This article was guest written by Ryan Bell, who works for Delta Simons and is a graduate in Physical Geography.
My role as a Graduate GIS¹ Consultant involves establishing and developing GIS capabilities for Delta-Simons Environmental Consultancy. To provide some context, this involves a full set-up of a functioning system to introduce GIS as a service within the company, which includes aspects such as: identifying the most suitable system, identifying employee data requirements, database management, and template creation. Other responsibilities include GIS maintenance, solving of technical queries, providing training to employees, conducting analysis for technical reports, and developing efficiencies whilst maintaining business-as-usual activities. As the GIS workload fluctuates during its introductory phase, my role also provides opportunity to gain exposure to the range of environmental disciplines that Delta-Simons specialise in, such as flood risk and ecology.
Securing the role
The experiences which have helped me to secure the role at Delta-Simons began with the decision to extend my degree with an industrial placement. Initially, I wasn’t convinced that it would be worthwhile to invest a year of my time in a field that I may not be interested in.
However, following advice from the Careers Centre (and my family), I took the time to apply to a wide range of roles and was fortunate enough to secure an industrial placement with General Electric, working as an Environmental, Health and Safety Intern. Soon after working in EHS for a few months, I began to realise that the career path wasn’t right for me, but I did really enjoy my time on placement. I was able to experience working in a professional environment and strengthen skills I’d developed at university, primarily through the completion of projects and training. I would strongly encourage anyone that is in doubt to apply for an industrial placement.
The skills that you develop on industrial placement also strengthen your CV and helped me to secure a part-time role whilst in university as a Careers Peer Support Assistant. I think that I can speak on behalf of all the PSAs in saying that the opportunity to support students on their journeys to securing a placement, graduate role or studying abroad was both rewarding and enjoyable. This role really helped me appreciate and understand what makes a job application stand out. Using this knowledge, coupled with my placement year experience, I decided to apply for a placement as part of a fourth-year module: Workplace Co-operative Project.
The placement opened my eyes to the temporary GIS role offered by Delta-Simons: a role which supported the skills I had come to enjoy, so it only seemed natural to apply. Fortunately, I was successful in securing the role and I began to work once a week whilst still attending University. As the placement came to an end, I presented my work (creating the start of a functioning GIS) to several employees who seemed happy with my progress. At the end of my presentation, I was lucky enough to be offered a graduate position there and then!
Reflections and advice
From the offset it seemed clear that my decision to study Physical Geography provided me with the GIS skills that the role required, but it has also helped with wider disciplinary knowledge that has proven useful when working on multi-disciplinary projects. That isn’t to say that other degrees are less relevant; rather that it remains valuable to have exposure to both GIS and environmental disciplines.
My advice for those looking to secure a graduate role would be to make the most of the opportunities that are out there. When initially applying for an industrial placement I found it challenging to write a strong application because I had limited experience in professional working environments. Treat any placement as an extended job interview. I would say that getting relevant experience is important for getting your foot in the door because so many people graduate with similar qualifications that it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. The Careers Centre also provides a wide range of services which can help you on your way to applying for any role, irrespective of whether you are waiting for a final interview or completely unsure where to begin.
¹GIS: Geographic Information System