Alumni Spotlight: Pace Farbstein, Class of 2019

Pace Farbstien graduated in June 2019 with a BA in Geography and Environmental Studies, and now works as a Geospatial Analyst with Stanford ‘s Maps and Records Department with fellow UCSB Alumni, Andrew Ferguson.

Photo credit: Pace Farbstein

Why did you choose the Geography major?

The summer going into my senior year I decided to add the geography double major because I believed that it would allow me to be more prepared to discuss tangible technical experience in a job interview setting. I also felt that it would be a good compliment to the environmental studies program.


Photo credit: Pace Farbstein

What things did you do in your time as a Geography major?

My most notable experience in the geography major would have to be my Geography 176 project. Although I wasn’t the GIS emphasis, I took the whole 176 series because I found it very interesting and enjoyed Professor Janowicz’s lectures. Our group used Lidar data and historical erosion rates in Isla Vista to try and predict lifespans for all the ocean side houses on Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista. I am excited to visit UCSB in the future and see how accurate our predictions were.


Explain in more detail what you do. What do you like best about your job?

Photo credit: Pace Farbstein

As a Geospatial Analyst for Stanford’s Maps and Records Department my work is comprised of GIS and mapping, drone flying for data capture, sub-surface utility locating, and some land surveying.


Stanford owns 13 different utilities (gas, water, sewer etc.) that run through its campus, and before excavation projects begin, the engineers need to know which underground utilities, if any, are present at their site. My department keeps and updates the maps of all 13 utilities and will go out in the field and notify the engineers where the utilities are located underground.


Part of my job includes flying three different drones over campus to capture data. We use this data to update our base map of campus and will fly special missions requested by other departments in need of aerial data.


The most enjoyable part of my job is that I get to spend most of my time in the field. Whether I am flying a drone over campus or marking utilities underground, I enjoy being on my feet and not being stuck behind a desk. Another enjoyable part of my position is that no two days are the same.


Photo credit: Pace Farbstein

What do you find most interesting/challenging/inspiring about your work?

The most interesting part of my job is that we partner with a startup drone company called Vantage Robotics. As part of our partnership, we test their products, so we get to operate with the most cutting edge technology and help solve problems along the way.


How has your education/background in Geography prepared you for your current position?

My background in Geography and GIS has significantly increased my spatial awareness and set the foundational knowledge for a fruitful career in the geospatial industry. I have found that a number of concepts I learned at UCSB such as coordinate systems, GCP’s, and transformations have come up in my work and having that background coursework proved exceedingly helpful in the transition to a professional setting.


Any advice for Geography undergrads? To recent alumni?

I think a good piece of advice for undergrads entering the job market is to not compare yourself to others graduating in your class. Each person takes their own path and one that’s right for someone else may not be right for you. If you are pursuing a more specialized career path such as GIS, you’ll find that there are fewer positions out there than your friends who are applying for sales positions. It might take you longer to find a job that’s right for you, but that’s OK. Each person has their own trajectory and comparing your trajectory to others in different fields won’t do you any good.


What else do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of work I enjoy playing hockey, hiking, travelling, and reading.


Thanks for taking the time to share Pace!

Your’re welcome! As a late-comer to the geography department I hope describing my UCSB Geography and post-grad experience will help others discover the major earlier than I did.

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