How to grow your GIS development career

It’s long since I talked about career growth and more so GIS development. I tend to assume this a lot when talking to people since it seems a bit obvious. However, over time I have come to realize that; what’s obvious to you isn’t for the other person. There are many things that we think we got covered until you are presented with a real-life scenario then you realize it was all hype.

Today, I want to discuss about career growth in this sector(it might apply to all sectors ).For Example,  I could label myself as a GIS Developer, GIS Consultant, GIS User etc but there is more to life than these labels. What really matters is what you know or can do. The industry has changed; no one wants to know how many certificates you got while schooling or what charity work you participated in those days. In today’s interviews, you are presented with a real test to handle. If you don’t understand that sh!t, you are out. Anyway, let’s stick to the point. How do you grow your GIS development career?

Work Yourself Out

Everyday on the socials, I see posts such as “Started on Python programming. Yaaah” or “Introduction to Data Science course today” or “100 days of code” etc. These posts are meant to warm your heart as you start off the never-ending journey in programming and system development. Funny enough, very few continue posting these stuff on the socials after one year. Why? Most quit. Why? Well, because of many issues.

System development isn’t for the faint-heart individuals. If you ever met someone who told you programming is easy, I don’t know what you can call them, but at least they helped you dive in. Only to realize that it’s not easy years later(If you never quit). This task requires commitment, consistency and focus. In this regard, you are required to utilize any free time you get in a day or the evening. Maybe tea breaks, lunch breaks, after work etc. You need to understand data processing techniques, data formats, data structures, data publishing, databases, various libraries etc. In short, you need to really work hard to get master the skill. Interestingly, it just takes a little while before you are confident with stuff.

If this is done right, you will realize the benefits over a short period of time and might consider venturing into new opportunities along this path.

Read, Practice and Share

At the start of your GIS development career, you will do a lot research. Whichever the source, format or mode of the materials you use, you end up being a library by yourself. There are many instances you will be frustrated by bugs in your code or even lack of resources online. This moment presents a very good opportunity to do research, to practice and  document your findings so as to avoid this from happening to you in the future. What happened or will happen to all the documentations you have since you started?. They usually say, there is joy in the hustle and if we extend it, there is more joy in sharing. Sharing is a form of learning and marketing. It’s like you are killing two birds with one stone. If you share you learn, and if you learn, you get better. The fruits of sharing content are many and enormous. You might end up getting your dream job from the sharing of content. Have a channel for tutorials, a blog, do podcasts etc. You can also present at workshops, conferences, exhibitions and many other ways that may be available for you. Also, you can act as a mentor or coach to individuals, groups etc.

There are so many GIS related workshops and conferences in the world such as the QGIS user groups, ESRI developer summits and network, FOSS4G etc. In this manner, you reach out to the world full of possibilities.

Take Lead

If you’re good at what you do, you shouldn’t turn down opportunities that can elevate you to be great. Be it a small group or a big group, a journey of a thousand miles start with a single step and it’s never too late to start. There are benefits in being in being in leadership. You get to grow your skills even more. Think of a very good developer or analyst who cannot present in a hall full of 100 people. Really? What’s that? … One may claim that they’re developers and not marketers or sales people but, my friend, learn to exercise interpersonal skills within your career.

In most cases, if you take lead in an initiative, group and/or community, you grow skills and you are offered various opportunities for networking which is vital in any career growth. Join professional groups or associations to help yourself grow.

Set Goals

I’m a big fan of this. Having your goals set out and analyzed, you will be able to plan yourself and remain focused. Digressing along the way is a common trait for many. As a developer, you should be able to measure your successes based on set goals or milestones. Along the way, you will lean a lot of new stuff which act as building blocks to your career. However, these “new stuff” need to be organized in a manner that they don’t mislead or lure the main goals.

Similar to carrying out a project with phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3, treat yourself as a project and good things awaits you ahead.

Take Risks

In life, you have good and bad moments. They keep interchanging themselves. Be ready to leave the comfort zone and focus on bigger projects, work or even roles.  Things might not feel right but you got to trust yourself at times. I’m not trying to say that you quit your job and try to be self-employed or turn down client’s work since they don’t have enough budget. Who knows, maybe you need to do it.

Planning to get into programming or being a developer on itself is a risk. If you feel okay about it, forge ahead. trusting yourself and going for it might be the only barrier between the “current you” and your goals. You will risk you money in purchasing books, materials, software and hardware to make yourself better. In one way or another, when your moment to “blow” comes, all the risks you took will just be mere stories of the past.

I know I have not exhausted the list of things one needs to do to grow their GIS development career. This is because they vary from one individual to another. Kindly share what you are doing or did to grow your career.

Also, if you need some details on how to kick-start your GIS development career, you can refer to this video and if you are wondering how you could get jobs in this career, try the methods shared in the  Ways to find a GIS job tutorial.


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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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