When a business gets a call from NASA, it’s a big deal. When that business is being asked to teach some of NASA’s brightest minds, it’s galactic.
But that’s exactly what happened to Jeff McKenna, a 2003 graduate of NSCC’s Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS). In the fall of 2012, NASA reached out to Gateway Geomatics, the company Jeff owns, to see if he could teach NASA employees how to use Open Source mapping software solutions. Jeff didn’t hesitate.
“I get a call and on the other end I can hear the person saying ‘This is so-and-so from NASA. Is this Mr. McKenna?’ It’s an opportunity that lends an incredible amount of credibility to me as a professional and to the business I run,” says Jeff.
Although Jeff operates his business from the small community of Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia, it should come as no surprise that he was on the top of NASA’s list of experts. Twelve years ago, before the concept was mainstream, Jeff became interested in Open Source software; software that anyone can use for any purpose. Today he’s an internationally-recognized leader on the topic, helping people and organizations around the world share geospatial information (or ‘maps’ to the layperson) using Open Source tools.
While the next year will see Jeff teaching some pretty impressive people, he’s just as quick to share his knowledge with those who are up-and-coming in the field. Not long after Jeff graduated from COGS, he developed an Open Source module for students of the Cartography Program. And he continues to stay involved with COGS, speaking to classes from time to time.
“Jeff is extremely well-connected in the world of Open Source geomatics. He’s really an evangelist for the concept,” says COGS faculty member Dave MacLean. “Our students are lucky to have him routinely come and talk to them about how they can make connections in the industry. It’s alumni like Jeff who continue to demonstrate the calibre of COGS grads and keep us on the international map.”