gis development skills

Effective Tips to Enhance Your GIS Development Skills

GIS development is an exciting and constantly evolving field that plays a critical role in solving real-world problems. As a GIS professional, developing and honing GIS development skills is essential for staying competitive and relevant in today’s world.

Whether you’re a seasoned GIS developer or just starting in the field, continuous learning and development are necessary to remain at the forefront of geospatial technology. With the right skills, tools, and mindset, GIS development offers endless opportunities for personal and professional growth, as well as the ability to make a positive impact on society.

What skills do developers need?

Let’s start by exploring what skills developers need for the industry. From mastering foundational programming languages to specializing in niche domains like Geographic Information Systems (GIS), developers require diverse abilities to excel in their field. Here are some top skills for GIS software developers;

  1. Proficiency in Programming Languages (e.g., JavaScript, Python, Java, C++)
  2. Problem-Solving Skills
  3. Understanding of Data Structures and Algorithms
  4. Version Control with Git
  5. Familiarity with Development Tools and Environments
  6. Geospatial Data Management
  7. GIS Software Proficiency (e.g., ArcGIS, QGIS, Mapbox)
  8. Spatial Database Management (e.g., PostGIS, Oracle Spatial)
  9. Web GIS Development (e.g., Leaflet, OpenLayers, Mapbox GL JS)
  10. Geoprocessing and Spatial Analysis

In this blog, we’ll discuss effective tips that can help you enhance your GIS development skills and take your career to the next level.

How do you succeed as a developer?

1. Set Clear Goals and Create a Roadmap

Setting clear goals and creating a roadmap for achieving them is crucial for building your GIS development skills. Identify your career aspirations and set achievable goals that align with them. Develop a roadmap that outlines the steps you need to take to achieve those goals, including learning new skills, gaining experience, and networking with other GIS professionals.

gis development skills

This involves identifying your strengths and weaknesses, determining your learning objectives, and creating a plan to achieve them. Your goals may include developing your coding skills, learning new GIS software or tools, or mastering advanced GIS techniques. In most cases, the platforms, libraries and software to be learnt depend on the career path that you take. A good example is the difference between desktop GIS development libraries and Web GIS libraries. They share some concepts but the learning path can be so different. Know your goals before starting.

2. Attend Conferences, Workshops, and Online Courses

Attending conferences, workshops, and online courses can significantly enhance your GIS development skills and knowledge. These events offer opportunities to learn from experts in the field, network with other professionals, and gain hands-on experience with new tools and technologies. Some popular GIS events include the Esri User Conference, FOSS4G, and GIS Day. Most of these events are free or offer travel and attendance grants to interested parties. Take the chance.

Many GIS conferences, workshops, and online courses are also available, covering a wide range of topics from beginner to advanced levels. Participate in these events and take advantage of the opportunity to learn from industry leaders and connect with other GIS professionals.

Today, there are so many free and cheap courses that you can enrol in and learn from the leaders in the industry. Leverage the power of the Internet to better your skills.

3. Explore Different GIS Software and Tools

From experience, exploring many GIS tools has an edge. In most cases, you find yourself working with multiple tools to actualize a workflow. Learning multiple GIS software can help you solve problems from many angles and procedures. There’s no harm in learning a number of GIS software.

There are many GIS software and tools available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Explore different GIS software and tools to find the ones that best suit your needs and goals. Try out new software and tools, experiment with different workflows, and learn from others in the GIS community.

Some of the popular GIS software and tools include ArcGIS, QGIS, PostGIS, GDAL, and GeoServer. Learning multiple tools can also give you a competitive edge in the job market. You can use great resources such as books on Web GIS development.

4. Practice with Open-Source Data and Web Mapping Frameworks

As the old adage goes, practice makes improvement. In order to learn more skills around spatial data and frameworks, you need more practice. Today, there are many open-source data sources on the Internet. You can easily find the data for your models, analysis and systems.

Open-source data and web mapping frameworks are valuable resources for GIS development. Practice working with open-source data sets and web mapping frameworks like Leaflet, OpenLayers, and Mapbox to develop your skills in web mapping, data visualization, and data analysis.

5. Stay Up-to-Date with the Latest GIS Trends and Innovations

This tip is more of an emphasis. Staying up-to-date with the latest GIS trends and innovations is crucial for success in the field. Keeping an eye on the latest GIS technologies, such as cloud-based GIS, 3D modeling, and artificial intelligence can help you stay ahead of the curve.

