.
  • Better work/life balance – there is a 37.5 hour work week & 6 weeks vacation including holidays.
  • Free healthcare.
  • Safety – it is a very peaceful and safe country.
  • Everything is digital and easy – we bought a used car and the entire transaction took 7 minutes out on the street via apps on our phones, including payment, title and insurance.
  • You are always near a beach. No point in Denmark is further than 50 km (31 miles) from the sea. 
  • We have a new King. King Frederik X was crowned earlier this year after his mother Queen Margrethe ll abdicated the throne. The royal family goes all the way back to Gorm the Old, born in 900!
  • Pastries and bread. Denmark has the absolute best pastries and breads which are served at just about every occasion,no matter how small. 
  • Long summer days and short winter days. It is always changing. 

Least favorites

  • Everything is expensive – I just bought a pair of curved needle-nosed pliers to fix our washing machine and they cost $85! I ended up returning them
  • There is less selection of just about everything. The pro side is you learn to live a more simple life. 
  • I underestimated how difficult it would be to learn the Danish language. It is brutal, but I have turned the corner! An example of why it is difficult for native English speakers: Danish has nine vowel letters: a, e, i, o, u, y, æ, ø, å (the final four obviously do not exist in English). This results in almost 30 different vowel sounds and pronunciation is exceptionally difficult. 
  • There are no mountains. The highest point in Denmark is Møllehøj which is 171 m (560 ft). This is quite a bit lower than the highest point in the Netherlands! But I can easily get to Sweden and Norway
  • Pastries and bread. They are too good and addictive and I must stay away for fear of becoming huge!





One response to “Where are they now? Kurt Menke”

  1. Phillp Davis Avatar
    Phillp Davis

    Great to hear from one of our FOSS4G giants. Nice to see success! Happy to have had a small part in advocating for the GeoAcademy and having Kurt and Rick Smith develop the curriculum that became the book(s).

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