GEO Alums Tell Their Stories
The value of geographic knowledge.
As a GIS Coordinator for the City of Farmington Hills (Michigan), Matthew has found it easy to identify his role and the importance of education in that role. “The role of GIS Coordinator,” he states, “is to apply your knowledge of geographic principles via the tools available in modern GIS software.” Having a thorough understanding of GIS software is important of course, he continues, but without a doubt it is the underlying themes of geography (such as, coordinate systems, modeling, and spatial analysis) that have allowed him to best utilize these tools. He doesn’t underestimate the value of his work either. Many projects in Farmington Hills depend upon the use of GIS in daily operations, everything from legally-required zoning change notifications to three-dimensional modeling of underground infrastructure have become daily GIS operations. In the era of enhanced Internet access, GIS practitioners also need to publish static and interactive maps for public consumption, which simultaneously improves citizen involvement with their municipal government. The importance of geography is not lost on him, “If ever there’s a place where a bona fide Geographer is required,” he affirms, “it’s municipal government.” If you relish the opportunity to serve the public and assist them with geographic knowledge and cartographic skills, then set your sights on geography and a career in GIS.
A universal degree.
When asked about her position at AWS Truepower, LLC, Lesley can’t help but blurt out, “I LOVE my job.” A part of the burgeoning renewable energy market, Lesley enjoys being a part of an up-and-coming industry, alongside many recent graduates. Moreover, she points out, it is her degree in geography that helped her land her dream job. When interviewing Lesley, Truewind was most impressed by what they considered a “universal degree” –a degree that had application in multiple areas of the company. Although she expected to land a job in the GIS modeling department (relying on her GIS coursework), she was hired on as a meteorologist, measuring wind speed and direction to estimate long-term wind potential.
I am a fluvial geomorphologist!
Graduates in geography are often asked what they are going to do with a geography degree, and the answer, one often assumes, is become a teacher. And while that might be the goal, not so fast, says Brad S. His emphatic answer, “I am a fluvial geomorphologist!” Similar to the work done by geography graduate students, Brad collects soil and sediment samples, both floodplain and in-channel, he is quick to qualify, and returns to the lab to analyze and predict contaminant distribution in fluvial systems. In a highly developed, industrial economy, work like Brad’s could not be more valuable. Through geographers like him, water contamination can be identified and cleaned up before it affects communities.
“Work?” Brad B. asks with grin. Well, a typical day [working for the City of Janesville] involves preparing maps for staff presentations, designing and maintaining databases, developing applications… the list continues. He fondly calls to mind his current project, a user-application that will allow residents of Janesville, Wisconsin, can view information about their property, including hazard (flood) data and aerial imagery. The big challenge, Brad says, is “achieving the right balance of data, visualization, and usability so that the website is not too intimidating.” The upside? “It should be pretty cool!”
A job that is varied, diverse, and, most importantly, never boring.
“Simply put,” says Ian Sims, a member of ESRI’s ArcGIS Server Development Team, “it’s assessing how fast ArcGIS Server works, how its speed can be optimized, and how large systems can be designed to support lots of users simultaneously requesting maps, geocoding an address, geoprocessing, or performing a route analysis between two locations.” At ESRI, Ian and his team never stop looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their software. He identifies his education, specifically a thorough knowledge of GIS/spatial concepts and a solid background in computer science and information technology, as what has allowed him to have a job that is varied, diverse, and, most important, never boring.
There is no shortage of jobs.
Andrea had every intention of completing her Master of Arts degree in Geography and then ‘life got in the way’ and her path led in a different direction. Armed with her Bachelor’s degree, Andrea set off in search of a job that would allow her to use her GIS skills, and possibly take her away from Michigan for a more exciting opportunity. Four years later she can boast of her experience working as a GIS Analyst for the United States Army, preparing and delivering datasets to soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia. Today she works in Alexandria, Virginia, for CALIBRE as a Senior Analyst providing on-site data acquisition and standardizing data, as well as technical support for army installations. While she admits that there are a “mind-numbing quantity” of acronyms to learn, she has discovered that Military GIS is a sub-field in itself and there is no shortage of jobs.