~ A guest student blog post by GISer Kailee

Going back to school has always been a priority of mine since graduating University. So when I was accepted into the ADGIS program at Selkirk College, I didn’t think twice about leaving my full time job as a Geomatics Analyst to enhance my education.

My background in GIS and remote sensing is almost exclusively self- taught. The theories and software I wanted to learn was seldom taught at my university. The majority of my classes in the field were special topics working along side graduate students and aiding to find solutions to their problems.

               Self-teaching has some advantages and in my personal experience helps to develop vital workplace skills for example, problem solving. To be able to never give up on a task laid before you, persevere until it is solved and overcome issues in a timely manner is a very productive skill to an employer. Problem solving is my personal favorite thing in Geomatics.  I love a good challenge.

For the introductory GIS/ Remote Sensing skill set, self-teaching can be practical. With many of the software’s there is a wealth of online information from manuals to forums. The downside of self-teaching is when you bump heads with the theory of what you are trying to solve.

At some point tasks can be too complex too simply “Google search” them and at that point having a sound knowledge of the theory behind is critical.

When one has a solid foundation of the theory, it makes you that much more intuitive to knowing how to find the solutions.

To grasp theory is not necessarily an easy task when employed. The learning curve while working in my experience has a very focused approach. The scope of what you do and learn is limited to what the end task is. In a situation where you are working in a specific field of work, that does limit your scope of knowledge.

Advanced education gives you the opportunities to learn about different scopes of GIS that you may never have been exposed to.  It also aids to narrow your specific interests in the field. For example, if you really don’t like Autocad, than its probably a good idea to avoid applying to engineering firms after graduation. On the other end, it also provides you with the tools (and time) to learn aspects that you may have always wanted to know more about. An example for me personally was my desire to learn Python programming language. Unfortunately I never had the time to on my own and wasn’t provided with an opportunity while employed. Its also important to be aware that employers could be more inclined to hire someone with an established knowledge base in a field vs. investing in training.

Going back to school was a choice I made for my own personal career aspirations. I wanted to take Geomatic’s more seriously by developing my knowledge base of it. College has been a combination of new concepts, filling in the gaps of my knowledge and a lot of  “aha” moments. Ideas and theories that I didn’t quite grasp the concepts with before are starting to become more solidified. The amounts of times I have thought to myself “I wish I would’ve known about this before!” in the past month and a half is enough to make me certain that my choice to continue my education was the right one.

In summary I feel it is completely worth it for myself personally and career wise to return to school. And I feel that I will have a stronger grasp on the field and thus be more of an asset to future employers after graduation.