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Ask the Expert - Chartered Land Surveyor

We ask Chartered Land Surveyor Bruce about his career path and if he had any advice for those wanting to begin their careers in Geospatial Engineering.

Why did you choose to study Geospatial Engineering at University?

Back in 2006, Newcastle University offered two sister courses: Surveying and GIS. There were many overlapping modules, however I chose the data-collection and processing land surveying route, over the manipulation and representation of data delivered by GIS analysts.

It might sound cliché, but I love the outdoors, maps, navigation, cutting-edge technology; that is exactly what this career gives you. Being a Surveyor means you travel to different places, to conduct all manner of data-capture tasks, in all weathers, using high-end optical and digital technologies and platforms; no day is ever the same. Because of the pace of industry equipment suppliers, there is always something new to learn and use, maintaining a steep L&D curve.

I enjoyed geography throughout school, wasn't too bad at maths, and had a good grasp of science. 'Geospatial Engineering' is a course which unites all of these attributes under one umbrella, empowering students to embark on careers in all manner of disciplines, from financial to the armed forces. The course, to the credit of the department's academic staff, remains current to the demands and expectations of the companies who recruit geomatics graduates from Newcastle.

What do you do on a daily basis?

I recently changed jobs, leaving the Ordnance Survey, for a smaller regionally-based surveying firm. A standard day in my new role consists of a drive to 'site', followed by a recce and/or safety brief with a colleague, depending on the nature of our task.

In the morning, I might use laser-scanners to control and scan a vacant office-block, to produce exterior elevations and internal floorplans, for use by architects to design future schemes. Eating lunch on the hoof, I might spend the afternoon travelling to a second job nearby, where I could use a robotic total-station or GNSS equipment to measure or set-out features on a construction site.

As well as surveying, I must be aware of all the health and safety considerations which exist in that dynamic environment, including wearing the appropriate PPE and adhering to local safety measures. I liaise with clients and customers to ensure our deliverables meet their specifications and requirements. After a day on-site, I must download and process my data, turning the raw surveying observations into maps and plans in standard industry formats. Some days might be spent in the office, some on-site and some at industry events and seminars.

Describe a highlight of your career.

In my current role, I was part of a team tasked to conduct a full topographical survey of a motorway services. It may not sound like much, but we had to survey all surface features across the 40 acre site, using a combination of one-person robotic total-stations and GNSS SmartRovers. The fieldwork took three of us 3 weeks to complete, which was followed by significant time spent in the office 'processing' the data. Eventually, all our individual efforts combined to deliver a fully controlled and attributed 3D CAD drawing of the site. This survey was in significantly more detail than a motorway service station I had previously surveyed due to a more detailed specification from the customer and stricter tolerances.

What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

I have been in the geospatial industry for 12 years. If I was to address my younger self, I would absolutely promote this career, stressing the enjoyment of working outside, in close knit teams of capable professionals, travelling all over GB.

I would tell myself to make career development decisions on their merit, irrespective of pay, and gain as much experience in different sectors of the market as possible. I had a chance to work on the Nottingham tram system several years ago, but didn't take it; I wish I had.

I would advise my younger self to better channel my enthusiasm and youthful exuberance, supporting colleagues and introducing new ideas progressively. This job is not about speed, it's about consistent methodologies and processes which combine to generate quality and reliable deliverables. I'd tell a younger me to focus on the big picture, taking a more strategic view over my career, and less of a tactical approach to work and promotion.

Finally, I'd promise myself that 5 years of study and coursework was worth it, because becoming a Chartered Land Surveyor with a globally accredited industry body is absolutely worth it.



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