Where do you currently work, and what position do you work in?
I am a remote sensing specialist at the 510 initiative of the Red Cross, but I do a lot of data science and data analysis of geographical as well as non-geographical data; the other part of my position is that of a technical coordinator for French speaking countries, such as Haiti, Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic. In Haiti, for example, we support ongoing reforestation projects, where we help analyze environmental data in order to determine which trees should be planted where. Furthermore, we analyze satellite data to see where forests used to be located, because these areas usually exhibit higher success rates in reforestation efforts. So I am both coordinating this project as well as working on processing satellite imagery, and making the maps.
We also have COVID related projects, where we support Red Cross national societies abroad to become more data oriented. So we set up data teams that consist of local staff on data trained in data literacy as well as GIS, and I am responsible for this GIS support.
Is this your first position after graduation?
Yes and no. Officially I was doing GIMA full time, but in order to support myself I started working during my studies. First, I offered web mapping services as a freelancer, where I started making simple web maps, and then started learning how to make more complex web apps. Later on, I worked as a remote sensing specialist at Neo. So my position right now is my first full time position after GIMA, but I have been working in the geo sector during my studies already.
And the position I am in now actually arose from my internship at 510: during my last week as an intern, a position opened up for someone who knew GIS and was able to speak French, so I was asked if I wanted to stay and I have been working here ever since.
Of the skills that you acquired during GIMA, which ones are most important for your professional life now?
Firstly, being independent is something very important I learned during the programme. Furthermore, GIMA teaches you about the many aspects of GI and on the job I see a lot of these topics. So you need to be constantly on the lookout for all these developments. For me it would be difficult to be specializing in something, as I rather need to know a little bit about everything, and I think this is what GIMA gave me. So I am not specialized in anything, but if a colleague comes to me with a question, I’ll either be able to answer it or I’ll be able to direct them, and this broadness was one of GIMA’s strongest aspects, compared to other GI-related education.
What did you like most about GIMA?
It was a really good introduction into the professional GI world. It gave me many connections to companies, and students as well. So if I need to reach out to a GI-related company, there is usually a GIMA graduate working there that I can just text, which saves time and always gives this personal note, which makes the whole process easier.
Do you have any additional advice for current GIMA students?
I would definitely recommend students to look into data science and Python, because I think these skills will be useful for the entire career. Even if you may not work that much with data, being able to automize certain tasks can be a valuable time saver!
Also, be smart about the internship as it is a really good opportunity to land a job. So try to do your internship at a company where you could imagine to start working afterwards.
Lastly, I think being part of NODE was also beneficial for me, because we had a lot of contacts to companies, and I got to know a lot of people. So this can be a good addition, especially if you’re an international student.