Working, Pursuing, and Networking to my Canadian Geospatial Dream Job

Me in front of the Coliseum on my first full day in Rome, June 2018

Hello, my name is Alan Armstrong, and I am about to start my dream job of Program Officer with Parks Canada doing geospatial history work. This is the account of my personal geospatial career journey (so far).

           The seeds of my career journey began early on with an interest in history. After high-school this led me to a degree in History from Carleton University in 2011. I immediately followed this first degree with the Museum Studies program at Algonquin College and completed it in 2015.

My field experience was bolstered by working at two historical sites in the Ottawa-Gatineau region in Canada before graduating from the museum program. It was shortly after this that I first tried to get a job with Parks Canada. Despite my best efforts, I did not get this job and so I moved on with my life and career but continued to keep my mind on attaining a heritage job at Parks or in heritage more broadly.

It was in early 2017 when I came across a video that was about to change my life.

Professor Sarah Parcak

This video was of the American Archaeologist and Professor Sarah Parcak discussing her line of work she calls ‘Space Archaeology’.

I was fascinated by her work in Egypt and her use of satellite technology, or rather remote sensing, to discover previously lost cities and sites across the Nile Region. I immediately watched a second video of her and learned a new term to me which was “geospatial”.

With her work and this term in mind, I began researching what the word meant and what is being done in this field. My search opened-up a new world that I previously did not know about. I asked myself how I could start leveraging geospatial tools and ideas to leverage for myself in the field of history and archaeology.

This new interest and excitement led me to reach out to the geomatics program head at Carleton University, Murray Richardson.

Murray was kind enough to meet with me and quickly sold me on going back to school to gain the geomatics education I would need to work with these tools introduced by Sarah Parcak. By September 2017, I was registered in a shortened version of the geomatics program and ready for the next step in my life.

I began the program with the goal to apply geospatial capabilities to heritage and archaeology. As luck would have it I would not have to wait long to begin applying my new skills. Two great opportunities presented themselves.

The first opportunity was as a research assistant for Carleton University Professor and Archaeologist Laura Banducci. That work consisted of geostatistical work on Roman pottery and also hands-on excavating at the Roman site of Gabii, a short distance east of Rome.

The second opportunity was closer to home in Ottawa leveraging Esri’s CityEngine city-building program. Using it, I built and continue to build ancient cities in full 3-Dimensional space.

Word got around and I was invited to share my work at GoGeomatics Ottawa March social in 2019.

At this talk an opportunity of a lifetime would present itself. I gave the talk to a full room and got lots of questions about my work in Rome and my city reconstructions.

Palmyra- circa 300CE

The first person to talk to me after my talk was a manager with Parks Canada. I had come prepared and gave them my networking card. They then passed it along to someone else at Parks. Not sure what would happen from this but being completely ecstatic about this, I needed to be patient.

My focus returned to finishing my semester. My patience paid off at the end of June when Parks Canada asked to have a coffee. This conversation and more eventually led to a job offer.

My position, officially titled as “Program Officer”, involves working with the Canadian Registry of Historic Places. I’m stoked to put my heritage geomatics capabilities into action.

What does it all mean? I took a gamble by going back to school to pursue a new career avenue by acquiring skills and knowledge in a specialized area of expertise and it paid off. I also got myself out in front of people that could see my work and network with them.

In order to find my dream job I had to get out in front of people who could appreciate my new skills and see the potential of my work for themselves.

GoGeomatics helped me do this in a couple of ways. First by giving me a platform to speak about my work in front of an interested and motivated audience. The second was allowing me to write about it on the GoGeomatics Magazine. The one you are reading right now.

I’m embarking on this new stage of my career and still pursuing my dreams. I’m excited as new technologies and ideas are being advanced everyday in the heritage and geospatial sector. I get to be a part of that.

My career journey is no where near over. This has been a tough, challenging, and yet ultimately rewarding time of my life. Following my passion and getting that passion out in front of the community has allowed me to find my dream job. I hope you do the same.

While the road traveled might be long and hard – it can ultimately be rewarding for those with patience and perseverance to see our dreams through.

Alan DKA