In 2010, Bill Pilotte was fresh out of college, working as a geospatial analyst at what is today Wiser Imagery Services in Murfreesboro, Tenn. At age 23, when USGIF invited him to take part in its new Young Professionals Golden Ticket program, which included free access to the GEOINT Symposium, he packed his bags and took a road trip to New Orleans.

At the Symposium, Pilotte networked like crazy—especially with senior management within his company. He and others in the Golden Ticket program also volunteered to map neighborhoods for ongoing rebuilding efforts following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina.

“That was the big kickoff to my career,” said Pilotte, who now represents young professionals on USGIF’s Board of Directors and co-chairs USGIF’s Young Professionals Working Group. “It changed the course of my work.”

Before long, Pilotte’s YPG connections led him to Washington, D.C., and his current position as director of business strategy for ISPA Technology.

Route to Winning

Every year, USGIF offers young professionals the opportunity to apply for complimentary registration to its GEOINT Symposium. Golden Ticket participants also attend special events including a welcome breakfast, a private tour of the exhibit hall, networking and mentoring sessions, luncheons with government seniors, admission to the USGIF Chairman’s Reception—to which only about 150 of the approximately 4,000 Symposium attendees are invited—and more.

Golden Ticket winners began attending the USGIF Chairman’s Reception at the request of current USGIF Chairman The Honorable Jeffrey K. Harris.

“USGIF has as its principal tenet the imperative to grow the tradecraft,” Harris said. “As managers, we recognize investment in human capital must be a priority. As technologists, we are excited to embrace both the process disruption and the excitement of mission-enabling capabilities.

Inviting Golden Ticket winners to the reception provides an essential catalyst to empower the future of GEOINT.”

In 2017, 26 young professionals attended the Symposium in San Antonio and hosted a service project that involved leading local Boy Scouts in a geocaching activity. Golden Ticket alumni not only network with each other during the Symposium, they also enjoy a special camaraderie with winners from other years, calling upon one another for job openings and hiring recommendations.

Jennifer Stansall, who manages U.S. government partnerships for Planet, was a Golden Ticket recipient in 2011. She had attended the Symposium previously, working in the exhibit hall for her then employer DigitalGlobe, but hadn’t attended any general session programming until she participated in the event with YPG.

“It was an incredible opportunity for me to network and meet other young professionals in the industry,” she said. “I didn’t have that opportunity in Colorado, where I was living.” She recalled standing with a small group of young professionals at the USGIF Chairman’s Reception and talking to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“I don’t think there were many words that came out of my mouth because I was in such awe.”

Carlos Jimenez, a contractor with Darkhorse Geospatial working as an analyst the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in St. Louis, was a Golden Ticket winner in 2016. He had been at a crossroads in his career, trying to determine whether to accept a U.S. Air Force promotion.

“Being able to rub elbows with heads of industry at [the Symposium] changed my perspective,” Jimenez said. He talked to Sue Gordon, then deputy director of NGA, and heard how she and others took risks in their careers. Jimenez accumulated a two-inch stack of business cards, and put his networking skills to use after he left the military.

“I had multiple offers stateside and overseas,” he said. “My phone didn’t stop ringing for a month straight until I decided where I wanted to work.”

Featured image: Participants in the GEOINT 2017 Young Professionals Golden Ticket Program network with program alumni.

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Posted by Melanie D.G. Kaplan