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Women in Construction Week 2020 Profile: Candice Kasprzak

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 6:10am

City of Madison Engineering will be sharing one profile a day as it celebrates National Women in Construction Week, March 1-7, 2020.

No matter if you’re trying to find your way home or clicking through Google Earth, the mission of any good map is accuracy for anyone who reads it.

There are also a lot of things that don’t meet the eye when it comes to maps. To anyone reading, it may be obvious: the lines, the colors, labels, letters and numbers are elements of a productive map, but for Engineering Division CADD Administrator and Information Program Manager Candice Kasprzak, it’s what you don’t see that matters most.

“There are so many facets of GIS (Geographic Information System), the making of the map is the end product, it’s what everybody sees, but there’s a lot of data base management behind GIS, and then, actually maintaining and creating the data that goes into the maps,” Kasprzak said. “Us in mapping, in general, we do a majority of our work maintaining the sanitary and storm sewer, and the information on those sewers.”

Kasprzak’s day-to-day grind involves maintaining the City’s mapping data.

“When we do a reconstruct [street construction] project, we take out the old pipes and put in the new pipes,” Kasprzak said. “Well, those new pipes all have different information attached to them. They could be a different material, a different diameter, they could be longer, shorter, and they could be in a different spot based on X, Y, Z.”

Born in Milwaukee, Wis., and raised in the Sheboygan, Wis. area, Kasprzak has always loved geography and science. She earned a degree in environmental science and geography with a chemistry minor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. From there, she jumped into GIS and natural resource planning in 2002, during a time where Smart Growth was impacting rural areas in northeastern Wisconsin more than ever.

“They would say well you can’t tell me what I can do with my land …” Kasprzak said. “I was in my mid-twenties, and it was like, ‘What do you know?”

Smart Growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods and community engagement. For Kasprzak, it involved educating communities in rural Wisconsin about land use, and the lack of zoning laws that would impact people and their livelihood, even if it took time to win them over.

Kasprzak recalled a moment in the process where a person kept asking a male intern the questions instead of her.

“Any question he [a town board member] had, he would direct to the intern,” Kasprzak said. “The intern would say, ‘I don’t know, you’d have to ask her.’”

By the end of the process, the man asking questions came around, but it’s something Kasprzak said pushed her to keep proving herself.  

“You just keep truckin’,” Kasprzak said.  

While the gender ratio tends to be more even in GIS, Kasprzak said it’s never kept her from growing in her profession. From planning and natural resources planning to photogrammetry (Using remote-sensed data (photos) to 3D map terrain and objects) to detailed elevation data work and making sure the City of Madison’s information is up to date for anyone who needs to use the data, sticking to what she’s always known has been a constant, just like her love for geography and the passion for understanding what’s under the pavement.

“It’s important to have a diverse workflow and diverse group of people in anything that you do,” Kasprzak said. “It’s going to help solve problems … people from different backgrounds. The more ways to look at problems, the easier it’s going to come to a solution.”
Just like a really detailed and accurate map, it should get you from point “A” to point “B,” with no problem, just as long as whoever created it remains as committed to finding solutions as Kasprzak.


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