Introduction of Victor Shields

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Meet Victor

“I grew up on a flower farm in Pennsylvania, my family has a greenhouse business there. I studied biology and plant sciences at West Virginia University and worked at the WVA University Herbarium as a student.” You can already see that Victor has some history with plants!

Victor Shields is an International Project Manager at Picturae and travels around the globe, managing the execution of all our herbarium digitization projects. Sometimes he visits three continents in just three months. Victor learned about Picturae in a very modern way: “In 2016, I saw an Instagram post by the Smithsonian Institution about a huge digitization project at the NMNH US National Herbarium. The project fascinated me and I reached out to see if I could visit the collection and project. When I received a warm invitation, I took a road trip to Washington DC. I was truly impressed by the project and left my resume behind, as I was about to graduate. A few months later, Picturae emailed me that a position as an imaging operator on the herbarium conveyor belt was available. I must have interviewed well, because in just a few short days, I moved to Washington. By the end of the year, I had become a supervisor putting together a brand-new project team, and in time I became a traveling Project Manager for Photo Archives, Data Entry, and Biodiversity projects.

Several years ago, we all had to adapt to strict COVID guidelines that widely differed per country. What did this mean for your work? Victor: “During COVID I had several projects that we could not execute the way we were used to doing. Due to travel restrictions, I had no choice but to remotely train a new team of imaging operators in Australia. Working from Zoom late at night from one of our conveyor belts in the United States, our new team in Sydney carefully followed along with my instructions. Late nights for me and early mornings for the Aussies, they got their training on the conveyor belt and in less than two weeks, we were back to operating! When it was time to move our conveyor equipment in Sydney to a new project location, with another American colleague, Peter Grisafi, we deconstructed everything, loaded it on to a moving truck, and when we arrived in Canberra we built everything back together. Normally, this would be business as usual except it would be our engineering team taking the lead. We had never done this ourselves before, but with careful planning and testing, it worked!”

Where are you now? Victor: “In March, we just started setting up a large herbarium digitization project in Italy. I am busy training the 4 teams that will run the day-to-day imaging operations for this project. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to work in the museum field. Digitizing and bringing accessibility to some of the oldest herbarium collections on Earth will have a profound impact on scientific research and collaboration for decades and even centuries to come. I am very proud of the work that I do at Picturae, there is no other company that does what we do on such a large scale. The variety of responsibilities in my job and working internationally are some of my favorite parts of what I do. I get to interact with people and make important decisions about projects on 3 or 4 continents and in 4 or more countries on a daily basis. It doesn’t get much more exciting than that!”

If you would like more information about what it means to digitize a herbarium, just reach out to Head of Sales - Biodiversity Sebastiaan Bouten s.bouten@picturae.com .

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