Connect with Jaclyn on LinkedIn here.
In this Q&A, Jaclyn Chezenko discusses where her work in the geomatics field.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Jaclyn Chezenko and I’m a GIS Systems Administrator at Halifax Water. I graduated with a degree in Geography from Saint Mary’s University in 2004, and an Advanced Diploma in GIS from the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in 2006.
After graduating from COGS, I travelled with friends to Calgary, Alberta to work for a company that provided oil and gas field services called Wolf Survey & Mapping. There I started out as a GPS Rover collecting data in the mountains of Alberta and BC, and the plains of Saskatchewan, travelling by helicopter almost daily. After a few months I began working within the company as a GIS Mapper and performed data processing tasks and provided mapping products to the different groups on the job site such as surveyors, drillers, line crew, and project managers. After one year of gaining valuable work and life experience in Alberta, I decided to move back home to Nova Scotia. A month later I was offered an Engineering Information Technician position at Halifax Water.
I have currently been with Halifax Water for almost 14 years. After working as an EIT for 7 years in the GIS Updating Group doing spatial and forms-based entry and updates on our assets in GIS and AutoCAD, I moved into the GIS Technical Group as a GIS Analyst. As a GIS Analyst I got more involved with database work, scripting, and analysis. Once our GIS moved fully in-house, I became the GIS Systems Administrator and for the past 2 years have been responsible for administering Halifax Water’s GIS environments which includes GIS servers, software, databases, and applications.
Q: What made you choose a career in the geomatics sector?
I always loved Geography, so I was excited to first take some geography courses at SMU as electives, and then I switched my major to Geography in my second year. I was not familiar with GIS, but some courses were being offered through the Geography program which I took and really enjoyed. In one of those GIS classes, an instructor from COGS came to speak to us about the GIS course being offered at NSCC-COGS, and it sounded very interesting to me. I was excited to live and attend college in the beautiful valley where I enjoyed visiting while growing up in Nova Scotia. I loved the idea that GIS could be used in almost any workplace, and I was excited to start my career to see all of the different ways.
Q: As a woman, did you recognize the barriers you faced in getting your career started? How would you describe them?
I’ve been fortunate and have not had to face any barriers as a woman in the GIS industry. In my GIS program at COGS, about half of my classmates were women and at Halifax Water we have more women than men in the GIS group. There are actually 4 women out of 6 people in my smaller GIS Technical Group. The work I did in the seismic industry in Alberta was definitely more male dominated, but I always felt valued and well respected.
Q: How did you manage to overcome the major challenges in your career and end up where you are today?
Being able to secure a job right out of COGS gave me the ability to gain GIS work experience, which helped me in securing my job at Halifax Water. Now in my present role, staying current with GIS technology has been the major challenge. We are unable to always upgrade to the latest platforms and with so many projects on the go in our numerous environments, it’s difficult to schedule major changes that won’t affect a lot of users. As we wait, newer versions are released. While waiting to upgrade software and application versions, it has been helpful and important to stay up to date on what is new and changing within the latest technologies, and to continue planning how our future GIS will look. It can be challenging but also rewarding.
Q: Do you think the geomatics sector needs to change to be more inclusive? How?
In my personal experience, the geomatics sector has been very inclusive. I’ve had female GIS professors, classmates, coworkers, and I also work with a lot of external female GIS colleagues and consultants from different companies. I feel fortunate that the geomatics sector is inclusive, because I know that a lot of other sectors are not.
Q: What advice would you give to women and girls who are facing gender barriers in their careers?
Just to speak up and enjoy working in your field of education. With continuous learning and experience comes more confidence. Every job and role is different, and it can take time to feel comfortable which is okay. Never stop asking questions.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone facing challenges in their geospatial occupation, or entering the geospatial sector?
The GIS community is always growing, and more people are moving around. Just because you meet all of the requirements for a position, does not mean that a lot of others won’t as well. It can be discouraging, but my advice would be to continue applying for everything you can while always expanding your learning opportunities. Take courses through Esri, watch webinars, read articles, network within the GIS community, and always keep your resume up to date.
Q: In your experience, what can you say about the progress that has been made in the geomatics sector, and where it will go in the future?
In my experience, every time I attend a GIS conference or training, I meet new people from companies that I did not even know had GIS departments. It really seems to be expanding across different industries and is becoming a central part of organizations. When I worked in Alberta, most employers had heard of COGS and recognized it as a strong school that produced a lot of skilled graduates who were ready and willing to learn and work. The future continues to look promising for geomatics and for women in GIS.