Zachary Gooch has been a survey technician for about four years.
Gooch, 37, who works for Gustin, Cothern and Tucker, Inc. in Niceville, Florida, says not everyone understands what he does for a living, but it's a great profession for those who like to work outside.
He answers SkillPointe's questions about what it's really like to be a survey technician.
Why did you get into surveying and mapping?
I had some previous experience in the field. I worked as an archaeologist for seven or eight years. The job required a lot of traveling. I got tired of always being on the road. I decided to change careers. One of my favorite tasks as an archaeologist was making maps. I knew that surveyors made maps of properties and I liked the idea of doing that. As an archaeologist, I also had experience using some of the mapping equipment. I was hired as a surveying and mapping technician apprentice. I learned on the job.
Did you always want to do this?
I didn’t know about surveying and mapping. It wasn’t pushed as a profession when I was in high school. Like I said my experience as an archaeologist exposed me to the profession. I thought mapping and surveying would be a cool job. The coolest people I worked with as an archaeologist were the mappers and surveyors.
What does a typical day for a survey tech or mapping tech look like?
There's really no "normal" day. I usually arrive at 6 a.m. and work until whenever the job is done, but it’s generally an eight-hour day. But sometimes I work overtime.
My crew and I get our daily assignments from the licensed surveyor. Sometimes my crew is assigned multiple assignments that last an hour or two. Others assignments could be multiple-day projects. It just depends. That’s what I like about the job. There is no normal day. I might stake out a house in town or be in the middle of the woods doing a boundary.
What do you like most about being a survey technician?
There is a lot of variety in my assignments. I also love working outside. Also, I’m not normally around people all the time. Sometimes I am, but not always. And I love the area I am working in, the Florida Panhandle.
I don’t like highway work because it’s dangerous — all those distracted drivers.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
People think I take surveys. No. We are land surveyors. We don’t ask questions.
What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?
I wish I had paid more attention to math in school. We use a lot of trigonometry and geometry every day. I had to relearn because I didn’t pay attention in high school. Back then, I never thought I would need to use that kind of math.
What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
You have to like solving puzzles. On the job, there are usually problems and you have to be able to solve them. Also, you have to like to hike and don’t mind carrying heavy equipment now and then. In general, you have to enjoy the outdoors.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I might take what I have learned in surveying and apply it back to archaeology. I’ve learned how to run a crew and manage people, general management skills that I could apply back to archaeology or that could translate to other professions.
Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?
I’d like to continue my education to become a licensed surveyor, which will open up other opportunities such as government work.