Geography Alumnus, Entrepreneur Chris Walls Shares his Story of Patience and Passion

Chris Walls worked at UPS for five years while while he was in school.

As co-founder and chief operating officer of 39 Degrees North (39°N), Chris Walls has taken his interests and created a business that continues to grow and thrive at new levels over 15 years later.

“A random class,” is the response Chris, a 2000 graduate in Geography, will give when asked what drew him his career path. Originally a business student, Chris took a break from school and enrolled in a geography course upon his return, which introduced him to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a primary component of the information technology services 39°N offers.

Explore the History of 39°N in this ArcGIS Storymap

“Finding the geography department was critical for where I am today,” he recalls.

Following graduation, Chris began working with the Indiana Geological and Water Survey located on the IU Bloomington campus, which he credits for introducing him to new software and other useful resources.

Just a few short years later, he co-founded 39°N “with a single computer bought on a student loan”. Today, in addition to GIS services, 39°N also specializes in cloud engineering, data analytics, and software development, and delivers more than 700,000 map requests per day for local governments, small businesses, and even up to the federal government and Fortune 500 companies.

As Chris’ company has grown and changed, so have his roles within it. Chris oversees long-range and strategic planning and financing, but will occasionally still take on some technical projects to stay sharp and engaged in doing what he loves.

When it comes to giving advice for current students and young job-seekers, Chris stresses, “You don’t have to start out making the ideal salary. It’s more important to gain experience, and that experience will help you gain that salary you want.”

Connect with Chris Walls and other College of Arts & Sciences alumni by signing up for the Walter Center Success Network.

By Brandon Barnes
Brandon Barnes Peer Coach Brandon Barnes