In this weeks Geospatial Friday we'll be providing the next six career tips from the highly experienced geospatial professional Thierry Gregorius.
I found these tips very helpful at one point and I think that they could hold some value for everyone, regardless of the profession. Part 1 here.
7. Embrace the full geospatial lifecycle
8. Go out into the field
Field experience will immensely boost your geospatial understanding and professional credibility. Let’s face it, you can’t solve the world’s problems from behind a computer. Get out there and see for yourself what the real issues are. I started off my career as a surveyor and geodesist, but soon ended up in the office doing ‘GIS’ for a big oil company. When, years later, I finally got the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks with seismic survey crews in the Libyan desert, it blew my mind. The sights, the smells, the sounds – it all made sense. And it made me have slight regrets of not having done it sooner, and for a longer period of time. If you ever get the slightest chance to take on a field-based role overseas or closer to home, grab it with both hands while you can. The office can wait.
9. Travel and keep moving
In my opinion travel is still the best way of finding inspiration and learning. If you can somehow combine this with your career, even better. As a young student in Luxembourg and Germany I suddenly saw my whole life flash in front of me, and embarked on a drastic change. I took out a big bank loan and enrolled at a renowned university in Sydney, Australia to continue my geospatial studies there. It was the best investment I ever made, and a turning point in my life that completely changed everything that followed. If you can’t travel or relocate physically, at least consider ‘travelling’ between different industries or working for different-sized organisations – you’ll be come a more rounded professional as a result. Just make sure your CV does not end up looking like you're suffering from chronically itchy feet. Don’t move on until your learning curve goes flat, and remember that many organisations can offer new roles and challenges internally.
10. Never stop learning, and look beyond geospatial
In my book, status quo equals decline. You can never afford to rest on your laurels, especially not with the rate of technological change we’re seeing. Having said that, don’t waste your time following hysterical technology blogs that proclaim “the next big thing” every 5 minutes. Unless you’re the next Steve Jobs you’re much better off investing your time in learning how to exploit the latest trends for your own needs. Also, find out what can you learn from other, unrelated fields. To me learning is not about collecting badges, diplomas or even CPD points. Learning happens everywhere – you just need to know what to look for. You may learn something in an art museum that you can apply to your cartography. You may learn something from your kids' Lego set that you can use in your geoprocessing workflow. You may learn something from a philosophy book that you can incorporate into your leadership style or negotiation strategy. And most importantly, you can learn a lot from other people.
11. Learning from people
With all their strengths and imperfections, every boss I ever had taught me something valuable. When I was on placement as a grad student, the chief surveyor showed me the value of delegation by taking a risk and trusting me to do a full building site survey on my own. Another one taught me how to run a team and develop people. And so on. But don’t just look to bosses as role models. You can learn something from literally anybody: colleagues, friends, family, children, random encounters. Mentors are obviously useful too, but don’t overlook the opportunities that day-to-day interactions bring. Nobody knows everything, but you can piece together a lot by talking to different people and collecting different viewpoints (and in return share with them what you think). Learning from mistakes can also be powerful, but again don’t just blindly follow the mantras from fashionable business or technology blogs (“fail fast” etc.). A product flop may well hold useful lessons but some things, like building bridges or positioning oil rigs, are best not done by trial and error. Be open minded, but don’t switch off your critical functions.
12. It’s not about the career, stupid
Finally, let’s take a step back and consider this for a moment. We live on a small planet orbiting a star, going round and round in circles. Sooner or later this star will explode in a massive supernova. Whatever you believe in, you were probably not put on this planet to file papers, collect badges, or clock endless miles on a hamster wheel (besides, the Earth’s orbit is doing that for you already). So whatever you do, you should do it because you love doing it – not because it has better career prospects in some distant, uncertain future. Career development can take on many shapes and forms (upwards, sideways, deeper, broader) – and then one day the Sun will blow up and destroy everything you ever worked for. You’ll never regain the time wasted doing something you didn’t enjoy. A career is basically a journey where, one day, you can look back and say, that was fun! Nothing more.
So actually, forget everything I said. Go your own way. Good luck!
UPDATE 19/01/15. Point 1 was updated and clarified in response to some comments, thank you!