I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.
But I also know this…
GIS IS EASY (if you let it… or don’t know any better)
I have worked in companies where “GIS” (I put it in quotes for a reason) is used only as “Make a map for that” group. Without analytics or science behind it… maps and GIS are easy.
I have also worked in companies where people doing GIS work have zero training and get by doing the basics. Clip a line? Yup. Add points? Yup. Make a polygon? Yup. Spatial analytics for proximity analysis? Nope.
In these cases, no one takes GIS to the next level because they don’t know how, or worse… they don’t need to… because GIS is easy.
I have said this before a few times, but it is a fact that we as GIS folks must accept. In fact, knowing this will help you win your future GIS battles.
This is where I really started to think… how do I get ahead in GIS?
The soltuion are two words that means so much…
The solution is build systems. The systems I am talking about are a set of principles or procedures to which you complete your GIS work.
What is a GIS system?
When I was a GIS analyst, I noticed I was doing the same things over and over again when projects started up. I would receive a location for analysis, create project foldes, build the database, create maps, create infographics, and send out a PowerPoint document.
So, I created a “Project Start Up” system with a set of principles and procedures that needed to be followed.
I further noticed that consistent procedures and principles happened at many stages during the project. In many cases, when the projects were in different locations, all required similar actions, similar data, and similar analysis… you get the picture.
So, I created stages of systems. “Start-Up”, “Production” and “Completion”. I created steps for each, documents for each, and procedures for each.
I also learned to be flexible because not all projects were equal in scope or importance. Projects also were different due to location, data limitations, and time. But I still had a system to rely on.
I learned three very important lessons I learned while creating these GIS systems that I will share with you now.
Being Organized Matters
When you develop systems for your GIS, you become hyper-organized.
Being organized is very important for GIS folks. We need to know where our data is, what it is, and how we got the data. This will set you apart from the random GIS users that get by with the basics.
Structured Thinking -> Creative Thinking
With a system in place, you can start thinking in steps and procedures and know how long and when projects will be complete… and then break the system (or side step it)
Once you know how things work, your creativity can skyrocket because you know how to change things up and why to change them up.
Building a structured system to enhance creativity sound strange, but it works.
System creation is more important than GIS skills
The biggest takeaway I realized while developing systems for my GIS, is that systems building is needed in EVERYTHING and well into the future.
While you think GIS is going to be your career, in many cases it won’t be. 80% of people change their careers every 5 years (me included).
Understanding how to develop systems in whatever job or endeavour you do is massively important.
You may only be spatial selecting data for the next 5 years, but you will need to be able to simplify and create systems forever.
Start now to get ahead.
and Have fun!
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