Point of Beginning - April 2010 - (Page 42)
professionaltopography | BY JOSEPH V.R. PAIVA, PE, PS, PhD
The true meaning of professional.
Every dictionary and encyclopedia defines the word “professional” in different ways.
These definitions often involve the possession of a well-defined body of knowledge, education and experience; the application of that body of knowledge; and conformity to ethical or technical standards. When I get into discussions with other “professionals,” sometimes I also hear descriptions like welldressed, carries himself or herself well, etc. A definition I like to use is as follows: A professional: • provides service at a higher level than one would get from a layperson; • advocates for clients yet is impartial; • possesses ethical standards of performance for the work and the client relationship; • will admit when he or she is wrong or doesn’t know; and • works with other professionals and stakeholders for the good of clients, the profession and society. Note that I did not call this the definition of a professional surveyor—just a professional. You may think that it is not complete, and you may not even agree with the direction I’m taking on this, and that’s OK. But it is important for all of us “professionals” to think about this matter. Before we can decide that we want to be professional, we must be very clear about what that word means—not only to ourselves but also to everyone we work with, including our clients. My suggestion is that you write down what you want that word to define. Break it down. Then figure out what it should mean in terms of speech, actions and even dress.
Moving Beyond a License
Once you have defined the full meaning of “professional” for yourself, think about whether there is any hope of getting other surveyors, geomatics professionals, geospatial data managers or other related titles to uphold what you might consider to be the broad definition. Ideally, all surveyors need to subscribe to the same general set of criteria for being a professional. But will we ever have a majority of surveyors agree on a broad definition? I doubt we could get a majority of surveyors to uphold any definition, except maybe the possession of a surveying license. But I would vehemently disagree that mere possession of a license is enough to call oneself a professional. Many licensed surveyors fall short of my definition of a professional. And my definition may not even be adequate. For example, where does the ability to communicate well verbally and in writing fit in? Most surveying curricula and certainly the ABET criteria require the development of communication skills, but such skills are often lacking in real-world practice. Perhaps most importantly, my definition doesn’t address the question of competence. What is the appropriate level of competence? Clearly, it should be at a higher level of service than a layperson, but that leaves a lot of room for variation. One of my favorite examples of a lack of competence and professionalism is a sign I saw a long time ago that had a word misspelled.
Joseph V.R. Paiva, PhD, PS, PE, is a consultant to developers and marketers of products for the geomatics industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
APRIL 2010 | Point of Beginning | www.pobonline.com
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Point of Beginning - April 2010
Point of Beginning - April 2010
A Grand Re-Entrance
A Model Community
Tough Work in a Tight Spot
Show Me the Data
BIM in a Box
Traversing the Law
New & Notable
Point of Beginning - April 2010