Mapping out a career in Geographic Information Systems
Anna Prior, GIS Technician
Our team of GIS Technicians plays a crucial role at CityFibre, translating network infrastructure designs into a GIS environment so our Planners can design our full fibre networks, transforming the way communities across Britain connect.
To find out more about life as a GIS Technician, we spoke to Anna Prior, who started her career journey with CityFibre in July 2020 after graduating last year.
Anna, tell us about what you studied and where.
I studied a BSC in Geography at Sheffield Hallam University. In my first year I did a political and economics module which focused on GIS – basic information maps. I found it interesting, so I chose to study GIS in my second and third year. I enjoyed it so much, I secured a year-long work placement to do GIS and really fell in love with it. The industry is growing quickly, and GIS is different at every place, so the opportunities are extremely varied.
What’s the most exciting part of working in GIS?
I’ve always enjoyed maths, so I love the combination of statistics and analysis mixed with map visuals. I like finding small errors in the data so I can fix them. It’s more practical than just doing sums. I can give colleagues information that makes their job much easier, like how many poles there are in an area. It’s very rewarding.
What career paths are there within GIS?
There’s the option to go down a very technical route, working on the backend development of the software and looking after databases. Or you can focus more on the analysis, remote sensing, land classifications, oceanography and political maps. Or you could go down the people management route. There are loads of options.
What does a day in the life of a GIS Technician at CityFibre look like?
Day-to-day, I manage any data sent to us from our design partners and get it ready for the City Planners. I reformat it so it’s presented properly, check the quality and fix any errors. There are also lots of ad hoc analysis tasks. For example, I recently completed a density map for poles so the Planners could establish where it would be most cost effective to build and in what order to help us achieve our targets. I’m learning new things all the time!
What attracted you to CityFibre?
It’s a growing business, so there’s lots of room for progression. It’s definitely not a stale environment. Plus, if you want to learn something new, or shadow a Project Manager, then you can. For example, at the end of the month, we’re going on site to shadow a ‘walk out’, so we can see the infrastructure in place. We don’t necessarily need to be able to understand this, but it’s nice to see the bigger picture around the work I do.
And what do you enjoy most about working here?
Since joining CityFibre, I haven’t felt stressed once. Everyone pulls their weight, the deadlines are reasonable and there’s lots of flexibility. We all have our own projects to manage, so if I have a quieter workload one week then I can focus on personal development or lend a hand with other projects. For example, today is a little quieter for me, so I’m learning a new system, doing some Python training and helping some of my team members.
As someone starting out in their career, what support do you get from CityFibre?
I have a really clear training plan in place, and also have a buddy. In my first month I was on the phone with her for 3-4 hours a day, so even though I was working remotely due to COVID-19, I never felt as though I was on my own. If I had any questions, I could just share my screen and ask her, which was lovely. Every week we can request a training course or ask to be taught something specific, so if there’s anything I need to learn, CityFibre will make sure I have the time and resources to do it.
What makes the GIS team at CityFibre a great place for graduates?
Nobody expects you to know everything right away and there’s a really good flow and logic to how everything works. Plus, the people here are really lovely! Most of the team are fairly new to CityFibre, or new into their careers, so we can discuss what we’ve learned at university or past experiences and share tips with each other.
What tips would you give graduates wanting to apply?
Make sure your CV stands out! Try and back up everything you say with an example, so rather than saying you can write in Python, complete an online course. There are plenty of GIS-related courses online and these can fill any knowledge gaps from university and help you discover which areas of GIS you do – or don’t – enjoy. I would also advise joining a professional body. I’m part of the Association of Geographical Information’s Early Careers Committee, for example. There’s also the Royal Geographic Society. You can become chartered in GIS with the RGS six years after you graduate, which is well worth doing.
Thanks Anna! If you’d like to follow in Anna’s footsteps and pursue a career in GIS at CityFibre, you can explore our latest opportunities on our profile page.