Surveyors Week Spotlight: Jason Marrow, PLS

How has technology changed surveying during your career?

I’ve been surveying for almost 20 years now. While I haven’t seen the change from “pulling chain” to electronic measuring that some more seasoned veterans have seen, surveying has definitely come a long way. The onset of my career involved assuming coordinates, as GPS wasn’t an option. To gather elevations, benchmarks had to be found and levels ran, sometimes miles, to establish known elevations for design purposes. The GPS we now conveniently pack in a single box used to require a towable box trailer that more resembled a NASA data center with wires and boxes all connecting up! Our equipment, which is now completely robotic, digital, and Bluetooth capable, was once all conventional and required angles to be turned by hand. The precision was on the operator and not the equipment. Drones—this is a big one! We would have to spend months surveying large tracts of land for a design that can now be completed in hours. I could go on and on about how much easier the younger generation has it now, but I wouldn’t trade the experience of the “old” way for anything. So much knowledge was gained!

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a surveyor?

To be a surveyor, you must enjoy the outdoors—so much of our career is spent there. Whether it be surveying in the mountains or along a river, lake, or beach, we have all seen our share of scenic views. This time in nature is almost rewarding enough. Then, more often than not, once our surveying is complete, the landscape transitions to the development. We get to see how our work and raw land are transformed into homes, hospitals, parks, etc. Then, we can complete a survey to document all the changes. You truly see the fruits of your labor in the surveying field. There’s nothing like driving by a site and saying, in the famous surveyor’s words, “I surveyed that”.

How does it feel to know that your work has a lasting impact on the built environment?

It’s very rewarding. The work we do can have so many different outcomes. I’ve surveyed for the building of homes, hospitals, and parks that all benefit the general public. I’ve surveyed for the enhancement and preservation of state parks, infrastructure projects with federal implications, and railroad lines to make sure we all get our Amazon deliveries. It’s a good feeling to know the work you do will benefit and be used by the community for years to come.

What advice would you give young professionals entering the surveying field?

BGE sponsors scholarships for our surveying society (SAMSOG) here in Georgia (thanks, BGE!). I had a chance to have lunch with this year’s recipients, and this same question was posed. I told them never to stop learning and connecting. Join their local society and go sit in on meetings. Sure, they don’t need the continuing education, but they will learn more than just what they do on a daily basis, which prepares them for their next role. They learn how more experienced surveyors manage crews and clients, in addition to resolving surveys. Surveying is a small world, and we often follow the footsteps of those same people in our meetings. Knowing you have met them and can now give them a call to pick their brain is invaluable. I don’t know many other professions that have this level of comradery and willingness to help fellow colleagues.

If you could have dinner with any historical figure, fictional character, or celebrity, who would it be and why?

Wow, good question that could go so many different ways. My first choice may be cliché, but I would have to say, Jesus. My faith is an important part of my life, and I could go on and on about the why. Moving outside of cliché, it would be Nolan Ryan. I know Jesus, then next on the list, Nolan Ryan, is quite the leap! I grew up playing baseball, continued through a men’s league in Atlanta until I had my first kid, and now coach my son. Nolan Ryan has always been my favorite player. I would like to talk to him about his amazing work ethic and longevity and just talk baseball.