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A to B – (A Geographers Journey)

Hey everyone!

It’s been suggested by a number of people including GoGeomatics Canada that I consider writing a blog and for some time and I had been giving it some serious thought. In that suggestion there is a healthy bit  of fear (or trepidation) to imagine that I would inevitably be faced with staring at a blank word document hoping for some form of inspiration. So I thought  what better way to kick of a blog than to start from the beginning.


Well… the simple answer is that I believe that it might offer some form  of inspiration or motivation for others when they hear (or read as the case might be) the story from the beginning (hence the title A to B). If anyone has thought about returning to university or college after an extended hiatus from “higher learning” the quickest answer I could offer would be “DO IT!”

As a brief aside, when thinking up a name for this blog I was searching for the proverbial “perfect picture” that I could abscond and I stumbled upon these four steps. They include:

  1. Determine where you are (Point A).
  2. Determine where you want to be (Point B).
  3. Plot the most direct course from A to B.
  4. Carry out the plan.

This is by far easier said than done.

So here is the first installment of what I hope will be continual contributions to GoGeomatics. I feel very privileged to be a contributor.

Setting the scene (Point B)

For a little background, currently I hold an Honours BSc. Geography degree (2010) from Brock University located in St. Catharines, Ontario and a GIS/Geospatial Management Post Graduate Certificate (2011) from Niagara College located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

My full time position is as the Planning & Data/GIS Administrator in the Development Services Division of Public Works for the Regional Municipality of Niagara in Southern Ontario. I also work part time for a vineyard management company called Custom Farm Service based in Vineland, Ontario.

During the beginning of the school year I am a Teaching Assistant at Brock University for their 3rd year Physical Geography field course and have also been a Teaching Assistant for the 3rd year Remote Sensing course.

As a side project (mostly for my own enjoyment and education), I have operated my own consulting company (5DB Geospatial Consulting and Research) which is a continuance from my time at Niagara College. (Trust me all of this information will become much more clear as the blogs go on). There is also another company in the works that is just a little too young to discuss in depth.

June 2004 (Point A)

At this point in time I had been working as a kitchen supervisor for approximately 6 ½ years. During and after high school I had been playing in a series of bands so I had forgone college/university in the hopes of being a “rock star”. This, needless to say never really or completely panned out. I had actually applied to university out of high school for Geography (mostly to make my Mom happy) but never accepted the offer. From then on I worked in a series of service or construction jobs while attempting to pursue the musicians dream.

January 2004 was when I had an epiphany of sorts (that whole New Year’s resolution thing) and I had thoughts about returning to school. Perhaps the thought of my then 3 ½ year old coming to me when he was 18 saying, “Well you never went to university Dad so why should I have to?” kept playing over and over in my mind.

I began surfing around the net for options and somehow stumbled on Geographic Information Systems. First through the ESRI website (although it was not as snazzy then as it is now) and then more specifically the GIS/Geospatial Management program at Niagara College, (a Post Graduate program). The major portion of the Niagara College program is the year long thesis project where students create their own consulting companies, work on and provide solutions using GIS to real world problems provided by clients. In June of each year the students make presentations to the client and their peers. I contacted the department at Niagara College and found out when these presentations were being held and made a point of it to be there.

The first professor I met there was Ian Smith, a very approachable and congenial man who I immediately began questioning about the program in between presentations. This is when the hope of moving forward came crashing down. My thought was that somehow being a mature student I could take this course but since I had no working experience in geomatics, Ian told me that I would need to have a degree to be accepted into the program. I told him I’d be back. Now that I look back on it I might have sounded like “Awnald” in my determination to attend.

October 2005

While working at a restaurant there are certain times when you get into pretty deep conversations with your co-workers. This was one of those times and the topic Ann (my co-worker) and I were discussing at the time was if there was something you could do over again what it would be. We came to the conclusion that it was returning to school. The conversation we had went something like me saying, “I’ll go back if you go back” followed by her saying, “Well if you go back I’ll go back”. And so the gauntlet was thrown down.

On my next day off I travelled to Brock University in order to get some information about the Geography program. As I was working full time I needed to gather information regarding taking classes part-time. Wanting to take the classes was the easy part, figuring out how to pay for them was more difficult. Despite that nagging wonder of affording it, I registered and received my student card, returned to the restaurant and showed Ann. This prompted her to visit Niagara College and register for the accounting program (which she also completed). We were both on our way.

When I returned home that day, in the mail was one of those “you are pre-approved” letters you receive from your bank (although you always think there’s no way on earth they will approve you). I thought what the heck and applied for a line of credit. To my surprise I was approved and all that was left to do was to pick some classes. My quest (which may sound overly dramatic) had begun, to obtain a Geography degree and doing this part-time (if all the stars aligned) would only take me about eight short years to achieve.

Then it really hit me… I was 36!!

My official start date at Brock University was January of 2005 (and I couldn’t even take a Geography class).


4 comments on "A to B – (A Geographers Journey)"

  1. Fiona says:

    This is fascinating. Looking forward to the next installment. Do you have 5 jobs then, isn’t that a little crazy, lol?

  2. Great article Darren!!!

  3. Anika says:

    I love reading your blog! So inspiring, especially when you look at the time, money and effort it takes. Never too late, and never give up!

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