Starting A Geospatial Career
Starting out in your career is both one of the most exciting and uncertain times in your life. You are finally leaving the familiar ground of school or university and stepping into the real world. At the same time, you may feel unsure as to how to give your career the best start. What skills are useful to develop? Are you in the right job? How can you get ahead?
These questions are true for most graduates, especially those in the geospatial sector who have such a wide range of career paths and industries available to them.
I want to help you answer some of these questions and get your career off to the great start. So I asked 5 experts across the geospatial sector the same question. What Advice Would You Give To Someone Starting A Geospatial Career? They work at some of the most prestigious geospatial companies and organisations and are well placed to perceive what will be important in the future of the geospatial industry.
Thalia Baldwin – Director of the Geospatial Commission
Thalia leads the Geospatial Commission
, an expert committee which advises the UK Government on priorities for improving the UK’s location data. She emphasises the importance of softer skills as well as technical knowledge as being important in a career.
“One of the four key missions in the UK’s Geospatial Strategy is to enhance capabilities, skills and awareness. Even the best technology and data are only as good as those that can utilise them. Developing your core geospatial skills, such as the use of GIS, scripting or programming language and the ability to interrogate and integrate datasets, will remain important.
However, the UK’s geospatial skills requirements are diversifying fast, so the geospatial sector should not be limited to geographers and GI specialists, but also to those with an arts and/or science background. Behaviours such as being inquisitive, problem solving, spatial awareness and the ability to communicate complex, technical relationships to a lay audience are just as important as core technical skills.
Softer skills combined with technical and practical knowledge will widen your employment opportunities in the sector, and provide that much sought after advantage in this competitive space.”
David Henderson – Chief Geospatial Officer at Ordnance Survey
David has over 25 years experience of the geospatial industry and has been working at Ordnance Survey
since 2003. His role is to ensure that OS remains at the forefront of the global geospatial industry. He recommends going beyond traditional geospatial skills and embracing the wider opportunities in tech and data.
“I’d encourage curiosity. Asking questions, digging deeper, making connections, defining the problem, envisaging the solution, are all attributes that will stand you in good stead. Skills are of course important, but don’t limit yourself to what are considered traditional geospatial skills. Embrace the wider opportunities of data, tech and geographical thinking and be an ambassador for positive impact in the world!”
Alice Bunn – International Director at The UK Space Agency
Alice is one of the major leaders in the Space Industry. She joined the UK Space Agency in 2011 working in the Earth Observation team, she is now the International Director
. She foresees an exciting future for those interested in Remote Sensing and Earth Observation. Her advice is that with such vast opportunities the only limit is your imagination.
“Over 50% of the measurements that we will need to take to even understand climate change, can only be measured from space. And the fundamental science behind our changing climate was only deduced through study of the atmosphere around other planets.
It’s a time of vast opportunity as our capability to handle vast quantities of data grows daily, these are the tools we need to make sense of the vast amount of data generated from space, either through environmental observations, or navigation and communication. Combining these data will reveal new insights into our planet plus untold career and business opportunities, the only limit to these will be our own imagination.”
Ed Parsons – Geospatial Technologist at Google
Ed joined Google in 2007 where he is responsible for organising the world’s information using geography. Prior to this he worked at the OS as the organisation’s first Chief Technology Officer. You can read his blog here. His advice is to do what you love, be prepared to work hard and innovate.
“Do what you really love doing but be prepared to muck in and try anything to gain experience particularly when it comes to working in teams. Don’t be afraid to question how things are done, new ideas come from new perspectives.”
Henny Mills – Director of Geospatial Studies At Newcastle University
Henny is a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University
and teaches a variety of courses including Land Surveying, BIM and Photogrammetry. She recommends to not worry about finding your dream job to start with and look for a good company in which you can gain experience.
“The first job does not need to be your final and dream job. Often it is better to be on the job ladder and then you can move around as you have experience. Often it is a good to have a job and then see where it takes you. The other parameter to look for is how long people stay at companies. It is a good sign if people stay longer and move up.”
The future for anyone in the geospatial sector is exciting. It is important that you find work that you are really passionate about, if you haven’t got there yet – keep looking. Skills in programming and software are going to be important in the coming decades, however it is also crucial to be aware of the broader picture, to build connections and be willing to try out new ideas.