One can easily stay up-to-date with the latest GIS news and trends by subscribing to GIS blogs and attending conferences and workshops. Follow industry leaders on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to learn about the latest innovations and advancements in GIS technology.

6. Collaborate with GIS Experts and Enthusiasts

I have added this tip to the list since it carries a lot of weight on my personal career growth. Back in the day, I met some GIS development experts back in the day and added them to my personal contacts. They were easy and friendly and this made it possible to meet some of them on a weekly basis to learn. They would basically share some of the real-life projects they were working on and this was enough motivation for me to work hard. Later on in life, I worked with these experts on projects, they delegated tasks to me over time and I was able to learn and do a lot.

You can also find such experts by joining online forums, user groups, and social media platforms where GIS professionals and enthusiasts gather to share ideas, ask questions and collaborate. Seek mentors or more experienced colleagues who can guide you on your journey and provide valuable feedback.

gis development skills

7. Develop Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking Skills

GIS professionals are problem solvers by nature. Developing your problem-solving and critical thinking skills is essential for success in GIS development. Learn how to identify and define problems, break them down into smaller, manageable pieces, and find solutions using GIS tools and techniques.

In most cases, when you encounter a problem, the resolution is within. It could be in the error stack trace or within some docs somewhere. Over time, these problems become routine and easy to resolve. Developing these skills is essential for success in the field. Analyzing data, designing solutions, and implementing algorithms require a high level of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You get better with time.

8. Build a Strong Professional Network

Most people ignore the need for a powerful professional network in their industries. It should be the other way. Building a strong professional network is essential for success in the GIS field or basically any field. Networking allows you to connect with other professionals, gain insights into industry trends, and learn about new job opportunities.

Joining professional organizations, attending conferences and meetups, and participating in online forums are all great ways to build your professional network. You have to keep in mind that, it’s through these networks that you get job referrals, recommendations etc. It’s also vital to know other professionals within your network. At one time or another in your career, you will be required to find a helper in a project, a partner in some projects or even a representative for a project. Always know who can do what in your network and who can offer “what”.

In most cases, from experience, most of the projects will come from repeat jobs or referrals from past clients and people within your network. Leverage the power of a professional network and grow your career.

9. Learn GIS Programming

I have written about this topic so many times. I recently wrote an entire blog post about it. Basically, I do not advocate for everyone to be a GIS developer but I highlight it as an additional skill. Programming skills are essential for GIS development. Learn how to use programming to automate GIS workflows, manipulate spatial data, and build GIS applications.

There are many online resources, tutorials, and courses available for learning to program in GIS (GIS programming). I highly recommend YouTube, which is free and has tons of materials on this topic. You can also learn by reading written materials such as GIS books on designing map interfaces, building APIs etc

10. Leverage Open-Source Software and Contribute to the GIS Community

From experience, GIS software can be a limitation. For example, if you need to practice using software then you realize you require expensive licences can be frustrating. Actually, most users stop there. As a student or beginner, you might not have the capacity to front the charges for learning purposes.

Nowadays, most learning institutions have acquired these licences to help learners access software and materials. Other software vendors have community and student editions of the software but with limited capabilities. You can avoid all the hustle by using open-source software.

gis development skills

Open-source software can significantly enhance your GIS development skills while reducing costs. These solutions provide access to a vast array of tools and resources that can help you learn and grow as a GIS developer.

Open-source GIS software and tools have become increasingly popular among GIS professionals. Leverage open-source GIS software like QGIS, GRASS GIS, and PostGIS, which are free to use and provide powerful GIS capabilities.

Also, you can contribute to the GIS community by sharing your knowledge and experiences, participating in open-source GIS projects, and developing new GIS tools and plugins. I’ve been a long-time subscriber to this through my tutorials online.

To summarize it all, developing strong GIS development skills takes time, effort, and dedication. Consistency is a key element in developing solid skills in the geospatial industry.

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Wanjohi Kibui

Passionate about harnessing the power of geospatial technology to create innovative solutions, I'm a GIS Consultant and Developer dedicated to building cutting-edge geospatial applications. With a keen eye for spatial analysis and a knack for problem-solving, I specialize in crafting solutions that seamlessly integrate technology and geography.

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