18 The Oregon Surveyor | Vol. 45, No. 3 Member Spotlight Jerry Olson Olson Engineering, Inc. www.olsonengr.com By Vanessa Salvia Maybe a lot of people’s careers in surveying develop because they spent a lot of time out in the environment as a young person. That was certainly true for Jerry Olson, whose father had a small sawmill and logging operation in Forest Grove, Oregon. “He used to drag me out the woods with him to run compass lines around the timber tracts that he had purchased to log for his sawmill,” says Olson. “I was about 12. At first, he put a red hat on me, and I headed out as a flagman. And then eventually, he taught me how to use the staff compass so I was using a compass as a teenager.” Luckily, Olson enjoyed it—it wasn’t something he felt forced to do. And he always loved math and science. He had an uncle who graduated from the engineering school at Oregon State University in 1927, and Olson went to OSU too, at first for mechanical engineering. “That lasted a month!” he says. “I realized that I was going to have some kind of an office in the basement of a paper mill or something.” He had a friend who was in forest engineering, so Olson switched. He stayed at OSU long enough to get a master’s degree in 1963. His degrees enabled him to work for the government or different companies, so he was happy with the job opportunities he had and never considered a different career. “But once I got a job, a big part of it was surveying forest boundaries and I loved that part, much more than I liked any other part of the job,” he says. Olson had about five positions with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and ended up in Vancouver, Washington, which wasn’t far from his home. At one point he was an area engineer for southwest Washington in a supervisory role, but he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. “My dad has his own business and I knew that’s what I wanted to do eventually,” he says. “So, when I had the opportunity, I hung up my shingle in Vancouver. I had no clients, no jobs. I was single. My rent was $60 a month. My office was a drafting table in my apartment. That was 54 years ago.” Olson says he was always one of those people who sees that something needs continues Jerry Olson. My dad has his own business and I knew that’s what I wanted to do eventually. So, when I had the opportunity, I hung up my shingle in Vancouver. I had no clients, no jobs. I was single. My rent was $60 a month. My office was a drafting table in my apartment. That was 54 years ago.