Every once in a while you meet an individual that is larger than life. They bring a level of energy, intensity, and intelligence to life that sets them apart. They seem to change the world in ways that are beyond the ability of most of us mortals. My friend Mark Sorensen is just such a man.
Mark is one of the world's foremost experts in Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI). He has helped many countries in struggling regions of the world to establish the foundations of national mapping systems in their particular part of the world. He was in Kosovo shortly after NATO stopped the fighting there to help them rebuild their land records system. He is doing similar work today in Iraq and Afghanistan. His work has taken to all parts of the globe including Eastern Europe, many parts of Africa, the Middle East, and some part of the Far East as well. I don't know of any other individual who has done more to advance the practical implementation of GIS across the globe.
Mark is trained as a landscape planner (Harvard School of Design) and his career in GIS began at ESRI. He was one of the first employees at ESRI back when ESRI did as much project work as it did software development. He held a number of different positions at ESRI before leaving to start the Geographic Planning Cooperative, Inc. about 15 years ago. His work with GPC has taken him all over the world and exposed him to an amazing variety of different projects. His professional resume runs on for pages and is a fascinating read.
Professional life is not the only place where Mark is larger than life. (How many people do you know that have been on the television series "I Should Not Be Alive"?) He has hiked the John Muir trail a number of times, kayaked rivers in Alaska, and trekked across mountains in Oman. Having grown up in Southern California, he is an accomplished surfer and an incredibly competent seaman as well. His adventures in the natural world are every bit as amazing as his adventures in the professional world.
I had the opportunity to spend about a week with Mark in Abu Dhabi in early February. Mark and his team are helping the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to create a Spatial Data Infrastructure for the Emirate. Mark is interested in taking the SDI concept inside the building and we were there to work with Mark to educate his customers about the advantages of bringing GIS to the built environment. It was an amazing week and I learned a huge amount as I always do whenever I am lucky enough to spend time with him. One of my most lasting memories of that week is of three of us sprinting through the streets of Abu Dhabi trying to keep up with Mark as we moved from one meeting to the next. Classic Sorensen.
There are some people that always raise the level of your game when you work together. Mark is one of those. I always learn a huge amount each time I have the chance to work with him. I am grateful to count him among my friends.