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Building the Community: Q&A with OGS’ 2016 GEOINT Symposium Golden Ticket Winners

Every year at the GEOINT Symposium, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) Young Professionals Group (YPG) selects 25 individuals within the community to participate in exclusive networking, mentorship, and learning opportunities through its Golden Ticket program. Two OGS senior consultants, Jessica Thomas and Jonathan McColgan, were selected for this year 's program.

Q: What motivated you to apply for the Golden Ticket program?

Jessica:  I wanted to attend the Symposium, and this program affords you opportunities that you would not normally have as a typical exhibitor. I attended last year as a booth representative to demo, but didn’t get to experience much outside of that. The Golden Ticket program offered a wider scope experience such as meeting peers who are in the industry, meeting senior NGA leaders, and getting exposure to different talks, educational sessions, lunches, and really getting to discuss what’s going on in the community.

Jonathan:  I was interested in going to the GEOINT Symposium before I discovered the Golden Ticket program, but I was vectored to it by Lorinda (OGS Executive Partner) and Carrie (Director of Communications) as an opportunity to get access to all that the GEOINT Symposium had to offer, in addition to getting a free full registration for the conference. As I researched the opportunity, it became clear that applying to the program was a no brainer — the benefits that would come with attending the GEOINT Symposium as part of the USGIF YPG Golden Ticket program were invaluable.

Q: You were given pretty exclusive access and a full agenda at the Symposium. What was the most beneficial/influential event you attended?

Jessica:  It was, without a doubt, the lunch with Sue Gordon (Deputy Director, NGA). On my application, I listed her as the person I wanted to meet the most. She was so inspiring and a lot of the things she said really hit home for me. She talked about turning failures or things you didn’t think were good opportunities into gems and that integrity and your reputation is everything. She talked about how important it is to “be good” at something; even if it’s not what you’re going to do with the rest of your life, but to develop a skill. She talked about the winding path of her career, and how each opportunity led to the next.

Jonathan:  The most beneficial events, for me, were the opportunities that I had to get to know and network with the other Golden Ticket program members and other YPG members. I spend the preponderance of my time on the client site, where my exposure to experiences outside of the sphere of influence of the activity I support is fairly limited. Since I've only been a part of Team GEOINT by way of OGSystems for about 2.5 years, I can't imagine a more valuable experience where you have a nexus of professionals representing federal, commercial, and academic entities.

Q: What about the experience as a whole impacted you the most?

Jessica:  I really realized how connected everyone is. It was almost like a reunion for most people. It was interesting to see how everyone, regardless of opinions or paths, shared the same passion for the mission. Seeing that interconnectedness and mission belief was impactful; it inspired me and reminded me why I’m in this industry.

Jonathan:  Without a doubt, the Chairman's Reception was the single most impactful experience that I had while at the GEOINT Symposium. We were told that it would be a chance to network with a Who's Who of some of the most influential people there, both in government and industry. USGIF Chairman Jeff Harris and NGA Deputy Director Sue Gordon delivered a pep talk to the Golden Ticket winners where they emphasized that as excited as we were to get a chance to meet these senior leaders, the leaders at the reception would be more excited to get a chance to speak with us. When I noticed that the entourage of handlers for the most senior leaders were nowhere to be found the reception, I thought to myself that maybe the pep talk that we had been given was the real deal. So when I saw DNI Clapper and Director Cardillo having a conversation, just the two of them, I decided to politely insert myself into their conversation. The result was 10-15 minutes of unfettered access to the two of them before the rest of the room started jockeying for their attention. I never would have imagined that I could have that sort of experience anywhere, and it was all thanks to the YPG Golden Ticket program.

To learn more about USGIF’s Golden Ticket program, YPG, and other committees and working groups to get involved in, click here.

Sue Gordon with JessicaSue Gordon with JonathanYPG Mentoring with M&A Panel MembersYPG with DNI