In his own words: Eric Ingbar, founder of Gnomon Inc. | nnbusinessview.com

In his own words: Eric Ingbar, founder of Gnomon Inc.

Megg Mueller

Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us a little about your company.

Eric Ingbar: Gnomon, Inc. specializes in applying information technology to resource management problems. Those are the big, glossy, words; what it means is we use fairly complicated information technology tools like electronic mapping systems, complex databases and field tools like high-precision GPS to help companies and organizations determine both what they have (resources) and what they need to do to manage those resources. For instance, we work closely with local governments to help them manage electronic map datasets about land ownership. For a county, each parcel is a resource. We help them manage the information about these resources so they can make better-informed decisions. I started Gnomon in order to apply technologies like electronic mapping to environmental permitting problems. Typically, one has to assess multiple possible project plans against multiple natural, social and cultural values. Think of each of these categories of information as a set of layers like a bundle of blueprints. The assessment process requires that you compare one blueprint with lots of other sheets. You have to do this multiple times. In the past, you might have done this with a sheaf of maps and a light table, one comparison at a time. Gnomon creates and uses tools that are like a 1000-watt light table. Because my professional background is as an archaeologist, Gnomon has become well-known as a “go-to” firm for this kind of environmental work regarding cultural resources, though we also work with resources of all types. Our staff comprises IT experts and a couple of archaeologists who bridge the gap between field archaeology and the sophisticated sorts of analyses and tools that we employ. We have a full-time staff of eight a nice size that gives our office a friendly familiarity.

NNBW: What role do you play in the company?

Ingbar: As the technical director of the company, I specify what the outcomes will be of most of our work. I am responsible for them. Fortunately, Gnomon has a great staff and this is not as hard as it might sound.

NNBW: How did you get into this profession?

Ingbar: I began my career as a professional archaeologist, and I still contribute papers to professional conferences and publications. I topped out in a small consulting firm, and realized that I was spending more time at a desk than in the field. Not wanting to compete directly with my employer of the time, and having been a statistics, database, and mapping specialist in much of my career, I started Gnomon.

NNBW: What are some of the skills and abilities necessary for someone to succeed in this job?

Ingbar: Patience, an aptitude (or appetite) for technical details, and the ability to listen to your customers and help them express their needs in actionable ways.

NNBW: If you could have had any other profession what would it have been? Why wasn’t it your first choice?

Ingbar: I am supposed to answer this question with “I would never have made another choice.” I do love what I do, but I might well have chosen something else. One thing you learn in archaeology though is that the clock does not run backward. So, much as I would love to answer this question, I don’t think I can!

NNBW: What are some of the important trends you see in your industry?

Ingbar: MapQuest, GoogleMaps, Bing! Maps, and the Web in general have changed the information technology and automated mapping profession immensely. The expectation now is that everything is mappable, easy to display and instantly available. This has been good and bad for us. On the one hand, the general public is far more literate about electronic information. On the other hand, there is a tendency to (a) think these products are created with little effort and (b) believe any Web page that looks good.

NNBW: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Ingbar: I am a soccer referee and cyclist. Those are the third and fourth halves of my life, respectively.

NNBW: Have any advice for someone who wants to enter your profession?

Ingbar: Understand that technical abilities are a necessary but not sufficient package for success. You need to be able to understand what people do, how they analyze information (or could) and how to translate that in to information technologies.

NNBW: Would you rather be younger, thinner, richer or smarter? Why?

Ingbar: Yes. Who wouldn’t? Oh, you mean only one of those. I would want to be younger. It’s the one thing you cannot achieve for yourself. With that said, I have no regrets (to this point).

NNBW: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Ingbar: Marry that girl.

NNBW: What are five things you can’t live without?

Ingbar: Exercise, fresh air, books, a bit of peace and quiet, and a clear night sky.

NNBW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why would you want it?

Ingbar: I would want the superpower of keeping my mouth shut and not raising my hand. I guess that would be will power.

NNBW: What does the content of your refrigerator say about you?

Ingbar: If it is talking, I throw it out so I don’t think it says much.

The basics:

Name: Eric Ingbar, Founder and director of technical services, Gnomon, Inc.

How long have you been in this job? 16 years

How long in the profession? 26 years

Education: B.A. sociology/anthropology, Swarthmore College 1979; M.A. Anthropology, University of New Mexico 1983

Best book you’ve read? “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut

What’s on your iPod? Don’t have one I use a generic MP3 player: technical podcasts, Santana and various jazz

The best movie ever? “Dr. Strangelove”

Spouse, kids or pets? Yes, yes and yes


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