GIS rookies brave the classroom

Last month a few members of Esri Australia’s Marketing and Communications team decided it was time we immersed ourselves in the world of GIS. It was time for a training course!

We brave few warily gathered our belongings, left the safety of the office and embarked on our GIS adventure. Destination: ArcGIS II: Essential Workflows. It is worth mentioning that we had never used ArcGIS software before and until working at Esri Australia, had no idea what GIS was. We were heading into the land of the unknown.

Greeted by our smiling trainers Kai and Ta, we were quickly assured that it wasn’t going to be as terrifying as our faces suggested – they would guide us through the experience and we’d make it safely out the other side.

We were accompanied by several clients of varying experience for the 3-day course as we sat down at our desks like sponges, ready to absorb those essential workflows.

The first thing that struck us was the enthusiasm of our trainers… we’d not seen them in their natural habitat before and they seemed very much in their element. Having been eased in with various refreshments, lesson one was underway.

Ta took us expertly through authoring, sharing, using and publishing maps – and then it was our turn to put our new learning into practise. We dutifully followed the course notes instructions and before we knew it – exercise one was complete. Without breaking the software we had each managed to create a map – and learnt a little about piracy hotspots along the way!

Throughout the day we worked through integrating data, managing map layers, and displaying data and slowly the nerves began to dissipate. Not only hadn’t we collapsed from all the new information, but we had managed to absorb much more information than we thought we would being first-time users of the software.

By the end of Day One we were actually enjoying ourselves – creating, sharing and using maps left, right and centre. With the initial trepidation a thing of the past, we had merrily worked our way through a decent chunk of the substantial course notes –and felt prepared to report back to our now, less experienced marketing team mates back in the office.

Day Two, we were promised, would be a little more challenging than the first, but armed with the knowledge we’d acquired on the previous day, our momentum through the chapters continued. Come lunchtime we were really rather chuffed with our progress and discussed the possibility of switching departments seeing as we were clearly closet GIS gurus.

A few short hours later and we were now versed in tabular data and found ourselves right at home learning the editing options ArcGIS provides. Labelling proved to be pretty good fun too – provided we didn’t get carried away with the fonts!

By Day Three, we were probably a little more self-assured than was deserved; but we would be brought back down to earth soon enough. First up, we learnt about evaluating data for analysis to ensure it is as accurate and complete as possible. This we achieved with relative success.

Next we moved onto “Solving spatial problems”. For a number of us it was this chapter which opened our eyes to just how much can be achieved using ArcGIS and also put into perspective how much we still had to learn – we had only just scratched the surface during our 3-day GIS adventure.

This chapter proved to be the most challenging part of the course and was clearly designed to test the skills we had learnt so far – and without our trusty detailed instructions our memories were put to the test. We consulted our notes – and on more than one occasion sought help from our very patient trainers – and slowly but surely we completed the task at hand. Our feet were firmly back on the ground. Although this exercise was the biggest challenge we had faced, it was by far the most rewarding as by the end we really felt like we’d dipped more than a toe into the world of GIS.

A well-earned coffee break and several Milkos later, we were on the home straight and feeling good about what we’d learnt. This is certainly a fantastic course for those starting out on the road to ArcGIS 10.1 – and also a great opportunity for anyone with experience using the software to learn some neat tips and tricks or refresh their skills.

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Kai giving us the thumbs up for a job well done.

We were put to the test over the three days and felt that we’d taken a big step towards understanding just what ArcGIS has to offer. We could finally answer the question posed to us on Day One – what is your favourite projection? And the romantics in us all agreed, it had to be Bonne!

Kim B & Shannon W

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