Spatial Networks’ Amy Aylor on nonlinear career paths, the pace of government, and the future of data analysis
Amy Aylor entered the GEOINT profession through roles at Lockheed Martin supporting contract work for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). In 2007, Aylor moved to the federal government as a program management officer at NGA. After eight years at NGA and two with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), she sought another change. This time, Aylor wanted to work with a smaller organization. In March, she began her new role as director of strategic alliances and partnerships at Spatial Networks, a GEOINT company based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
What is your advice for aspiring GEOINT professionals?
The opportunities are endless. If something is a passion of yours, follow the passion because you never know where it’s going to lead. I never knew what was out there until I gave myself the opportunity to try something different. It requires stepping outside your comfort zone. Being here at Spatial Networks is totally different for me. At larger organizations there’s a sense of security. [GEOINT] is bigger than most people realize.
What lessons can you share with regard to working for the federal government?
On the industry side, we often don’t understand there are mandated processes and procedures the government has to follow. We’re used to doing things fast, fast, fast. The government just doesn’t work this way. There are approval processes and stages that must be followed to turn ideas into reality. In industry, we have great ideas. We’re brought on board to be innovative and to think outside of the box, but there’s a certain sequence of events we often have to abide by to get us and our customers to the end goal.
In seeking out and managing commercial partnerships, what GEOINT technology have you seen to be most in demand throughout 2018?
There is definitely a large demand for signal analytics, machine learning, and automated or assisted intelligence. With the advent of big data, many users of data in and out of government are looking for technologies to help extract knowledge without needing to add analysts. One concern I have is that organizations may forget that they still need to have diverse types of data to efficiently apply AI and ML tools.
How has USGIF membership helped your career development?
I’ve attended several USGIF GEOINT Symposia and GEOINTeraction Tuesday events. Hearing what else is out there gives me the opportunity to look at other small businesses and to see all the cool stuff they’re doing. In the thick of it at NGA, I was often dealing with the large systems integrators, not the small businesses. Going to USGIF gatherings, you see there’s so much talent in so many other places. I wouldn’t have realized there was a place [in the GEOINT Community] for a company like Spatial Networks otherwise. It gives you a diversity of thought to have a variety of organizations in the room. ￼