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News & Press: MSS News

Spotlight: Shawn Jones

Friday, February 16, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ebonique Ellis
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These answers were provided by Shawn Jones. To read past spotlights, click here.



1.      When did you start surveying?

I started in 2004 right after I finished serving in the U.S. Navy on board the USS Hawes (FFG 53). In need of some steady income, my mother’s boyfriend at the time was working for STV Inc. and had landed me an interview. Gary Thurman was the chief of surveys at that time and decided to give me a chance at being a rodman. Once there I worked along side almost all family. George, Glenn, Donald, Donnell and even Tony all worked there. I was unsure of what I was getting myself into since I never asked what they did but I figured working with this bunch it was going to be a breeze. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed surveying at that time since like all rodmen you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Basically, I became a professional line cutter, hub pounder (if that’s even a such thing) rebar and stake carrier, jump in the thorns to get the shot and Mr. load up the truck ha-ha-ha. I learned a valuable lesson from it all, to move up the ladder quick. I was actually given the opportunity to showcase my abilities as an instrument operator fairly early, when one-day our I-man called in sick on a rush job. Even though instrument operators in todays time only really press buttons, it still felt good to stand behind the gun. From gaining the knowledge I learned from my party chief, I was able to take on an interview for an instrument operator position at RK&K engineers.


2.      Why did you get into surveying?

Other than the fact that I just needed a job when I first started my career, I think I really started to take it more serious as a career around 2009. I had recently enrolled into ITT Tech with the thought that I needed a change in my life. I felt like surveying was starting to drive me crazy. I was at the point were everywhere I looked that I saw lines I would think about join points and break-lines. I would even find myself counting my steps while not even at work, pacing every 50 feet. While out around town I would stumble across a traverse point and think “um where would the back-sight be”. After not even a year of school, 20k in debt and trying to follow computer programming, I knew this wasn’t for my path and I needed to get back into surveying quick. I found out there was an available cadd position within Baltimore City government and quickly applied. Jay Filippone was the Chief of Surveys at that time. He also used to work for STV while I was there, who later became a good friend and mentor.


3.      Describe one of your best experiences while surveying?

I had an out of town topographic job in Charlottesville, VA at Monticello. I had no idea of where I was at or the historic value of this place. All I knew was I had a topo job for expanding the visitors parking area and for some drainage design. Once I finished with my data collection my curiosity grew, especially after seeing all the visitors coming to take a tour. They would come in by the bus loads, kids, adults and grandparents. Majority would do either two things, ask what movie we were filming or stand there and pose like I was about to take their picture. I even played along with them a few times allowing them to stand there posing for a few before I told them it wasn’t really a camera.


I asked one of the tour guides was it okay for us to follow along with them. I had no idea I was on the plantation of our third president Thomas Jefferson. It was a real eye opener for me to see the area of the size the slave huts use to be. I couldn’t imagine how life had to be back in those days.



4.      Describe one of your worst experiences while surveying?

This was my worst experience ever while surveying. I was an I-man at the time working for RK&K on a re-pavement job painting stationing along 495 Capital Beltway. I want to say we started at 295 and finished at route 212 but I’m unsure. It took us about a week or so to finish the inside and outside shoulder lanes with 50 feet station marks. We ended up having to do the inside shoulder over for some reason and that’s where things went bad. That morning SHA had to give us a new driver for the safety truck that follows behind us, since our original driver called out. We started back over from 295. While on the bridge small shoulder over Greenbelt Road, my party chief was 50 feet ahead of me with the safety truck still sitting on the shoulder behind us. Once we started to move up (still on the bridge at this time) I noticed the safety truck passing me by out of the corner of my eye. I looked up at my party chief then I heard tires screeching, soon as I looked backed I had to jump up on the bridge wall to avoid being hit. Unfortunately, looking back forward I saw a pickup truck slam into the back of a van then then that van hit my party chief sending him over the bridge wall. I watched him fall through the trees and onto the concrete support slope. I rushed down the bank to his aid, surprised to see him still breathing. His face was in shock and eyes wide open, asking me what just happened. After 911 was called, I called and informed our chief or surveys of the incident. I’m happy to say that after a long recovery he is still here and is doing better.


5.      What type of surveying makes up most of your work?

I’m more of the state highway type of guy. I started off using Microstation and InRoads so that’s my strength there. Majority of my work is SHA plats, cross sections, topo and metes and bounds. I’m actually excited about the state starting to utilize newer technologies such as LiDAR. Especially on roadways which is a huge safety factor for me. Even though it seems a little out dated to me, I’m pretty good using their ICS file structure for deed plotting and right-of-way building.


6.      Who are some of the surveyors that influenced your knowledge in the profession?

I would like to thank Jay Filippone as mentioned before. I only worked with him briefly at STV Inc., but once I started with the city survey section I was allowed to see what type of personality he had and views on our practice. Over the years I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from him and I’m still learning. One thing I can say that I respect about him is we can agree to disagree on certain beliefs or topics and continue to move forward. A lot of people seem to want to force their opinions on you, which to me shows part of their character of feeling that they are always right.


7.      What was special about what you learned from them?

At this point in my career, I feel that learning state highway work and procedures was most valuable so far. It seems to be a rarity to me or I just haven’t met many surveyors that are proficient in it. So, majority of my work has been SHA and I’m okay with that. I actually love doing their work. It’s kind of funny but I feel like the people down there in the survey section are starting to know my name and know that I’m going to try and deliver quality work to their standards. By no means do I feel like I’m the best at state highway work. I always know that I still have a lot to learn, so I keep an open mind frame and learn as much as I can.


8.      What advice would you give new surveyors?

Quick story, I never really knew what I wanted to be in life, I just thought I wanted to be rich. One-day I had a conversation with my boss at the time Gary Thurman and he told me “well if you want to get rich this isn’t the career for you.” Fast forward a few years to today and I’m still here just with a different mind frame. So, when I do talk to new surveyors I keep it honest with them as Gary was with me. I tell them you might don’t get rich doing this but you can make one good living out of it if you apply yourself. I also tell them to go to school, get the training on the new technologies and to learn our history. That way you can see what direction we’re heading into.



9.      When you are not surveying, what do you like to do?

I’m somewhat of a gym rat. I use to play semi-pro football for a few Baltimore teams.

After I gave that up I wanted to maintain that active lifestyle so I joined a local gym. Once I started meeting people in there and working out, I started making it apart of my regular routine. I always get asked am I a personal trainer and the answer is no. Even though I don’t mind working out with people once I’m there, I like to get in and out of there. Apart from that during the warmer months I love getting out on my motorcycle and traveling through the back roads. I plan on doing a few track days this year to learn more about the bike and riding techniques.


10.  How has surveying changed since you started?

Well with it only being the early 2000’s when I started, I began on the total station, data collector and auto level. Not much has changed drastically in that short amount of time, except with the newer technologies such as scanning, lidar and drones. I’m sure they have always been around, I just haven’t known them to be used in the surveying field until recently. Here at the company I’m with GPI Inc., we have a mobile lidar van that still amazes me with the amount of data it collects. I’m currently learning TopoDot and extracting from that data. This technology to me is truly a game changer and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to learn and have hands on training with it.


11.  What question did you expect us to ask that we didn’t ask? What is the answer?

I was thinking the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now”?


I plan on having my license soon, so in 5 years I would like to have a small minority business running by then. Hopefully I’ll have a few contracts in place with some of the readers of this E-news article. With an extensive background in state highway work including plat development, along with training in LiDAR registration and extraction, I would like to provide quality work that meets client standards and satisfaction. Also, to be a company my clients can trust and depend on to meet their MBE goals.













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