Interview with Alison Gaiser, Program Manager at the City of Ottawa
Farzaneh Farshad: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from and what is your educational background?
Alison Gaiser: I have been working in the geomatics industry for more years than I would like to say. I graduated from Carleton University with an Honors BA in Geography. The year I graduated was the first year that a geomatics specialization was offered, but as this would have delayed my graduation I decided not to pursue it. Instead, I took advantage of a co-op opportunity that placed me in a GIS company called GeoVision. I was fortunate to be offered a full-time job out of school and spent the next seven years working for them. There I learned about software development, testing, documentation, technical support, and professional services. I also was able to travel the world as this company had clients in Brazil, Barbados, UK, and across the US. For various reasons, I left that company to work for Esri Canada in Vancouver. I stayed with Esri for 17 years working in both Vancouver and Ottawa. This was a great opportunity and I learned so much about the use of GIS across all facets of public and private industry. In 2014 I joined the City of Ottawa as a GIS project manager.
Farzaneh Farshad: How long have you been in the geomatic industry?
Alison Gaiser: Over 30 year
Farzaneh Farshad: Can you tell us what your current role is at the City of Ottawa? What do you do day to day?
Alison Gaiser: My current role at the City is Program Manager, Applications Management. In this role, I work with multiple teams that are responsible for enterprise applications used both by City staff and the public. Of these teams, many work with spatial data or are responsible for the support and maintenance of our corporate GIS infrastructure. The City is a large organization and requires multiple teams working together, so one of my main day-to-day tasks is ensuring that staff have the tools and access to resources to do their jobs efficiently and productively. In the GIS realm, I work with the team to determine future development and implementation paths.
Farzaneh Farshad: Are there any specific Geomatics projects that you worked on at the City of Ottawa that really stand out as being impactful to the citizens?
Alison Gaiser: I would say that one of the most impactful applications that the City of Ottawa GIS teams have worked on would be geoOttawa – https://maps.ottawa.ca. This application is available to the public and provides access to spatial information including property parcels, zoning, forestry, roads, addresses, etc. We even have imagery dating back to 1928, so you can look at how the City has grown and changed over time.
I would also like to mention our open data platform – Open Ottawa (Open Ottawa). We worked with our Service Transformation co-workers to create and maintain this site. The site provides open data access to the public and includes both spatial and non-spatial data.
Farzaneh Farshad: What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?
Alison Gaiser: Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. GIS is a small, mighty, and supportive community. Your fellow GIS professionals are always willing to help you, so reach out and ask!
Farzaneh Farshad: What professional associations are you a member of?
Alison Gaiser: I am the chair of the Program Advisory Committee for the GIS program at Algonquin College. The committee is made up of professionals within the geomatics industry and we help advise on program direction as it relates to the curriculum. We are always looking for industry experts to join our committee and help develop future GIS professionals.
Farzaneh Farshad: In your opinion how women could advance GIS science and technology?
Alison Gaiser: GIS and geomatics can be used in almost every industry. I encourage women to use their natural enthusiasm for whatever professional area they pursue and determine how GIS could be used. Then promote yourself and your skills to those around you, and show them how you can use GIS to make better decisions, more quickly.
Farzaneh Farshad: Finally is the City of Ottawa hiring and if so how to talk to someone about geo jobs there?
Alison Gaiser: Unfortunately we are not currently hiring but I encourage people to go to https://jobs-emplois.ottawa.ca/city-jobs?locale=en_GB, create an account, and set up an alert with the keyword GIS. Opportunities do come up occasionally and we are keen to hire creative and engaged staff.
Farzaneh Farshad: Alison, thank you for your time and effort in participating in this interview.