Editor’s note: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are profiling the women at Connected Nation. From leadership roles to internship positions, these women are using their skills and experiences at every level of the organization to fulfill our mission to expand broadband access, adoption, and use to all people.
Louisville, Ky. (March 18, 2019) – Ashley Hitt didn’t dream of a career in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), but now she’s a leader in her field.
“I actually started out in meteorology at Western Kentucky University,” Hitt explained. “I had to take an introduction to GIS class as part of the coursework. I really liked it, so then I stayed at WKU to get my master’s degree in geoscience.”
GIS is a framework for gathering and analyzing data that’s rooted in geography, and when Hitt said she was changing her career focus to the field, her family took it all in stride.
“I’ve always loved maps to better understand the world and make decisions based on location intelligence. After being obsessed with the atlas during family road trips as a kid, my career choice was not a surprise to my Dad,” she said.
In May, Hitt will mark her 12th anniversary at Connected Nation. She now serves as the Director of GIS Services.
“GIS is a significant aspect of the work we do at Connected Nation,” she said. “We can’t fix a problem like the Digital Divide without being able to measure it—the location intelligence that GIS provides through maps, analyses, and other data visualizations allow us to make analytics-driven decisions that impact policy and broadband expansion efforts.”
In addition to her work at CN, she leads workshops and programs across the U.S. through the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA). It’s a nonprofit association that provides education, training, and resources for GIS professionals. Hitt serves as the annual conference chair for the organization and says those involved have learned that a career in GIS can be exciting.
“It is itself a ‘disruptive’ technology—things are changing constantly with new products and solutions, ways to create and view data, and innovations from a variety of industries,” Hitt said, adding that working at CN is the perfect match. “I want to embrace the disruptions so we can continue advancing our work because everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.”
She has some advice for other young women—or anyone really—considering trying something unexpected or new in their careers.
“Go after it! Don’t let a lack of examples keep you from trying something and seeing how it goes. Worst-case scenario, you find a way that doesn’t work as intended, you learn from it, and try something else,” Hitt said. “After all, Thomas Edison tried thousands of ways to make a light bulb—he only needed to find one way that worked.”
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