The Esri Technical Certification Program recognises qualified individuals who are proficient in best practice GIS software use. Earlier this year Julie Sandow, a GIS Consultant for the West Pilbara Iron Ore Project (WPIOP), became a certified Esri ArcGIS Desktop Professional. We spoke to Julie about the process of becoming certified and how Esri certification can be help job-seekers set themselves apart from the rest.
Esri Australia: Hi Julie, thanks for chatting with us and congratulations on becoming certified! Why did you choose to go down this path? Was it your idea, or did your employer encourage you to become certified?
Julie: The majority of my career has been spent working as a contractor, so my employer as such was not the catalyst, it was my competitive nature and need to be competitive in the job market to get to the interview with the next employer.
EA: Can you take us through the process of becoming certified? What was involved?
J: It’s rather simple because unlike the training that comes through Esri or Esri Australia, this certification is to measure the knowledge you already have rather than going through the process of learning something new and then being tested.
The process involves registering for your exam, paying a fee to sit the test and attending your local Pearson VUE training centre to sit the exam, which is around 90 minutes. Of course there was a bit of study (and panicking) involved and it also took a few weeks to find an appointment time that suited me.
EA: What part of the certification process was most challenging for you?
J: The biggest challenge was waiting for the result. I finished the test and while some questions were very simple, some weren’t, so I was a little unsure if I had done well. The results become available through the Pearsone Vue system a few days after you sit the test, and your certificate and emblems can then be downloaded. Until then though I was rather nervous.
Another challenge is that it isn’t a graded pass, you don’t find out if you’ve passed by one question or if you got full marks, I’d like to think I passed by more than just one question, but who knows.
EA: What part of the certification process did you find most enjoyable?
J: The most enjoyable part would have been putting that emblem on my email. I love telling future employers about it, especially if they have heard about it. It seems a lot of people are curious about the certification without sitting it themselves and almost all of the people who have heard of it say it provides me with an advantage when applying for a job which uses Esri technology.
EA: What are the main benefits for you now as a certified Esri ArcGIS Desktop Professional?
J: When I look for employment opportunities, it offers the employer another filter when hiring a spatial professional. I feel it differentiates the professionals from the users. I like to think it offers a guarantee of a minimum level of understanding for an ‘Esri using’ spatial professional.
It doesn’t change my abilities, it just gives me a way to quantify a level of understanding that I suggest I have. It also helps me to network because as I said previously, people are ‘certification curious’ and don’t mind having a chat if they see the emblem on my emails.
EA: What does a typical day on the WPIOP look like for you?
J: It’s pretty fast and furious, The non-spatial people here are still relatively spatially aware so the demands on the GIS team are continuous. We are huge advocates of data management, which suits me to a tee, however managing the incoming requests and keeping good data management in practice can be tricky but necessary. If we let the ball drop for even a day, the following day would be a nightmare.
To start my day I have a big cup of coffee and take a deep breath and then just go with the flow – drawing on my experience of what can work and what priorities I have and just keep moving forward. Someone once told me that saying “No” wasn’t the way to go. Rather they told me to say “Yes, but…” instead. That holds me in good stead.
EA: Can you describe how the project uses GIS technology to deliver better outcomes?
J: Data management! Two words we all know. The amount of data projects like this have is incredible. With the multiple approvals and versions of data that pass through the GIS team, I can easily say it’s about data management. All good databases need normalising and if WPIOP was a database then the GIS Team offers a pretty thorough normalising effect.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. Well a map speaks volumes and then points a big red arrow. The data we assemble for the project is a data warehouse filled with many maps and many words, and it tells our story in the most complete and succinct way possible.
EA: Finally, do you have any tips for other GIS professionals considering the Esri Technical Certification Program?
J: Yes, ask yourself what you can gain from getting certification, then ask yourself what you would lose by sitting the exam, the gains far outweigh the possible losses. I believe certification was a step forward in the right direction and that it demonstrates a commitment to being a good spatial professional.
EA: Thanks so much Julie!
J: It’s my pleasure.