Why It’s Easier to Succeed in GIS than you might think, or how a little bit of GIS can ROCKET your non-GIS career forward.


I love geographic information systems! The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing.

However, GIS wasn’t my first career. I was actually in oil and gas research and the seismic world for almost 20 years. I had fun, travelled around the world, and got to do some interesting things. That all changed when I lost my job during a downturn.

Fired from my non-GIS job. It really sucked
Fired from my non-GIS job. It really sucked

I had a very high education in a discipline that no one was hiring in. I was seriously depressed.

It took me a few months of research, but I found “GIS” and couldn’t believe how useful it was. The creativity in map design, the science of spatial analysis, and the cross-industry power are amazing (Yes I copied and pasted that from the top).

I retrained in GIS and found myself back in oil and gas and the seismic world… but with one HUGE difference… I was now massively more useful and hireable with GIS skills.

I could speak a language (GIS) that allowed me to stand out from my peers. I entered a world of survey design, field operations, and spatial analysis.

All these new opportunities opened up for me because of a few GIS courses at a college. It was staggering just how little I touched on GIS, and how much it impacted my career.

Geoscience, which I was in for years, was perfect with GIS. However, what is strange is that I saw and still see people with almost zero GIS skills in geosciences. This got me to think about why this was the case.

An instructor I had in GIS told me a truth about GIS that has stuck with me for years. He said:

GIS is wide but also shallow
GIS is wide but also shallow.

“GIS is wide, but also shallow.” There is only so much GIS can do on its own. It covers almost every industry I can think of, but it is only skin deep (so to speak). That is why it is best combined with other disciplines, and SUPER easy to succeed with GIS.

Here are my top three best practices for easy wins with GIS.

Use GIS as an add-on to another discipline

Like I said above, geoscience and GIS go hand in hand, and it is mind-blowingly negligent how little geoscience people know about GIS

GIS is valuable tool to many disciplines
GIS is a valuable tool for many disciplines

GIS is a perfect add-on to so many industries. Geoscience, engineering, marketing, landscaping, real estate, and more. I have even thought it possible to create a GIS for arborists to track and mark trees that need cleaning up or removing, and contact home owners accordingly.

Same for landscapers. Same for window washers.

Use GIS in presentations

Since GIS is an inherently visual medium, always always always present your work in the nicest visual format possible. 

GIS is a visual medium, always use this to your advantage.

Most of the human brain is used for image processing, so use this knowledge to your advantage. Always go with great visuals.

I have been in more than a few meetings where an Excel spreadsheet could easily have been a map showing the ideas a presenter is trying to get across. In other words… show, don’t tell.

I see this all the time in geoscience meetings. Geologists talking about how much ore they have drilled or how much ground they have covered… all on spreadsheets. A map showing locations and highlights goes a long way to have you stand out in a crowd.

Teach what you know

Now, i don’t necessarily mean in a classroom setting, but I do mean teach your coworkers that cool tool you found that will create multiple points along a line, or how to project data properly

This is surprisingly easy when the bar for GIS is low in many companies. Yes, that is what the GIS department is for (if your company has one), but if you have a pinch more knowledge that could aid a coworker, help them out.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my other links!

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