Which GIS software should you use? Here is a hint… ALL of them (because you can use all of them)… hear me out.

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

First off, I love ESRI, but I can use QGIS.

Second, I learned a very valuable lesson when I was unemployed in GIS… for MONTHS about GIS software.

Before I developed Permissionless GIS which doubled my GIS job interviews and landed me an amazing job, I made a huge mistake in my GIS interviews.

Big mistake: Saying you don't like some GIS software
Big mistake: Saying you don’t like some GIS software

This mistake was so bad, that I was kicked out of several interviews…

That was a joke, but I did get strange looks and no job offer.

I said the following when asked about software:

“I don’t like open source GIS software”

This didn’t seem so bad since the jobs required ESRI products.

But it was a red flag for the hiring company.

Here is another red flag you never want to say in a job interview:

“I don’t like paid GIS software”.

Confused? Let me explain.

Many companies use a hybrid system in their GIS. They will use a combination of GIS software for financial reasons, convenience, or for clients.

They may even have their own internal software or industry specific GIS software you may never have heard of.

Most companies will use a variety of GIS software... again.. YOU CAN USE THEM ALL.
Most companies will use a variety of GIS software… again.. YOU CAN USE THEM ALL.

If you say you don’t like open source or paid GIS software, you are telling the company to keep looking for someone else.

If you say “I don’t like X GIS software”, they hear “I CAN’T USE X GIS software”.

You shouldn’t say you like or dislike any GIS software package.

I am not saying lie, I am saying take this into consideration.

GIS software essentially do all the same things

Seriously, there are only so many ways you can “Clip”, “Add table”, “Project”, complete imagery analysis, or “Buffer”.

All GIS software do about the same thing... USE THEM ALL
All GIS software do about the same thing… USE THEM ALL

All top GIS software do these things, just with different clicks and different names.

That means, roughly speaking, YOU can use all GIS software if you understand GIS.

If one GIS software package does something well now, the others will do it next release, or differently on the next release, or better on the next release.

There is always going to be a GIS software “arms race”.

All the major GIS software are inspired to copy eachother.
All the major GIS software are inspired to copy eachother.

Open source will come up with an idea that the paid copy… I mean be inspired by.

The paid software will streamline new innovations because they have the cash to test the latest “thing” and see if it works.

There will always be new software.

Something better will come along. Whether it’s a new open source or paid, something new always comes along.

There will always be a new GIS softare, or a new flavor!
There will always be a new GIS software or a new flavour!

The best thing you can do is be flexible and always learn.

This brings me to what you need to say in a job interview when asked about GIS software:

“I have used X Brand GIS software mostly, but can easily use Y Brand GIS software”


“I am unfamiliar with Z Brand, but I do understand GIS concepts that are easily transferable across software packages”


I want you to think about it this way… here are 2 truths and 1 lie you can think about.

  1. I don’t know how to use X GIS software
  2. I can figure out how to use X GIS software
  3. I know ALL GIS software.

One of those answers is correct, and the other two are wrong (most likely).

As a GIS professional you will need to use multiple different GIS software. Your ability to adapt matters. Your ability and understanding of GIS matter the most.

You can learn and adapt easily, especially if you know GIS concepts and terminology.

I have more information in my book, Permissionless GIS: Double Your GIS Interviews NOW.

Knowing that what you should and shouldn’t do is:

Have fun!

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

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