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Discovering surveying through a different path

Jose Pedraza, R.P.L.S., P.M.P., E.I.T.
Survey Director, Stuart Consulting Group Inc.

How did you become interested in surveying? Who influenced you?

I started surveying through the Texas Army National Guard. I was studying civil engineering at the University of Houston when I enlisted. I was working with assigned me as a 21T—technical engineering specialist (now 12T). This military occupational specialty taught me land surveying, soils testing, and drafting. After training, I was assigned to the 176th Engineer Brigade in Grand Prairie, Texas. It was here where I started surveying, getting to work on projects all across Texas, two missions in Chile, and various operations throughout the Middle East. I received great mentorship from Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Elvis Pete Elrod, R.P.L.S., our platoon sergeant and section non-commissioned officer in charge. He was constantly asking if we had started working in land surveying outside of the national guard and whether we knew about the tremendous opportunity we had as young surveyors.

Why did you get your surveying license? How has it affected your career?

After taking the trips to Chile, I knew I wanted a career change. With my military experience behind me, I was able to become a junior party chief with a local civil engineering firm. I also started an associate’s program in land surveying and mapping technology from Lone Star College. Through conversations with Stg. Elrod and involvement in the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors, I learned about the average age and demographics of professional surveyors and the need for new surveyors to enter the industry. I decided to become a registered professional land surveyor because I saw the opportunities available to me in this career field, both as a young surveyor and as a minority. Since I became an R.P.L.S., I have been able to quickly work my way up to the position of survey director. In my opinion, the credibility gained through licensure cannot be overstated.

Your surveying experience started with the Texas Army National Guard. How have you been able to merge your career in surveying with your time in the Guard? Why is surveying a good career option for those that have served in the military? 

I’d be lying if I said it was always easy for me to balance a full-time career while being in the Texas Army National Guard, especially considering that I attended college full-time for a good portion of this career. Luckily, I have had nothing but great employers and co-workers who have afforded me the flexibility needed to succeed in all aspects of my professional life. I think that any service member—active, veteran, reserve, or guardsman—who is considering a career in surveying should reach out to a surveyor for insight into the industry. This career allows those who want to work in the outdoors to do that as part of a field crew, drone pilot, or even as an R.P.L.S. For those who want more of an office role, that opportunity is there just the same. Almost all of the veterans I know have the exact mindset needed to succeed in this field. While success is defined differently for each person, surveyors can achieve as much as they set themselves out to achieve.

You are very heavily involved in giving back to the surveying community. Tell us about the mentoring activities you are involved in and what advice would you give to a young surveyor. 

Until just recently, I was the Texas Young Surveyors’ East Region coordinator responsible for organizing local young surveyor events and community outreach. I am a director for the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors Chapter 9 and plan to run for the vice president seat. We do some great things for raising land surveying awareness and providing scholarships for surveying students. I also work with Jake Lupher, R.P.L.S., in hosting local surveyor-in-training and R.P.L.S. exam study groups before the April and October test dates. I teach surveying courses as an adjunct instruct at Lone Star College. Lastly, I became a Get Kids into Survey Brand Ambassador over the last year but have yet been able to do any outreach due to COVID-19.

My advice to any young surveyor would be to not limit yourself based on age or what you might think is lack of experience. Believe in what you know and step up to the challenge even if you don’t feel the most confident leading up to it. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth if you believe you’re underpaid.

You also sit on the NSPS Diversity in Land Surveying Committee; why is diversity in surveying so important?

I know diversity in surveying is important because it brings different perspectives and opportunities for growth of our industry as a whole. I constantly hear surveyors discuss the lack of quality candidates or incoming talent into the industry. However, their recruiting efforts constantly target the same group of people. There are so many great minds out there who would be fantastic additions to our field but who may never know about surveying if we don’t do our part to introduce them into it. The NSPS Diversity in Land Surveying Committee has brought up some great points in ways to diversify our industry and talent pool. Now the goal is to make sure all surveyors keep an open mind and do the work. It would be great if we sought out schools/colleges/organizations at our next career day or public speaking opportunity in order to reach individuals who look different from the current typical land surveyor.

What are your thoughts on the future of surveying? What opportunities and challenges do you foresee?

We have had some great technological advances in the last few decades, with GPS (and now drone) technology becoming more accurate, precise, and cheaper to produce. I see those technologies evolving with a greater use of machine learning and other concepts that are currently over my head. I see a great opportunity for growth in our industry through an applied effort of TSPS, NSPS, and the NSPS Diversity in Land Surveying Committee. Our biggest challenge will be to convince the passive surveyors to do their part in growing our future workforce.


Pedraza’s experience

Jose Pedraza is a registered professional land surveyor, project management professional, and engineer-in-training in Texas with more than 12 years of experience in the civil engineering and surveying industry. Pedraza is currently employed at Stuart Consulting Group Inc. as the survey director of its Houston office and Lone Star College–Montgomery as a surveying adjunct instructor while continuing to serve in the Texas Army National Guard as a staff Sergeant. Jose and his wife, Ashley, live in Hockley, Texas, with their dog, Ollie, and are soon adding a baby boy to their family in May 2021.

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