Tamara and I joined the Axim team around the same time back in May of 2022, and she immediately left an impression on me. Her technological savvy combined with her kind yet candid approach has made her an instant hit on the Enterprise team within Axim's Enterprise, Infrastructure & Security (EI&S) business unit. For Tamara, there is no ceiling that can't be broken, no problem that can't be solved, and no stray that can't be cared for. The path that led her to the world of GIS was nothing if not impressive, littered with obstacles that she conquered with a fierce determination to pursue a career path that is authentic to herself.
Like many in the field, Tamara's initial career launch was unrelated to GIS. She took an IT job right after high school without a college degree. After working in the private industry for a little over 15 years, Tamara realized that this career path did not align with her personal or professional goals. "At one point, one of my kids asked what I did for a living, and while I could answer what I did for work on a day-to-day basis, I couldn't give an answer that I felt good about. I wanted to do work that contributed to some universal good." So she enrolled in a college program to pursue a degree in engineering with a focus on Aerospace. However, when she was about ¾ of the way through her BS program, and after already obtaining her AAS in Engineering Technology, Tamara faced a single mother's nightmare: all the remaining courses required for her program were only offered at night. Sure, this option fared well for the traditional type that held day jobs while pursuing further education with support at home, but Tamara was a single mother of two young children at the time, and night classes were not an option. Her advisor at the time knew she'd been working with satellite climate data and suggested that she speak with the Geography department. Her reaction was relatable to many: Geography? Yes, Geography! Ultimately, that led her to transition from a focus on engineering to a focus on Climatology and GIS, eventually earning her BS in Geography with a certificate in GIS. She is currently nearing completion of her MS in Geography as well. The hurdles Tamara faced while pursuing her education are relevant to many working women, and her ability to overcome those hurdles with tenacity is undeniably remarkable. One thing she wishes she knew then but knows now is never to diminish herself. "I lost a lot of opportunities early in my career because I often thought, 'I don't know that, so I am not qualified.' Now I approach things with, 'I am just as qualified as any other person, and if I do not know something, I can learn it because I am a smart, driven individual.'" Indeed, she is!
One awe-inspiring piece of Tamara's background is her time working with the NASA Develop National Project. She started as a research team member, became the research team lead, and eventually worked up to the Arizona office's Assistant Node Manager. Her team focused on the Air Quality and Heat issues in conjunction with Maricopa County in the Phoenix area and the Departments of Health, Transportation, and Air Quality. "Using GIS and science to effect decision-making that would help improve the overall quality of life for people solidified my desire to continue working in GIS."
Tamara joined Axim around May of 2022 and immediately impressed the Enterprise team with her previous experiences and accomplishments, witty candor, and willingness to embrace any challenging task. Although Tamara is officially housed within the Managed Services team, she lends a hand wherever needed on projects needing Esri Enterprise deployments or Cloud Infrastructure Management and Maintenance in primarily AWS environments. Tamara advises fellow women in the industry, "Believe in yourself, work hard, make connections, and never diminish your accomplishments or shrink yourself for anyone. "
Tamara's ongoing desire to keep learning also translates to her free time: she is a kid at heart. Her home is filled with shelves of books and board games, puzzles and video games, action figures and video game statues, stuffed animals, and hobbies galore. She has a whole room dedicated to hobbies: sewing machines, vinyl cutters, leather crafting, whittling, and yarn, primarily for crochet, among others. Relatable to many crafters, her house has almost nothing "crafty" as décor. She shares the love of her hobbies with her family.
Tamara has a husband of 13 years and two biological kids, a son (19) and a daughter (17), in addition to a "bonus son" (17), who has been with them since he was 15 and is a permanent member of the family. The oldest lives with his biological dad in Arizona, but the younger two live at home. Over the years, Tamara and her husband have fostered or functioned as guardians of five other teenagers who were homeless, from abusive households, or were involved with the court system for whatever reason. They all call her Mama T, which one of them came up with ages ago, and it just stuck. "I liked working with at-risk youth because lots of them are great kids from really bad circumstances, but at this point, it's unlikely we'll take any more kids in permanently." Her husband refers to her as the person who takes in strays. In addition to her human Mom life, Tamara has been a part of the animal rescue community for decades. Consequently, she has six dogs, five cats, two corn snakes, and an aquarium, not to mention all of the rehabbed houseplants! The dogs and cats were rescues, many of them literally off the street.
The acumen that Tamara brings to any team she is a part of is unparalleled. Combined with her robust background and magnetic personality, she is an exceptionally brilliant woman in GIS whom I am proud to work with.