Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of the NOAA Coast Survey team? We use the Coast Survey spotlight blog series as a way to periodically share the experiences of Coast Survey employees as they discuss their work, background, and advice.
Steve Soherr, customer affairs specialist
“I think there’s really an art to presenting spatial information in a way that allows users to quickly glean far more information than would be possible by using text alone. I’m part of a team that is working to accurately and efficiently portray information that is always changing.”
What is your job title, and how long have you worked for Coast Survey?
I am a customer affairs specialist and I have worked for Coast Survey for 24 years.
What were your experiences prior to working for Coast Survey?
I graduated from James Madison University with a degree in geology, so one of my first jobs was testing soil related to new building construction. I then worked on creating flood rate insurance maps for an engineering firm contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Eventually, I attended a job fair in Washington D.C. where I met a representative from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. I was hired several months later and began what has proven to be a very fulfilling career.
What is a day in your job like?
It’s pretty varied. Today I attended a meeting with federal, state, and private partners to help coordinate and prepare for the potential aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disasters in the Washington D.C. / Baltimore region. Then, I answered a few inquiries submitted by folks with questions about accessing our charts and NOAA-related geographic information system (GIS) information. Finally, I spent some time developing graphics in conjunction with ship routing measures that the U.S. Coast Guard will be submitting for public comment.
What drew you to this work?
I’ve always liked maps and charts. I think there’s really an art to presenting spatial information in a way that allows users to quickly glean far more information than would be possible by using text alone. I’m part of a team that is working to accurately and efficiently portray information that is always changing. That’s a real challenge, and knowing that the end product is being used by mariners making critical decisions based on our work is both exciting and rewarding.
What advice would you give someone looking to pursue a career in your field?
GIS and communication (both written and verbal) are great skills to have. I’ve moved around quite a bit within the Office of Coast Survey. I think that doing so really allowed me to gain a wider set of skills and knowledge that has helped me in my career. I think that a wide set of experiences related to whatever field you ultimately pursue will pay off over time.