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Paving the way for female surveyors in Puerto Rico

Ruth L. Trujillo Rodriguez
Professional Surveyor and Professional Planner
Ruth L. Trujillo Rodriguez Professional Land Surveyors, PSC

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

I had never heard the term “land surveyor” until I was in the 12th grade in high school. While attending a career fair, I kept listening to the description of all the engineering degrees a particular university had to offer. I read the term “land surveying” in the brochure, but the counselor did not talk about it. I was curious, so I asked. He said, “Land surveyors measure the land, and they work both at the office and in the field. You have to be good at math.” I went home and searched more about it on the internet. It seemed like a perfect fit for me. I asked my mentor for guidance and got his approval. I pursued the career and later obtained a bachelor’s degree in land surveying and cartography from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico.

Why did you become professionally licensed? And how are professional surveyors critical to protecting the safety of the public?

My goal was clear from the moment I decided to study land surveying. If I’m going to study a profession that is licensed, I must have said license. In my mind, there was never the option to not get licensed. There is a reason why many professions are regulated; the people who practice them have a responsibility to the community to perform their work following the highest standards of ethics and quality to ensure the protection and safety of life and property. Knowing that land surveying is one of the oldest professions in the world, we can be certain that our work is enormously critical to the development of any country.

You are the only Hispanic woman-owned land surveying and mapping firm in Puerto Rico. What is it like being a business owner?

The road has not been without its challenges. Ten months after the firm was established, we had to close for three months because of the pandemic. When the executive order allowed it, work started pouring back in and, against all odds, we were able to grow at a steady pace. Work has been flowing, and we continue to expand our services. We have acquired many certifications, including woman-owned business, HUBZone, Section 3 Business Registry HUD, Minority Business Enterprise, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. We also have the professional license to offer land surveying services in the U.S. Virgin Islands as well. It has not been easy, but it has been a remarkable experience. Most of the time, when my team and I arrive at a project site, people point to one of the guys and ask, “Who is the professional surveyor?” I always reply with a smile, “I am.” I think that women have great organization skills and pay particular attention to details that make us distinguished business owners.

The experience of being part of just a small group of women who run their own surveying corporations has been rewarding. I have received appreciation and respect from colleagues and clients who recognize my constant effort to provide the most ethical and professional service they can obtain.

Recently you were featured in a Point of Beginning (POB) online article talking about how Puerto Rican land surveyors bring value to jobs in the states. Tell us more about why these surveyors are so valuable to surveying companies in the states.

I joined the Colorado State Board of Licensure for Architects, Professional Engineers, and Professional Land Surveyors in the summer of 2019. It has been an excellent opportunity for me to learn more about the licensing procedures, rule-making processes, NCEES—as well as to see our government in action. It has been an honor to weigh in on important land surveying matters in Colorado. The Colorado board is in a unique position to help address matters by educating licensees and local governments, presenting at conferences and meetings, sending out newsletters and using the rule-making process to clarify and address professional standards. The purpose of the board is to protect and serve the public, and it is with this in mind that we make decisions and act as a board.

You are also involved in mentoring initiatives within the surveying community. What advice would you give to a young surveyor? And what advice would you give to a woman starting out in this field?

When I have the honor to speak to land surveying students, I always encourage them to complete all the requirements to become professional land surveyors. Due to different reasons, some just finish their bachelor’s degree and don’t get licensed. There is a need for professional land surveyors all across the world, and it is imperative that we secure our profession to ensure the protection of life and property.

Land surveying is one of the fields where the professional needs to be up to date regarding laws and regulations pertaining to the profession and the technology available to perform our work. These are some of the aspects that make our profession so challenging.

If you are a female surveyor, do not hesitate to show all you have to offer as a professional. You have the skills, the abilities, and the talent to achieve anything you put your mind to. Always remember that your true north must be your values and that your morals and ethical standards should be your everyday compass.

What are your thoughts on the future of surveying here in the states and in Puerto Rico? What opportunities and challenges do you foresee?

We all know that in recent decades the number of professional surveyors across the world has been declining. We can only speculate the possible reasons for this scenario. The important thing is that we take action to encourage people to become professional land surveyors. And I say people in general, not just young kids, because I have met adults who have been working in other fields and when they learn about land surveying, they become so captivated that they change fields. One of the challenges I see is that the demand for professional land surveyors continues to grow and not enough professionals will be available to perform land surveying. This might cause a situation where the government allows professionals from other fields to practice land surveying, even if they don’t have the specialized knowledge and experience. This situation could be dangerous to the community.

We now have the opportunity to attract the best talent into land surveying due to the many incredible aspects of our profession—you are always in a different environment every day, you will use many cool new tools and gadgets, you will be solving problems for a lot of people, and you will be able to go to beautiful and astonishing places that the average person would never be able to enjoy.

Trujillo Rodriguez’s experience

Ruth Lailany Trujillo Rodriguez is a professional surveyor and professional planner. During her professional career, she has worked in Puerto Rico and in Texas, both in the private and public sectors. As a public servant, she held the position of surveyor of state, directing the Puerto Rico Surveying Office. Also, she was president of the Institute of Surveyors of the Professional College of Engineers and Land Surveyors of Puerto Rico in 2017–19. Since 2016, she has been an international speaker and has participated in different meetings around the world, such as, the International Federation of Surveyors Working Week 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam. On several occasions she has been published as an author in the Puerto Rican newspaper of general circulation El Nuevo Día and in the magazine Dimension, the latter belonging to the Professional College of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico. In addition, she has authored articles published in the national technical magazine Point of Beginning (POB) magazine. Since 2017, she has served as a professor in the geospatial sciences master’s degree program at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. In 2019, she founded the professional services corporation Ruth L. Trujillo Rodriguez Professional Land Surveyors, PSC, offering surveying services in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

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