Name: Niall Carter
Degree and university:
Bachelor of Science in Geography, University of Edinburgh
Master of Science in Geographical Information Systems, University of Edinburgh
Job title:GIS Consultant, Esri UK
What do you actually do?
I work for Esri UK as a GIS Consultant within the Utilities practice of the Consultancy Services department. I work within a team of consultants who advise, design, implement and support Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specifically within the Utilities sector which encompasses Water, Gas, Electricity and Telecommunications companies.
As we are primarily a software provider the systems we put into place are based around our own specialist GIS software. Consultancy Services provides the expertise in implementing this software into wider enterprise Information Technology environments. This means my skills must range from acting as a point of contact for the end user, who often is non-technical, and interpreting their needs right through to understanding technical application development associated with complex and large technology based systems.
What skills do you need to do that?
I came from a GIS background and so brought much of the geographical awareness of information from my MSc course. This provided an excellent base from which I could expand my knowledge to work in a technology company. There are other ways in which you can gain the skills required for working at Esri UK. The company offers graduate schemes and student placement positions to applicants from a range of different backgrounds.
The role can be quite technical and so I have had to learn and extend my knowledge of IT but this really sits on top of my taught GIS skills rather than in its own right. I enjoy the softer skills more such as business analysis and so have undertaken training towards this which Esri UK has fully supported. In the short term I hope to move from there into project management and so later hope to continue training towards this goal.
How did you know you wanted a career in GIS?
Form a geographical background I loved being able to model the real world to better understand it. GIS is a fantastic way to easily visualise and model the factors which make the world work the way it does. As GIS is a tool it can be applied from the physical geographical disciplines right through to the human disciplines. The breadth of application made it so easy for me to apply it throughout my undergraduate degree that I soon found myself wanting to use it more and more.
I gained a place as an intern at a small GIS consultancy between my undergrad and Masters and then joined Esri UK on a graduate scheme.
What would you like to be doing in ten years time?
I would like to still be in the GIS domain but at a more holistic level inspiring people to use GIS more and talking with them about how they can realise the potential of geographical information. In career terms this is likely to be part of a business development team or engagement manager level but there are plenty of positions which ‘evangelise’ the use of GIS.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Solving problems. There are many ways to skin a cat with GIS.I love really getting to the heart of the problem and then applying what I have learnt and know to find, suggest and deliver the best solution.
And the worst?
GIS and IT are becoming more closely aligned to the point now where it is difficult to get along without a level of technical IT knowledge. As I am less technology focussed and more solution minded I sometimes find the technical parts of my job drier than other parts.
What advice would you give new graduates who want a career in GIS?
Decide if you want to use or develop GIS. Users will tend to be subject matter experts who use GIS to solve a problem whereas developers are those that are aware of the nuances of the use of GI in application to different problems. Do not be afraid of the word ‘develop’ and assume it means programming: it doesn’t!