Celebrating Surveyors Week

Proclaimed nationally by then-President Ronald Reagan on February 13, 1984, National Surveyors Week is celebrated each year starting the third Sunday in March. The purpose of the week is to educate the public about the value of land surveying through classroom contact, media, and visible public service.

There are more than 43,000 land surveyors in the United States and we are fortunate to have some of the best as part of the McSteen Team. So we decided to ask them a few questions about their career as a land surveyor, some of their favorite projects, and what advice they might have for those considering a career in land surveying. 

We talked with Ryan Snezek, Director of Survey, Kyle Danals, Survey Department Field Supervisor, and Matt Hildebrandt, Survey Department Drafting Supervisor, all licensed surveyors in the State of Ohio.

My favorite thing about being a land surveyor is 

Kyle: Uncovering evidence, both written and physical, of where surveyors hundreds of years ago once stood. One of the most rewarding aspects of this job is finding a historical document that describes a stone or some other monument that was set in the 1800s and then using modern methods to search for and find it.

Matt: I don’t know if I could pinpoint one thing that’s my favorite. I really like the variety of jobs from boundary surveys, ALTA’s, Site Plans, and even just basic topographic surveys. Every project we do is different and unique, even though they share the basic principles. But if I have to narrow it down it would be knowing at the end of the day, I am leaving my mark (capped pin) on the world.

Ryan: My answer to this question has changed over my years in this industry but currently I would say that mentoring younger surveyors throughout their careers has been something I really enjoy.

The coolest / weirdest job I ever worked on

Kyle: Retracing the boundary of a two-mile section of the Ohio & Erie Canal and a creek that feeds it. I had just taken a job as a rodman with a reputable surveyor who hired me part-time while I was attending college, and this was my first surveying project. I had no idea what surveying was really and to see the effort and research that went into retracing an old boundary was fascinating to me. The surveyor researched numerous old canal maps and field notes to recreate a “Traverse Line” which was used to define the boundaries of the canal. 

After months of fieldwork and calculations, we started finding 2-inch diameter cast iron monuments stamped “Canal Traverse Line” (buried about 2 feet below the surface of the ground) which were referenced in field books dated 1812. Finding these monuments after months of fieldwork and research was extremely rewarding.

Matt: I have quite a few cool projects that I worked on during different parts of my career. During my time as a Hydrographic Surveyor, we were mapping the sea floor, working on projects all around the coast of Alaska from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor to Diomede to Utqiagvik. I also did hurricane debris mapping in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Texas, and mapped a good portion of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia, and an iceberg in Greenland for USC to track melting. 

Closer to home, I worked on the Amazon Distribution Centers at the sites of the old Euclid Mall, the old Randall Park Mall, and the old Rolling Acres mall. The North Randall Amazon was a lot of fun because I did all the original base mapping for it, then went back and laid out the building which is  570’x1500′, then did the AS-BUILT survey of it. I got to oversee that project from start to finish.

Ryan: Twice in my career I have been asked to verify a Guinness world record. The people at Guinness require any record that requires a measurement to be performed by a licensed distance measuring expert, also known as a surveyor. I certified the largest end-to-end line of toothpaste tubes and the largest one-person bubble net.

Something you wish you would have known about land surveying as a career

Kyle: I wish I would have known how obscure land surveying is to the general public. A lot of clients and people I talk to don’t understand why we are needed and what we do.

Matt: Anything!!! It amazes me to this day, how little the public knows about land surveying. Everyone knows about Engineering. But the Surveyors are the ones giving the Engineers the data that they need. Surveyors play an important role in land development. We are the first people on site, and usually the last to leave. Our measurements are used by architects when designing, and by engineers to plan site layouts. 

Advice for someone considering land surveying 

Kyle: Land surveying can be both physically and mentally demanding. Battling rain, wind, snow, and ice, traversing a steep slope, walking for miles carrying 40 lbs. of equipment, digging holes, and driving stakes in the ground are all physically demanding and can leave you exhausted at the end of the day. Looking through old records, analyzing raw survey data, applying legal principles then combining this information and displaying it on a map can be mentally exhausting. A Land Surveyor needs to be prepared and trained in both.

Matt: Land surveying is a very rewarding career but it isn’t for everyone. It’s physically and mentally demanding. Surveyors create and use detailed maps to help people make important decisions; measure site features; and make the drawings that architects and engineers use to start their designs. Landowners rely on land surveyors to find missing boundary corners or create new boundaries for selling land. 

There are many avenues in surveying that you can pursue from Boundary Surveying to Construction. Find a job that offers a bunch of different types of surveys and find out which one suits you best (if any). You will always be learning and don’t be afraid to ask questions. At the end of the day, land surveying has no boundaries!

Ryan: The land surveying industry can be pretty “old school” at times.  If you decide to go into this industry I would advise putting your head down, working hard, paying your dues and working your way up. Although having a degree is very important, experience is also very important. Do not expect to come out of school with a degree and walk into a “top job.”  Start at the bottom, pay attention to your peers and mentors, and never stop learning and that “top job” will be there for you sooner than you think.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in land surveying?

Kyle: Originally, I was leaning towards pursuing a career in engineering but I was worried I would be stuck behind a desk my entire career. I found out that surveying was a profession that was closely tied to engineering, but it usually requires working outside. I took a job with a surveyor while I was going to college and quickly found out that I enjoyed most aspects of the profession.

Matt: I was in college at Kent State University studying Architecture as that’s what I wanted to do since I was around 13-14 years old. After about a year and a half of studying for that, I hated it. I found myself looking outside wishing I was doing anything else. I went to my advisor and said that I wanted to change my major but had no idea to what. So I took an aptitude test to see what would be a good fit and was told that I should excel in Civil Engineering and Surveying. 

At this time I didn’t know what surveying was. I did a little research and found out that the University of Akron offered a degree in surveying and decided to transfer and take courses to see if it was something I could see myself doing. After the first couple of weeks in classes, I fell in love with it, and the rest is history. I enjoy the mix of physical and intellectual changes that Surveying has. 

Ryan: My father is a surveyor.  We have a family surveying business that I worked at when I was a young kid so you could say I grew up in the industry. 

How do you quickly describe your job to someone who doesn’t know what a land surveyor does? 

Kyle: A Land Surveyor is an expert measurer and cartographer whose expertise and knowledge allow him/her to locate property boundaries, create maps, measure ground conditions, and place architectural and engineering designs on the ground.

Matt: We are a rare breed. We are engineers, archeologists, and historians all rolled into one. We are the people you call when you want to know where your property boundaries are, we take a lot of measurements and turn them into pretty pictures for the world to view.

Ryan: I have been asked this question so many times in my life.  I usually start by telling people I am a modern-day map maker, which usually gets some intrigue. After that, I usually go into a quick explanation of the various reasons why I would be asked to make a map.  Someone wants to know their property line to put up a fence, a developer would like to divide up property to create new lots, an engineer would like to know existing features of an area for design purposes, etc.

Our team is designed to bring peace of mind to every real estate transaction, construction project, and survey need from start to finish and our licensed surveyors play a critical role in this effort. At McSteen, our team of survey professionals is our greatest asset and we are always looking to build on it.

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