GISP, Enterprise GIS & Open Data Coordinator, City of Berkeley, California
Education: M.Sc. in Geography (University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand), B.A. in Geography (University of Texas at Austin)
Describe your job. What are some of the most important tasks for which you are responsible?
I design and build an Enterprise GIS that includes innovative web solutions to increase productivity, improve efficiency and allow City departments to make better, more informed decisions, automate workflow and protect the community. I also work to ensure that important city data, including GIS data, is available for public use: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/opendata/
What attracted you to this career path?
I live nearby in North Oakland. I want my work to be part of enriching my community, “saving puppies”, not making widgets for company x. I ride my bicycle to work and know many of the community leaders personally. I enjoy being in public service with a city known for innovation.
How has your education/background in geography prepared you for this position?
My background in physical geography and coastal geomorphology prepared me to better understand some of the drainage and hazard issues of a small city that has a coastline at its western border and rises to 2,000 feet in elevation in a relatively short distance at its eastern border.
What geographic skills and information do you use most often in your work? What general skills and information do you use most often in your work?
The ability to see patterns and to understand the importance of place; and The First Law of Geography are most often used in my work.
Are there any skills or information you need for your work that you did not obtain through your academic training? If so, how/where did you obtain them?
I believe conveying the value of GIS and spatial analysis is a skill only gained through experience on the job. I often need to explain GIS and spatial analysis methodology in layman’s terms to a diverse crowd. It is harder than it seems, and beneficial to practice with friends and family.
Another skill I needed to hone on the job is working in a political atmosphere. As the city’s redistricting analyst after the 2010 census, I enlisted help from our city attorney to prepare for our public presentations and hearings regarding redistricting the city’s council districts.
Do you participate in hiring, screening, or training of new employees? If so, what qualities and/or skills do you look for?
Yes; I look for someone who can express themselves well both on paper and in person. Experience in 3D and real time GIS is a plus.
What advice would you give someone interested in a job like yours?
Gain skills, experience and certifications when possible in project management, programming, web design, cartography, and spatial analysis. Become an expert in 3D and real time GIS. Distinguish yourself by having experience and skills in another field as well such as big data, planning, programming or policy analysis.
What is the occupational outlook for career opportunities in your field/organization, esp. for geographers?
The outlook is great for career opportunities in local government GIS. All cities, towns, counties and similar agencies such as utilities, transportation agencies, airports and regional authorities need GIS analysts on staff.