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Katherine Burton

Katherine Burton, MSc Geospatial Data Analysis Graduate 2019

What are your best memories of UCD?

I will always remember my time at UCD. Having completed both my undergraduate in Geography and History and a Master’s degree in Applied Geospatial Analysis and Remote Sensing from 2015 – 2019, I have a lot of memories. Some are more notable than others, such as getting the opportunity to try out classes in subjects that I wasn’t studying, like Music and Economics due to the Elective Programme and writing my Master’s thesis. However, even the day-to-day life of arriving in Newman for a lecture, grabbing a coffee and chatting with your friends on the couches before heading to the James Joyce library is something I will look back on fondly. 

What first sparked your interest in Geography?

The first memory that springs to mind is when I received a book from my Dad for my 10th birthday called ‘Info Bank’. It was packed full of facts about our planet relating to science, history and geography, and I was excited to learn more when I went to secondary school. Once there, I realised that there was so much more to geography than I thought. I learnt about different cultures around the world, urban planning and geo-politics and this was further developed at university, where I had the opportunity to take modules in a multitude of areas in Geography!

What career path have you taken since graduating?

In April 2019, while writing my thesis, I began working at the Icon Group, where I was contracted to a government project which involved Remote Sensing, digitising and spatial analysis. Following this, at the start of 2020, I saw that Esri Ireland was advertising a graduate programme. I decided to apply because of its variety and the chance to experience working in each of their departments, as I was still not fully sure which direction I wanted to take in my GIS career. I started in September 2020, working remotely, and so far, I’m really enjoying it and looking forward to seeing where my GIS career takes me.

How has your degree helped you along the way?

I believe that my undergraduate degree with the School of Geography and subsequent Master’s has certainly helped me. Not only in an academic and career sense, but I am also still in contact with some of my lecturers, and it is great to know that I still have their support, even after I have graduated. The research and critical thinking skills I learnt during my undergraduate degree, combined with the variety in the module choices, allowed me to discover and refine my fields of interest and focus on a particular area of geography I enjoyed. The Master’s degree then allowed me to take these skills and build on them with a focus on GIS and applying it to real-world problems as well as improving soft, transferable skills such as giving presentations which I really used to hate but now feel comfortable with (as much as one possibly can!).

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I’d have to say it is the variety of customers that I get to work with! It is great to meet new people from all kinds of industries and see how GIS can be used to help them. As well as this, I have dedicated training time each week that I can use to further build on the skills from my degrees and discover more ways that GIS can be used as a solution in a variety of industries. These include but are not limited to creating images, maps, and web applications and making data easily readable for the general population when the need arises. I also really enjoy the variety of the graduate programme as I get to not only work in the technical side of GIS (Technical Support and Professional Services) but also the commercial side (Sales, Marketing) and even see how GIS can be implemented into secondary schools as well as universities. 

What is your proudest achievement to date?

My proudest achievement to date is certainly my Master’s thesis. I was able to use GIS and LiDAR data to analyse the effects of urban geometry on heatwaves in Dublin’s city centre. It was the biggest piece of writing and research I had ever undertaken, and it is safe to say when it was finished, bound, and I had the final physical copy in my hand, I felt very proud. I really appreciated the support I had from the School, my friends and my family. 

What advice would you offer current students considering a similar career path?

The main bit of advice I would give is to talk to as many people as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure about something. It’s easy to feel like you are bothering someone by asking for their help, but in my experience, every time I have thought this, it couldn’t have been further from the truth, and everyone was more than willing to help and explain! As well as this, GIS is constantly updating and changing, so I would recommend keeping up to date, whether that be by following GIS pages on social media such as LinkedIn or reading blogs etc.! 

You can find Katherine on LinkedIn