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When did you decide to go into Surveying/Geomatics and Why?

An informal poll by Julia Meldrum Smith

This article was reprinted with permission from the Ontario Professional Surveyor, Volume 56, No. 3, Summer 2015

A few years ago Blain Martin invited me to participate in a 2-day Strategic Planning session. At one of the meals I was looking around and appreciating the variety of folks there – different ages and personalities, all engaged in the same industry. I was moved to write out a question on over 20 scraps of paper and pass them around to everyone there during the dinner: “When did you decide to go into surveying or become a GIM, and why?” AOLS

Here are the responses:

1985…Was enrolled in a B.Sc. Geography program, which involved survey field work.

1965…I liked the indoor/outdoor as well as doing difficult retracements.

After high school…My marks weren’t high enough to get into Phys. Ed at McMaster or Queens. I was good at math so I picked surveying.

Teenage Rebellion? Dad didn’t want me to go into surveying so…and I liked a profession that worked inside and outside.

When I visited the university after high school…My love for math and History led me to this profession. I knew I wanted to do Engineering and Surveying was the only one that interested me.

I decided to go into surveying in high school, not knowing much about it, then moved to New Brunswick to take Geomatics Engineering (took a chance). All because my parents had a survey done and I thought it was neat.

Recommended by my high school guidance councilor but had no idea what it was; good in math and science so options were engineering and surveying- engineering was office-focused, so guess what?

I loved maps and making maps when I was a child. Surveying included this and working outside.

It is the only program that would take me!

2000…AOLS GIM designation was the most suitable certification for GIS professionals at the time.

My dad took me out in the field when I was 10 and taught me trigonometry. I was hooked after that. Left many times, but always came back.

1972…Because I liked taking my shirt off outside in the summer.

When I was 3 my dad left me in the woods with a plumb bob. I was scared and vowed I didn’t want to do that! At age 19 I needed a job and called my dad. 18 years later I had enough experience to be a GIM under section F of the grandfathering provision (all experience) and so now I am one!

1972…I had no idea what I wanted to do after Grade 13 and a buddy was going to Ryerson to take surveying and so I tagged along. He only made it through first semester but here I am 30+ years as an OLS.


When I was 15 years old Surveying was an exciting job because of working outside and every day would be different.

When I was 19 years old and drinking in the “Peter Pond” tavern in Fort McMurray and had just quit my job as a plasterer, a land surveyor hired me on the spot and the rest, as they say, is history!

2 years of partying too much at Western was costing too much so I went into “surveying engineering” at Ryerson instead – no idea what I got into until my 3rd year!

Grade 11 at the suggestion of a career councilor…AOLS was requiring a B.Sc. so $ would be good!

At end of 2nd year of Civil Engineering…Because I didn’t want to design bridges, roads or sewers.

Grade 12…Failing French, I took French lessons from [former member] Jim Dearden’s wife; and then in first year of a sociology degree I got a summer job with his firm and I loved the work.

I decided in my first year of university. I started off in Civil Engineering, which in first year requires students to take the introduction to Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering which had Land Surveying, Hydrography, Remote Sensing, GIS, etc. components – I liked the labs outside and some of the guys in my class were from COGS in Nova Scotia and generally had experience in the surveying industry. They told me what the jobs were like – on your own in the woods for example. Companies also came to the university to recruit by taking students for beer and wings and talked surveying the whole time. I graduated with no student debt from summer work.

I was laying out a 10,000 sq. foot dwelling with my father and he said I should have pursued my OLS, then I could be in one of these! So I got my OLS and realized my father was full of $!@!.

When I was about 15 or 16…I had been working for my dad in his surveying company since Grade 9, as a gopher, then secretary and draftsman. Watching Dad engage with clients and staff made me want to follow in his footsteps.

2 comments on "When did you decide to go into Surveying/Geomatics and Why?"

  1. Jason Strong says:

    I think it would be way cool to be a land surveyor. A friend of mine does it for a living and he loves it. It got me curious to learn more about it and see what I can do with it.

  2. It seems like civil engineering is really closely related to land surveying. I’m sure that your knowledge about engineering relates to your work. I personally would also love to be able to be out in nature for my work, and it sounds like you got to spend a lot of time in the woods during your summer work! Sounds like a great job. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Comments are closed.

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