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Earning a Degree While Working: Employee-Owners Share their Experiences


Going back to school once you’ve entered the workforce can be challenging, but having the support of your employer can help! Recently Parametrix employee-owners Jade Parsons and Lonnie McKnight completed degrees with help from Parametrix’s Educational
Assistance Program. They share their stories and tips on how to balance work, school, and life.

Jade Parsons is a surveyor based in our Bremerton, WA office. She recently graduated from the University of Florida’s online program, earning a master’s degree in geomatics. She says that she originally had no intention of pursuing a master’s
degree. When she began her career at Parametrix in 2017, she didn’t have any previous knowledge of surveying. Her supervisor encouraged her to pursue a survey-related education.

After some google searching, I found that the University of Florida had a 100% online master’s degree in Geomatics. One thing that I really appreciated about the program was the diversity and backgrounds of the students taking
the courses. This really opened my eyes to see how big the geomatics field is and the huge variety of different applications that geomatics can be used for.”

I asked Jade how Parametrix supported her through the process. She says,

“I would not have made it into the program at the University of Florida or completed the degree without the support of everyone in the survey group. Even though I had only been at Parametrix for about six months at that point, thethree survey supervisors at the time wrote me wonderful letters of recommendation, which enabled me to get into the program. Everyone in the survey group has been extremely accommodating and understanding with helping me pursing this degree.”

Jade on a project site with her supervisor, Kristy Allinson.

“Another thing that enabled me to do this program was the support from Parametrix with the education reimbursement program. I only took one class per semester (two classes per year), but with the money from the education reimbursement program, Parametrix
ended up covering 70% of my tuition, which was a huge help.”

Jade says she’s going to take some time for much-needed relaxation and then next year start pursuing her Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) license.

When asked her advice for others who want to pursue a degree while working, she said,

“In all honesty working full time and going to school is challenging. However, I’m a firm believer that the good things in life don’t come easy, so it is good to push yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time. It’s easy
to make excuses to why you can’t do something, but if continuing your education is something that you’ve been thinking about doing, then 100% go for it.”

Despite taking four and a half years to finish her degree, she says she’s glad she stuck it out.

Lonnie McKnight is a surveyor based in our Albuquerque, NM office. He started his surveying career in 2017 and after a few months as a Survey Tech, he was hooked on the variety of field and office work, cutting-edge technology, and the
wide variety of projects. He learned of the urgent need for licensed surveyors and decided to look into educational opportunities. He enrolled in his first surveying course in the Fall of 2017 at a local community college and then went on to graduate
from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor of Science in Geomatics.

Lonnie at a Public Land Survey System (PLSS) Monument east of Cuba, NM.

“The main thing I learned during my school years, aside from the technical and practical aspects of surveying, was effective time management and discipline. Many of my courses were self-paced, so while there were no set deadlines the work still
had to get done. Managing my school and work commitments while still being present as a dad and husband definitely gave me a few gray hairs but in the end I feel I’ve gotten better at all of it. My fellow employee-owners helped me out by accommodating my sometimes crazy school schedule and by being outstanding mentors, advocates, and friends.”

Now that he’s graduated, his next goal is to obtain his professional surveying license in New Mexico and the other four corners states.

Lonnie’s advice for others pursuing a degree while working:

  • Good communication with your team is key. Let your managers and instructors know what all you have going on and they will make it work. Completing your education benefits everyone so it’s in everyone’s interest to
    help make it happen.
  • Don’t worry about school taking too long – there’s nothing wrong with taking an extra semester or three to avoid burning out. Assuming you’re working in your desired field while still in school, you’ll
    be ahead of the game with all that pre-graduation work experience so you can afford to give yourself some breathing room to learn on the job too.
  • Make time for things other than work or school. Everyone needs a life outside their studies or profession and trying to complete a degree while working sometimes makes it hard to remember that.
  • Lean on your people! It’s said that it takes a village to raise a kid, and the same is true of getting a working student through what will be one of the hardest times of their life.
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