Catherine Ennis – International GIS Manager
Welcome Catherine Ennis to the GoGeomatics community!
GoGeomatics: We would like to give our readers some background. Let’s start with some basic career history. Could you tell us where you are from and what lead you to a career in Geomatics?
Catherine: I am from Greystones, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, I studied Environmental Science in Trinity College Dublin. There I took several modules in GIS which lead me to choose to do a GIS thesis ‘The Application of GIS to Coastal Zone Management in Dublin Bay’. After I graduated I gained some Geomatics work experience with a company called Mallon Technology based in Northern Ireland and decided to continue on this path and do the MSc in GIS in University Of Edinburgh, Scotland. In Edinburgh I learned a lot on this half taught/half research masters. For my dissertation I went to work with the Local Government of County Westmeath in Ireland and worked on developing a Water Quality Management System built on MapInfo. From here I started my career as a GIS professional in the Irish Local Government Computer Service Board. This job involved traveling around Local Authorities in Ireland working with the GIS Officers; I learned a lot about GIS strategies in organizations and the way in which they are implemeted. I decided to go to Canada for a year in 2003, basing myself in Vancouver and working as a consultant. I also lived in Montreal for a couple of months. From Canada I did a short stint with Local Government in London working on Contaminated Land Systems. I returned to Ireland to become the GIS Manager for the Irish Postal Service where I have remained for 7 years. But it is now time for change and I have accepted a job offer which I commence in Vancouver with Spatial Dimension working as a Business Analyst for FlexiCadastre, a land management solution.
GoGeomatics: What is your favourite GIS application?
Catherine: ESRI’s ArcGIS Server is probably my favourite and most used application. I find the seamless integration of information, geographic or otherwise into websites extremely effective for making masses of spatially based information easily available to an organisation. This means GIS can hit a wider audience within an organisation and I always find the benefits are immediately recognised. Once your data is validated I feel it is relatively easy to make it available to customers using this application whether you need an application that simply displays a map, or a more sophisticated one that incorporates specialised GIS tools and analysis.
GoGeomatics: What is your main focus in the GIS industry? Where do you want to see yourself in 5 years?
Catherine: My main focus for the past 7 years was realising the potential uses and advantages of GIS within a large organisation. I have been working for the Irish Postal Service. As there was significant investment in GIS it was important to make sure all areas of the business knew about the tools available to them and started making use of these tools to the best of their advantage to help answer business questions. As mentioned above ArcGIS Server was largely responsible for the increase in use of GIS. Getting the data correct was a massive focus that was critical to the growth of GIS so I have had to pay a lot attention to getting the data right in order for business users to have confidence in the systems.
What’s next, well, I want to be working for an excellent company in which I can contribute my leadership, interpersonal, and technical skills. My long-range career goal is a position that incorporates both my education and practical work skills to be the best GIS systems professional I can. Namely combining my education in environmental science with my working knowledge of customer service operations, entrepreneurial abilities and computer skills.
GoGeomatics: As a GIS manager, what are the top three qualities you look for in your GIS team members?
Catherine: 1) Interact well with others in the workplace
2) Willingness to learn and stay interested
3) Attention to detail and accuracy
GoGeomatics: Are there any tools or applications you would like to improve on or add to your skill set in the future?
Catherine: I think as a GIS professional you often have to be jack of all trades. In particular databases, analysis tools, programming, and system administration. I think as long as I continue to learn on a daily basis I will be adding to my skill sets in all of these arenas.
GoGeomatics: How do you incorporate your technical skills into a managerial role?
Catherine: I have had very hands on approach as a manager, I am still involved in the day to day tasks and I believe this helps a manager. In this way I am still very technical, I know what is involved in every milestone and this also helps in matters of time management and delegation. I also believe a successful manager should have the vision and capabilities to formulate strategies and communicate these ideas to his or her team members – a good working knowledge of the technical aspects of a project is essential for this type of position.
GoGeomatics: According to your LinkedIn profile, you have a lot of international experience in the GIS industry and in Canada. Are there any similarities and or differences between GIS applications in Europe vs. Canada?
Catherine: Yes, I have worked in Ireland, Canada and the UK. I cannot say I have noticed any major difference, I think with open GIS standards and organizations such as ESRI providing standard solutions worldwide similar practices are reaching different parts of the globe. Data still needs to be correct, standards adhered to and ideas and strategies need to be in place.
GoGeomatics: Are there any specific industries you see GIS being applied to in the future?
Catherine: I fully believe GIS can be used in most industries. I think everything has a spatial aspect and therefore it can be mapped in time and space and analysed in this manner.
GoGeomatics: Can you provide some advice for a recent geomatics grad who is looking for employment? How do they become more competitive in the geomatics job market?
Catherine: I think if you are hard working, willing to start basic and work your way up and maintain a high quality, diverse, up-to-date skill set you will be competitive in the GIS job market. Making as many connections as I can with the resources available has always helped me in the past; places like LinkedIn are invaluable resources for job hunting. Also a willingness to be flexible in what you are willing to do to get a foot in the door in this competitive job market will stand by any hard working, ambitious person.
GoGeomatics: Do you have a favourite map image that you would like to share with the GoGeomatics community?
Catherine: I love old maps and also love alternative type maps, I particular enjoy mental maps and artistic interpretations of the maps. I will be taking this laser cut map of Dublin with me to Vancouver.
GoGeomatics: Thank you Catherine for your contribution to the GoGeomatics community. We wish you every success in your new position in Vancouver!