GIS Research Analyst II
Newfoundland & Labrador Centre for Health Information in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador
Twenty years ago, Mark Squires would not have believed you if you had said that he would one day become a geographer. Squires entered university without a defined idea of what he wanted to do. With his first GIS course, Squires found something that he was interested in. Squires began his career at ERSI -- the world’s largest GIS software company -- and approached his time with an openness and eagerness to learn all aspects of GIS, with the intention of becoming extremely well-rounded and comfortable with the functions of GIS. Squires has since worked in several fields as a GIS analyst, including the natural resources and health care.
1. In what ways did your program prepare you for your career?
The undergraduate program sparked my interest in GIS. The Center of Geographic Sciences (COGS) at the Nova Scotia Community College, however, got me ready for my career. One year at COGS was significantly more challenging than my entire university degree. It was 8 A.M. to 11 P.M. every day. At times, everyone worked as a family to get through the larger projects. Most professors went into the labs in the evenings, staying well after class hours, to help us with our projects and assignments. It was an extremely stressful and arduous time. I do not think anyone could have graduated, or have transitioned so smoothly into their careers, without the tremendous help from our professors.
2. What resources offered by your university helped you to find a job?
The staff at COGS supported us every step of the journey. They brought recruiters on campus who understood the amount of effort required to graduate from COGS. Often, we would review our past work with the recruiters. Even if we were not yet ready to work, it introduced us to how to interview for GIS positions. The opportunity to meet with potential employers brought clarity to the skills and personalities that companies wanted.
3. What skills do you wish you learned during your education that would have helped you in the job market today?
I wish I took more computer science classes and grew more comfortable with programming. You must look towards the future and ask where GIS is going in the next three to five or five to ten years. If you can project where that is going, then you can try to tailor your education and experiences around those things, so that you are not behind the game. I tried to do that while I was working at ESRI. I knew that GIS was heading towards the Internet, and so I switched to the ArcGIS server team, which was responsible for publishing GIS data and creating web applications.
4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?
When I trained new staff members at ESRI, I learned that they were not looking for the best and the brightest GIS technicians, though they were looking for intelligent people who fit well with the group dynamic. That was a shift in thinking. I assumed that ESRI was only interested in academics. It shows that professional experiences and skills are not everything; the social aspects are important as well.
Also, stay open-minded. If there is something that you like or even something that you might like, start talking to people and try to find out where that field is going. Especially if you are a new student, it becomes crucial to think ahead. Many great people want to help, but they will not know that you need help unless you ask.
Canadian Association of Geographers
PO Box 25039
Welland, ON L3B 5V0