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News & Press: MSS News

Spotlight: Erick R. Quintanilla

Tuesday, April 23, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sally Palatiello
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When did you start surveying, and why?

I began surveying in January of 2004. I wish I could say that it was because I had a love for maps ever since I was a kid, and that surveying seemed like the perfect fit. Unfortunately (at the time), it was mostly out of necessity. After spending some time away from home with the Marines, I finally came back and started college. I decided to begin with drafting classes. The plan was to take enough classes to eventually get my foot in the door with an engineering or architectural firm. The reason for this was because most of my life I had worked with my family doing masonry work; I had some exposure to engineers and architects while working with my family as young teen. I signed up for full-time classes during the day and worked (full time) during the evenings loading and unloading trains at Union Station in DC. After a year of that same exhausting schedule, I finally had a good number of classes under my belt to land a job.

I spent the next several months failing at that. It was disheartening to say the least. By this time, feeling burnt out; my ex-wife (wife at the time) told me that she ran into an old friend. While they were catching up on what everyone was up to, my name came up and her friends father mentioned that I should give him a call. After some hesitation, I finally reached out to Mr. Ken West. He was extremely nice and helpful. I immediately regretted waiting so long to give him a call. He gave me the names of four individuals that he thought could use an entry level technician. I made the calls and after some more struggles I finally scheduled my first interview. I got the job right on the spot and I spent the next seven years working for Capitol Development Design, Inc. (CDDI) next to some great and hard-working people.

Describe one of your best experiences while surveying?

I hope that this answer doesn’t come across as too generic of an answer but I do want to be honest. I can’t pick just one experience. What I can say is that my overall experience as a surveyor has been, and continues to be, my best experience. When someone asks me the same question about my time with the Marines, I have a similar answer because I think there are a lot of things that relate. First, it has been all the people I have had the pleasure of meeting and listening to.

Even now, as I am more involved with MSS, I really enjoy meeting surveyors from different places and listening to their experiences. You never know what you’re going to learn. What is most interesting is having the opportunity to see things from their point of view.

Second, and I’m sure a lot a surveyors here will be able to relate to this one, is the different locations I’ve been able to see as a surveyor. Unlike my previous experience as a teen working with my family on a construction site that’s up and running, surveying has offered a unique opportunity to explore a piece of earth that has been mostly untouched and that only very few have explored. I remember starting off as a rodman on a three-man crew and enjoying the fact that every job site was different. That is one of the things that got my interest going for this profession going.

Describe one of your worst experiences while surveying?

I have a couple that jump out at me. The first was when I was sent to go help out a field crew finish a soil boring stake-out at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road. For those who are familiar with the area, it’s a high traffic area. At some point, our flagger lost focus and didn’t warn us a bus was getting really close to us while we were setting a point on the shoulder. As I was standing up to move on to the next point I heard the crew chief yell out “No!”. At that same moment I felt something go over top of me and lightly brush the hair on top of my head. As I looked up, I noticed that it was the metal frame of the side mirror of an old school bus just barely missed the back of my head. The second is what I call “the summer of bees”. I’ve never had any issues with bees before until the summer of 2014. I believe this all happened within the matter of a month. The first was when we were at a job site and my co-worker stood on a nest of yellow jackets.  

As we both ran away in different directions, they proceeded to chase me instead of him. I’m pretty sure I could hear him laughing in the distance but the bee stings weren’t too bad since yellow jackets had never really affected me too much. Next was when I was clearing some brush along a fence line in College Park. All I remember is seeing two black wasps coming out of nowhere and quickly zapping me right between my eyes. That one hurt a little but it still wasn’t too bad. My forehead was swollen for a day or so and my co-workers kept comparing me to Eric Stoltz from the 1985 film “Mask”. Finally, the last one that got me was the hornet. This one definitely hurt and made me break out into hives immediately. I never had allergies and that was the first time in my life that I ever got hives. Thankfully, there was a pharmacy nearby and I bought some antihistamine which seem to do the trick. I think that the worst part was that each day I could see the venom creeping up my arm. I was starting to worry, but by the third day everything started to go away.

What type of surveying makes up most of your work?

My team supports our geospatial group in all environmental, engineering, and GIS projects. The only two types of surveys we don’t do are construction stakeout for development and ALTA surveys. Besides that, we take care of all requests from all of our other departments and state partners. A lot of my focus nowadays is finding ways to implement modern technology to our projects. We have been doing a lot of work with sUAS. I have also been working on figuring out ways of joining surveying data on to a GIS platform.


Who are some of the surveyors that influenced your knowledge in the profession (in school or on the job)?

First, I would like to say that I have run into many, many surveyors that have influenced me in many ways and I don’t mean to skip over anyone. With that said, there are a handful of people I want to acknowledge that helped me out as I was making my way as a young surveyor. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them. First are surveyors Ken West, Daryl E. Morgan, and Jerry Mamauag. Ken was the first surveyor I met who helped me finally get my foot in the door. Daryl was the traditional surveyor (literally pen and paper) that I was able to learn so much from, teaching me all the traditional methods of surveying. Jerry was the young surveyor that I relied heavily on to ask every question I had about the licensing process. Next, I would like to acknowledge two gentlemen on the geospatial side who helped me out a lot; Larry Swift and Michael Herzberger. Larry, similar to Ken, was the one who brought me in to the geospatial side of things. When Larry retired, Mike continued where Larry left off and has become a mentor of mine.


What was special about what you learned from them?

Daryl was great in teaching me all the traditional ways of land surveying. He is the best boundary surveyor I have had the pleasure of working with. Daryl relied on me heavily since I was the young “CAD Guy” in the office. I got to sit side by side with him as he showed me his process for every boundary survey or ALTA and how important it is to follow the footsteps of the previous surveyor. Jerry was the guy I could turn to for all of my questions when I was getting ready to pursue my license. He had recently passed all his exams when I was getting ready to go through the process. Larry was the one who brought me on to run the surveying department for the geospatial group. He was a huge supporter of surveying and always made sure I had everything I needed to get everything up and running. Michael continued right where Larry left off. With Mike, I have been able to work hand-in-hand with all the other members of the geospatial group. With his support and guidance, I have been able to build relationships and write up new contracts with our partners.


What advice would you give to new surveyors?

Reach out to your peers and start building good work relationships. I am naturally an introverted guy, but the one thing I learned quickly in the military was that you should always have a “go-to” person. That only happens by building good relationships with folks in and out of your line of work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Also, look into joining a group. I never realized how much I enjoyed talking to people about surveying and mapping until I got more involved with MSS.


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

As single parent, I spent the majority of my time with my two awesome kids, Lillian and Matthew. Family vacations are definitely on the top of our list of favorite things to do. Besides that, I love to travel and I spend a good amount of time with my friends and hangout around DC.

How has surveying changed you?

Technology!!! I know that I am considered young in this profession but the technology has definitely skyrocketed. Earlier, I talked about my old boss Daryl and how I got the opportunity to work side by side with him on a lot of projects. Well, part of the reason for that was because he hated how technology didn’t work the way it’s supposed to sometimes. That’s where I came in. I


remember that he used tells the same joke “you know what never runs out of battery, my pencil, ha ha”. Each time I would offer a small chuckle out of respect while I shook my head, letting him know that that was a bad one. When he retired, he gave me a lot of advice but the one I thing remember the most was when he said “don’t let technology leave you behind my boy. I did and I regret it every day”. I’ve learned to embrace the change and to never stop learning.



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