Data Management is a Team Sport

A conversation with David Grosso, senior geospatial analyst at Tesla Government


David Grosso joined Tesla Government in 2015 as a geospatial analyst turning data into mission-ready intelligence. His original responsibilities were to create interactive and static products using geospatial software and to establish data management standards to reduce the duplication and use of antiquated data. In 2016, when Tesla began expanding its GIS team, Grosso was promoted to senior geospatial analyst. In this role, Grosso helped develop a dynamic, intelligent folder structure to organize and maintain centralized data. He currently ensures data quality and maintains standards for data processes his team uses to complete tasks including communication, product development and design, and branding.

How do you keep pace with the rapid evolution of best practices in data management and analytics?

It’s really situational. Awareness of best practices depends on your focus area and interests. You don’t realize something is wrong until you face the problem. And when you do, instead of ignoring the problem, it’s best to address the issues head-on. Then you find what methods are being employed, which software is being used, and what research is being published. Once new information is available, you try to implement those improvements.

It’s a dynamic process that requires you to think critically. I absolutely lean on the rest of my team to be a part of this. I always get feedback and make sure everybody is comfortable with major changes. It is imperative to rely on their expertise when making programmatic decisions that will affect the team’s ability to produce. In many cases, we implement changes we all agree upon, and if we ultimately don’t like the change, we scrap it and try something else. As a whole, we push out more products each month than we did the month before. Those products are constantly improving in quality and standardization, while being more user-friendly.

What is your advice for aspiring GEOINT professionals?

Find a mentor, someone who knows the industry with years of experience. For me, that person was John Steed, Tesla’s director of Geospatial Services. Not only has he allowed me to follow my heart and learn new skills, he has encouraged me to find ways to implement those skills in the workplace.

Programming skills are a must these days. If you have any front- or back-end programming skills that can be used to refine products, add capabilities, and automate, you will certainly set yourself apart. Programming skills will also lend you the ability to learn new languages that will be critical in the future. Even outside of the geospatial community, in the commercial sector at large, the ability to automate and program is critical.

Finally, stay in the know. Be aware of what is happening in the greater community and specific to your field. Read the publications—trajectory is a great example. Read anything public coming out of NGA. Know what software is being used, what’s cutting-edge, and what techniques contractors and the government are using. Equally as important is learning about companies that are not achieving their goals and finding out what didn’t work and why.

What are the challenges you face as an analyst in the era of big data?

Misinformation is a big challenge. You never want to make assumptions. There are always technological limitations, but the bigger issue is probably operator error. What are the mistakes you, the analyst, are making? Always get somebody to proof your work and make sure it makes sense to them. You could spend a month laboring on a project and fall so deep into it that you don’t see where you’re making mistakes. Be ready to grow from your mistakes and adapt to new processes, methods, and technologies.

How has USGIF membership contributed to your professional growth?

It’s definitely made my bosses happy. They’re thrilled that I’ve pursued involvement with the organization, and with the work I’ve done on improving and developing content for USGIF’s Essential Body of Knowledge. We’ve grown a nice relationship with USGIF here at Tesla Government, one we would love to continue. We’ve also hosted a USGIF GEOINTeraction Tuesday event and students from the Foundation’s Externship Program. In an industry that revolves around information and intelligence, it is so important to share and grow together.


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