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Spotlight on Women in Geomatics: Lucie Kendell

25 Jan 2020 9:45 AM | Anonymous


"My name is Lucie Kendell. Originally from Bridgetown NS, I now live in Beaver Bank NS. I love traveling, cheering on my kids at the rink or on the field, trying new foods or craft beers, and relaxing at the cottage with family and friends.

I am currently employed at Halifax Water as the coordinator of the GIS Business Solutions group. We are one of three teams within the Engineering Information group. We strive to deliver map and app solutions in support of Utility operations, as well as delivering on service requests for Utility GIS data.

I have a degree from Mount Allison University; major in Geography with a minor in Canadian Studies. I also have an advanced diploma from the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Marine Geomatics.

My career started in 2002 at a small geophysical surveying company in Porters Lake – Canadian Seabed Research. We worked hard and I got my hands into all aspects of the business – mobilization, surveying/data collection, data processing, interpretation, and report preparation. I learned a lot in three years with that company and travelled to some interesting places (i.e. Eastern Russia and the Beaufort Sea). In 2005 I took a GIS technician job with Jacques Whitford (now Stantec). I was able to specialize and further develop my GIS and mapping skills, and I got to stay closer to home! In 2009, I jumped when the opportunity arose to work for Halifax Water, where I’ve worked as an Engineering Information Technician, a GIS Analyst, and now as a coordinator."

In this Q&A, Lucie discusses where her interest in geomatics stems from, how it got her to where she is today, and the challenges and rewards that she experienced along her way:

Q: What made you choose a career in the geomatics sector?

A: Geography – literally. I grew up down the road from COGS and had heard of the opportunities available to its graduates. When I graduated from MTA, I was considering education. However, looking through the COGS syllabus, the marine geomatics program caught my eye. I thought “seismic” had something to do with earthquakes, which I thought was pretty interesting. It wasn’t until my first week in the program that I understood what I’d really gotten myself into, but I’ve never looked back or reconsidered anything besides a career in geomatics!

Q: As a woman, did you recognize the barriers you faced in getting your career started? How would you describe them?

A:  I don’t think I was, no. I had a lot to learn, working my way around the ships I suddenly found myself on. There were very few women (if any!) on the boats or involved in our projects. I was often given “special” accommodation (i.e. single berths/facilities, once I even received a weekly chocolate bar ration, lol) and mostly everyone I’ve worked with has been very respectful and taught me a lot.

Q: How did you manage to overcome the major challenges in your career and end up where you are today?

A: A notable challenge I’ve faced throughout my career has been staying positive when “times get tough”. For example, working offshore in remote areas of the world was a wonderful opportunity… when I was young and carefree with minimal at-home responsibilities! As I started to wish for things like pets, family, and the freedom to make extracurricular commitments, the opportunity turned into a burden. When anything in my career has become less than positive, I’ve tried to take the time to evaluate potential solutions. What can I do to directly improve my satisfaction at work? A new project? A new job? An extended holiday? A new volunteer opportunity? It seems like a simple thing, but I’ve always tried to stay accountable for my own contentment – then there is no one else to blame!

Q: Do you think the geomatics sector needs to change to be more inclusive? How?

A: I believe we should always strive to be more inclusive, in any sector. Further education in the field of geomatics, professional development opportunities, and career prospects may help to engage a wider audience. I’ve participated in the NSCC’s Techsploration program, which is doing a fantastic job of introducing young women to a cross-section of STEM fields, including geomatics. It’s encouraging when professionals participate and support their sector through programs like this. The introduction of financial support programs, scholarships, internships, and co-op programs may also help break down barriers and provide opportunity.

Q: What advice would you give to women and girls who are facing gender barriers in their careers?

A: Be confident in your skills/abilities and learn how to successfully communicate your value to a potential employer. Know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, and search for a healthy fit. If you find yourself constantly facing barriers or unhealthy career challenges, evaluate possible solutions. Are you able to improve your situation? If so, do it!

I recognize that I’ve been quite fortunate in my career, and I appreciate my situation today. I often find myself around a table tackling project requirements or brainstorming solutions with many amazingly talented women, all of whom have inspiring stories. We’ve made it beyond those barriers, and you can too.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone facing challenges in their geospatial occupation, or entering the geospatial sector?

A: I find it increasingly tough to “stay relevant” in our technical field. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of professional development opportunities (training, conferences, networking events, etc.). Part of this involves expressing interest, providing feedback, lobbying for change, and engaging with management who are making those decisions that directly impact your situation.

Speak your mind; communicate in a constructive way and be creative! The opportunities for growth may not even exist yet when it comes to established job descriptions/positions.

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?

A: It blows my mind! I’ve been in the field now for 20 years and I can’t believe what we’re doing today with the technology compared to project work I was doing at school with ‘cutting edge’ software in 1999. From a Halifax Water perspective, thanks to configurable Web GIS applications and a GIS-based work order management system, almost every employee is a daily GIS user! The progress is exponential – reinforcing my previous comments on the need to stay relevant with constant professional development. My guess is that the future will bring enhanced on-the-fly analytics, greater accessibility by all, 3D, and VR… but who knows?

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