Meet Rachel Roberts, GIS Analyst
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I grew up in Aiea, Hawaii, which is about 20 minutes outside of Honolulu. I decided to trade my flip-flops for rain gear and move to the “mainland” to attend college at the University of Washington in Seattle. Shortly after graduating, I was hired by FLO and relocated to Portland, Oregon, which is where I currently live.
What do you do at FLO?
I am a GIS/data analyst in the school district sector. My team and I create models for school districts (like boundary changes, program relocation, grade reconfiguration) utilizing land-use and demographic analyses as well as student data. When I work on big planning projects for school districts, I work directly with community members to ensure their input gets included in the decision-making process. Focusing on the community is at the heart of our team’s projects and is important to me, too.
What’s rewarding about your job?
The tangible, long-lasting impact we have on the communities we serve is, for me, the most rewarding aspect of the job. For example, when a school board passes boundary recommendations resulting from the processes we run, those boundaries are intended to serve the districts for many years to come. It is also extremely rewarding to be able to collaborate with incredibly smart, ambitious colleagues. I find myself constantly learning and being challenged by them in ways that push me to be a better analyst.
Why is what you do important?
At the risk of sounding cliché, I truly believe education is the key to our future and that everyone should have access to a quality K-12 education. My parents always stressed the importance of a good education, so for me personally, the work we do holds the utmost importance. By providing school districts with the tools and knowledge they need to make informed decisions, we enable them to achieve their long- and short-term goals of providing an equitable and quality public school education to those in their community.
What skills do you bring to your work?
The work we do is often novel, which requires out-of-the-box thinking. I actually prefer thinking in this non-traditional way, from solving problems through thinking about issues from multiple perspectives (i.e., the client or the public) and at different scales (i.e., geography, granularity). I’m also a good listener, which lets me to work closely with my coworkers, understand their points of view, and collaborate effectively to find the best solution at hand.
What do you like to do off the clock?
Portland is an outdoor-lover’s paradise! During the summer, I love being outside whether I’m backpacking/hiking, camping, or reading in the park. I love trying new things, so during the winter, I can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes such as herby mushrooms and sage browned butter with homemade gnocchi.
If you were not a GIS Analyst, what would you be?
The answers I could give to this question feel endless, but either a marine biologist or a chef are good bets.
What’s on your bucket list?
Owning a house just outside the city where I can have a garden, a sweet pup that runs wild, and a couple of farm animals. Also, owning an RV for road tripping because I have caught road-trip fever after recently returning from a trip to five national parks in Utah.