By Catherine McKenna
Earlier this month, the American Geographical Society had the opportunity to speak with Jaime Crawford, SVP of Strategic Industries, and Kim Kearns, Professional Services Director of Open Data and Development, of Locana, formerly known as Critigen. This new name brings together the root word “Locus,” meaning a place or locality, and “Ana,” meaning a collection of information on a place. This, along with their mission “Everything Location,” comes to life in their work with location services and geospatial technologies.
Recently, there has been an inflection in the market where geospatial technologies have become increasingly adopted by people and companies beyond the technological and scientific worlds. Geospatial tools and GIS can and should be used beyond technological spaces. The name change from Critigen to Locana is a way to embrace this shift and show the market that the company has evolved and is ready to use location to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.
Kearns emphasized how Locana is “using location information in many ways that may not be as traditional or conventional as they have been in the past, turning that spatial information into information, not just data.” For example, the team has been working on a Climate Adaptation Atlas, where 7,000+ datasets have been brought in and analyzed to create usable information for policymakers to more effectively understand how climate relates to food insecurity, water security, and migration. Locana is also involved with the 500 Women Scientists project, which uses Locana’s open data and development services to build community between female scientists. The geospatial tech company’s leadership pride themselves on having projects with tangible impacts that touch people’s lives.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are woven into the fabric of Locana as well. Smaller geospatial groups often do not have DEI statements, yet Locana and other Esri partners are aiming to make the geospatial tech industry more inclusive for all. Crawford and Kearns are part of a women’s employee resource group at Locana helping to build a supportive community of women. While the gender gap is beginning to close in the geospatial world, tech industries are still heavily male-dominated, so having a support network is critical.
There are many paths to finding careers at a company like Locana. Both Crawford and Kearns started their careers as analysts and have moved their way up to their current positions. At the entry-level, the geospatial sector is currently in need of people who know how to transform and translate geospatial data. Both Crawford and Kearns believe an understanding of business processes and curiosity about how data is being used are keys to being successful in this field. There are a wide variety of avenues within the geospatial world, and one’s career path will likely not be linear, however, nearly all these avenues have something in common: utilizing technology. While geography is at the root of geospatial tech, broad experience and exposure is indispensable; having a holistic approach and employing knowledge from adjacent sectors can be extremely beneficial to this work and growth of the sector. Crawford’s advice to young women navigating the geospatial field is to, “Take any opportunities that come. Whether you want to do it or not, you at least learn what you don’t want to do, and that sometimes is just as valuable as what you do want to do.”
AGS is grateful to Ms. Crawford and Ms. Kearns for sharing their knowledge and perspectives on the geospatial industry as we close our celebration of Women’s History Month.
Learn more about Locana and their work and mission here.