March is National Women’s History Month: it’s a time to highlight the achievements of the women of our past, uplift the women of our present, and make the world a better place for the women of our future. The geospatial industry is rapidly growing, and this growth is only possible with the contributions of talented women in the field. At T-Kartor USA, we are proud to have women at all levels in our organization who make our team what it is. Let’s learn about a few of them.
Bobbi Fernandez, Janus Program Manager
Ann Rushing, Production Lead
Ashley Poling, QA/FTE Manager
Getting Involved in the Field
The geospatial field is interdisciplinary; individuals may have passions for the outdoors, mapping, coding, quality control, earth science, sustainability, data science, mathematics, and more.
Q: How did you get your start in Geospatial? What drew you to the field?
Bobbi Fernandez: My first introduction to GIS was in college. It wasn’t on my radar until I randomly selected a GIS course to fulfill an elective. The analysis and visualization of geographic data sparked my interest quickly. I thought it would make for an exciting career, so I restructured my coursework to be more GIS-focused.
Professionally, I started at an engineering firm assisting with environmental site assessments and doing utility infrastructure mapping. In 2015 I moved to the GovCon/GEOINT industry and have been producing products supporting the NGA ever since.
Ann Rushing: I always loved the outdoors, and when I decided on what to study in college, I decided on Environmental Science. That eventually led me to GIS, where I learned I also enjoyed looking at maps and making maps. Looking at satellite imagery is always a treat.
Ashley Poling: I have been interested in science since I was a little girl, specifically weather and other earth sciences. I have also liked maps for as long as I can remember, but I had yet to realize how I could make a career out of it or how expansive the field of cartography was. I was first introduced to GIS in college, where I took courses in GIS and Remote Sensing, and those courses drew me into the field by seeing the different kinds of analysis we can do with the data. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Geoscience and found a job in the geospatial industry; a few months later, a company brought me on as a Geospatial Analyst at a small company that supported NGA work. Within a few years, I was moved into quality control and eventually into a production lead role. In 2016, I moved to T-Kartor USA and worked my way up to management.
Working at T-Kartor USA
T-Kartor USA was established in 2002 as an industry innovator, sharing its values with the Swedish parent company, T-Kartor Group AB. In 2010, T-Kartor USA relocated to St. Louis, a rapidly growing geospatial hotspot. Since then, T-Kartor USA has expanded its team and scope of work while embracing a “people-first” mentality.
Q: What’s your favorite part of working for T-Kartor USA?
Bobbi Fernandez: The small business perks. I like the transparency, the open communication across all levels, the promotion and ease of collaboration, the recognition of each employee and their impact, and the true sense that we’re all working towards one common goal.
Ann Rushing: My favorite part of working with T-Kartor USA is the people. Everyone is friendly and great to work with. This company recognizes that employees are people, and they are very understanding.
Ashley Poling: My favorite parts about working at T-Kartor USA are working on a wide array of products and using critical thinking skills to answer questions and formulate solutions to solve some difficulties we encounter. Whether it’s working with the development team on creating a tool for production, troubleshooting technical issues with the software we use, or identifying certain features we come across in production, we can formulate solutions. Outside of the analytic aspect, I enjoy working with others at T-Kartor. With a bunch of like-minded individuals, it makes communication easier and more relaxed.
Getting Girls Interested in Geospatial/STEM
According to the American Association of University Women, only about 28% of the workforce in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is comprised of women. The gap between men and women in STEM can start as early as middle school – Junior Achievement conducted a study in 2019 that found that only 9% of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 were interested in a STEM career.
Q: How can we build interest in geospatial/other STEM fields for middle and high school girls?
Bobbi Fernandez: Access and exposure!
Ann Rushing: We can support girls in geospatial and other tech fields by exposing them to jobs. Show them that various positions fall under “tech,” including GIS. It is more than just coding for Google and start-ups.
Ashley Poling: We need to showcase the recent successes of women in not only the geospatial field but the STEM field as a whole to give affirmation to girls that they can do anything they put their minds to. The field keeps progressing in this aspect, but we can still make many changes. When I first started, it was very male-dominant. That gap has since gotten smaller, and more and more women are entering the profession. We need to ensure that girls have the same access to learn and gain the knowledge they need to be successful and showcase their talents and intelligence to be seen and heard. Encourage them. Believe in them. Build a support system they can lean on when times get tough, so they can get right back at it if they have a setback.
Advice for Women Interested in Geospatial
Geospatial is a hot field to enter right now – especially in St. Louis, MO. The industry can be an excellent fit for women just starting their careers or wanting to change industries.
Q: What advice do you have for women looking to enter the geospatial field?
Bobbi Fernandez: Research the different geospatial sectors and the opportunities each offer, understand the qualifications, identify positions that align with the skills you like to use, seek out professionals who have held those positions, and learn about their backgrounds and how they’ve cultivated their careers.
Your first job in the geospatial field will likely be a stepping stone, but it’s no less critical in your professional development. Stay focused on building the skills and knowledge to get you where you want to be.
Ann Rushing: You are always learning in GIS, so make sure you know how to take notes. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Someone else is probably wondering the same thing.
Ashley Poling: Never give up, and never stop learning. It’s cliché, but it’s true. The Geospatial field keeps growing, and we constantly learn new things, so never be intimidated to ask questions. If you are switching careers, it’s hard enough as it is with having to develop another skill set. Still, plenty of resources are available to help that transition, whether online courses from universities or certificate programs, online resources through ESRI, etc. With perseverance and a high drive to learn, you will reach the goals that you set for yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
T-Kartor USA would not be where we are without Bobbi, Ann, Ashley, and the rest of our women team members. We are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the geospatial field during National Women’s History Month and year-round. To learn more about T-Kartor USA, visit our website and contact us today.