Health Research Specialist (Geospatial Specialist) at Toronto Public Health in Toronto, Ontario
Joseph Ariwi ventured to Toronto from Montreal in pursuit of opportunities and experiences outside of academia. Ariwi dove into physical geography during his Master’s of Science in Geography (McGill University). In his recently completed degree, Ariwi explored the application of GIS in non-traditional spaces through his Master’s of Science in Spatial Analytics (Ryerson University). Since his big move to Toronto, Ariwi has worked as an Information Design Intern for Deloitte Canada and a Crime Analyst Intern for the Toronto Police Service. Currently, Ariwi serves as a Health Research Specialist (Geospatial Specialist) with Toronto Public Health. Ariwi is also a freelance photographer and the Creative Director of Maison Leporem, a Montreal-based start-up.
1. Can you describe your career path since graduation?
Towards the end of my degree, I knew that I wanted to move to Toronto in search of new experiences. I decided that it would be worthwhile to do another Master’s that is less research-oriented and more targeted towards applications, purely because it would connect me with industry opportunities within the city of Toronto.
I completed two internships this year. My first one was with the consultancy firm Deloitte Canada. I was working in their
Information Design Team. After that internship ended, a manager at the Toronto Police Service, whom I collaborated with on a project, asked if I wanted to work there over the summer. My role was a Crime Analyst Intern with the Business Intelligence Unit.
2. How do you incorporate geography into your work?
Whether doing photography or creating a map, a visualization, or a graph, I must think very carefully about what I want to communicate. In similar ways, a photographer will site a location or take a certain photograph to draw attention to specific elements; I think geographers do the same with maps. I try to display information and communicate patterns, which I find are salient to a research question.
3. What skills do you wish you learned during your education that would have helped you in the job market today?
During my internship at Deloitte, there were a lot of hyper-situations where I had to produce a lot of work in a short period. With the typical assignment cycle of two weeks or even one week in University, I was not used to that. In academia, you want to cover all your bases, but sometimes in the private sector, they just want to know what is the takeaway point. I had to learn how to trust my gut and my analytical background and make quick decisions. I had to look at the data or geographic patterns and say “okay, this is what is happening, this is what is important,” and move forward with that without hesitating. Sometimes, there is no correct answer.
4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
I would tell people to be confident in their skills and to be flexible. Especially for our younger generation, we are a little impatient. We want to arrive at our destination on day one, but I think it is very much a process. I think geography does an excellent job of creating well-rounded students who can think spatially. That is a rare skill set, and geographers need to learn how to leverage and explain it to people. I believe that once people understand what geography is, they naturally see the value in it.