I love the creativity of geographic information systems. I love the ability to combine programming, visual detail, and science into one cool discipline. GIS can be used in so many places… and here lies the problem.
GIS is not a career by itself.
Now all you knee jerk naysayers out there, hear me out.
GIS is best tacked onto another discipline. GIS is best as a complement to a larger more complex career. Focusing on GIS as a career by itself is probably not a great idea unless you are developing GIS software… which again, means GIS is tacked onto another discipline… software development.
Now say this with me… This is a good thing.
This comes back to what a GIS instructor once told me:
The “Shallow” is an aspect of the problem. Sometimes digging deeper into GIS is not possible. Sometimes digging deeper is getting away form the solution.
GIS is not always the solution.
If all you need are directions from point A to point B, your GIS ends there.
If all you need are points on a map showing size differences for population, your GIS ends there.
If all you need is an Excel spreadsheet to track your metrics, your GIS ends there.
Of course, GIS can do some really cool stuff. Time motion analysis, mobile applications, statistical dashboards, image analysis, the list goes on.
I have written about “Value in GIS” and I know that communicating value is important. However, for most people communicating GIS value looks like this.
“If the higher-ups just saw the awesome GIS stuff we can do, it would all be better”.
“If I just had a better GIS pitch, everything would work out perfectly”
These are wrong. Your GIS solution gets in the way of what people really care about. This is especially true if people in your organization can’t spell GIS.
People want to tune into ” WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me”).
People are not interested in technology, they are not interested in GIS.
People are interested in solutions to their problems they think about the most… not GIS.
If a spreadsheet has done the job for years, your GIS solution gets in the way.
If bringing in mobile apps means more training and more money spent, your GIS solution gets in the way.
If multispectral imagery costs X+$100 with GIS, your GIS solution is getting in the way.
GIS IS GETTING IN THE WAY.
The truth is YOU are getting in the way. You have to change the way you think about GIS. You have to change the way you approach the situation.
If you want to be hireable or get ahead you need to think differently.
Here are a few steps you to take to ensure that your GIS solution doesn’t get in the way.
Learn to understand what other people want.
If you are like me, you love technology. So do other people. But they don’t care how it works, as long as it works.
Learning the technology is great, but now take some time to learn marketing, sales, and psychology. You can sell feelings far easier and faster than technology.
Start thinking of your GIS as emotional, as currency, as food that people want.
This requires talking to people. This requires going out and being interested in the people using your GIS. This requires understanding their needs and desires and how you can help them.
If they want to save money, talk about saving money with GIS. If they want to make money, talk about making money with GIS. Leave the technical talk to your close team.
Learn clear communication.
You can communicate in multiple ways with people. You can communicate in ways that turn people off, or turn people on. Try to communicate to everyone, or communicate to the ones who matter.
Your choice of words matters, your choice of visuals matters, your choice of medium matters.
Give presentations. Create videos. Use infographics. Create a podcast. Write a help document. Make mistakes. Fix mistakes. Get better.
Communication is a skill you can actively learn.
Learn business skills and business intelligence
The biggest driver behind what is going to keep you employed and get you hired is money. Yes there are exceptions, but your ability to affect the bottom line in a positive way can make or break you.
Business skills are a long term approach. I am going to tell you a secret… I have poor business skills. Here is another secret… I am learning business skills now!
These skills include strategic planning, leadership, team building, sales, marketing (see above), negotiation, delegation, and financial management.
If you are reasonably ambitious, you will end up in a managerial role in your future. It is the natural progression of a job that requires you to understand the business more than technology.
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