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Spotlight on Women in Geomatics: Emma Tompkins

18 Apr 2020 11:09 AM | Anonymous


Emma is currently a Remote Sensing and GIS Specialist at Resson Aerospace. Her main role involves working with satellite imagery, which ties directly into what she attended school for. 

“I originally took a biology degree at St.FX university focusing on ecology, when I got a co-op job working in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park tracking coyotes. These coyotes had GPS collars on them that we used to look at their movements and patterns. My boss told me to look into GIS if I found it interesting and that there was a school in Nova Scotia that specialized in it. So after I graduated X I took the Advanced Geographic Sciences program at COGS and ended up in the remote sensing specialty. The day I graduated COGS I got a job offer from Resson as a Data Processor and I was eventually able to use my GIS and remote sensing skills to help out with more projects we were working on. That eventually led to me being the "satellite person" at work as we were starting to become more interested in imagery over larger areas and I actually had a background perfect for that.”

In this Q&A, learn more about Emma’s journey in discovering her interest in geomatics, how she got to where she is today, and what she learned along the way:

Q: In your experience, please describe how far the geomatics industry has come to be diverse and inclusive to all groups, including women. Do you think there is still work to be done?

A: I'm still relatively new to the work force, I only started working in the field in 2017, but when I went to school we had people from all over the world at COGS and while women didn't make quite up half of the class there definitely was more than I had expected. I think this seems to reflect the trend of the new workforce entering the geomatics industry. There seems to be more diversity in the workforce every year. But there's always room for improvement!

Q: During your education or the start of your career, did you notice that positions within geomatics are typically male-dominated roles? (i.e. did you notice high ratios of male:female in your classes, workplace, etc.?)

A: When I started my work at Resson I was surprised to be join a department where two out of three were women. As the company has grown this department has changed roles a bit and we expanded to include an office in India, where our department there also has a majority of women! Myself and the original two have moved on to roles with more responsibilities within the company. In general, my colleagues are mostly male. It's still definitely male dominated in most of the departments and, but there are quite a few women here that bring skills to the company that we would be lost without and it doesn't go unnoticed. 

Q: What were the most challenging aspects in your career development? How did you overcome those obstacles?

A: Keeping up with how fast technology is changing, there's always new things to learn that will help further my career. I think I'm still trying to keep up, but I try to stay on top of things with online courses and keeping up to date on what is happening in the remote sensing world, there's always a new satellite going up to learn about.

Q: At what point in your career did you feel satisfied that you made the right choice entering the geospatial sector? If you could go back, would you change anything?

A: I think when colleagues started approaching me for advice and help on how to complete a GIS-related task, or for input on a new project was when I started to feel like I was becoming a valuable employee. I started feeling more confident about my knowledge and saw a direct impact I was making which showed to me that I made the right choice in entering this sector. Although I still frequently have impostor syndrome and think I don't know as much as I do, but  the more I continue to learn and further my skills the more it goes away, I need to remember that I was given my responsibilities for a reason! 

If I could go back I think the only thing I would change is when I was at school I really hated python and didn't try as hard as I should have to understand it. Now I use it everyday, and only just started learning all these open source GIS libraries. I wish I had taken it upon myself to look into open source options sooner!

Q: What changes would you like to see in the geomatics community to make opportunities more inclusive to people of different backgrounds, particularly women?

A: I think I would like to see for most workplaces in the geomatics communities is to have more women and people of different backgrounds in upper-management and on the board of directors. Having a diverse group of people making big decisions would help bring more perspectives to the table. 

Q: To a woman considering entering a career in geomatics, what would you say is the most important consideration as a first step to getting started?

A: If you are considering a geomatics field there are tons of free courses and tutorials online for beginners so you can try it out and see if it's for you. It can be a little intimidating going into the STEM field where you may be in the minority, but in my experience the majority of people are friendly and willing to collaborate regardless of who you are.

Q: In general, what advice would you give to women and girls who are facing gender barriers in their careers?

A: Don't be afraid to speak up with your ideas, you may have some that no one has even considered. 

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