I never dreamed I would end up in the GIS or geospatial industry. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was such a thing growing up, or that I would even have the chance to do it, or that I could do it. Girls at my school were encouraged to become teachers or doctors … a lawyer or even a chemist if you were really brave.
Whenever a girl wanted to ask a question, I remember that my physics teacher used to say that this was evidence that girls didn’t belong in physics class. So, what did I do? I resigned. Science was not for me. Not an option. No interest.
Many years later, due to a coincidence, I started a job as a freelancer in marketing at a company that runs a platform for satellite data, software and applications. Within a few weeks, I was writing product descriptions and the topic grabbed me more and more. Five months later, I started a full-time position and canceled all of my other projects. I found it absolutely fascinating how geospatial information plays such a role in all of our daily lives and what great potential it has. It is such a diverse field, and in almost every industry there are applications based on geospatial information.
Suddenly, I was dealing with topics like 5G network roll out and how this requires highly accurate elevation models to plan the exact coverage and placement of masts and antennas. Another day, I am dealing with an application to help farmers in Africa grow cocoa more sustainably and effectively and monitor their harvests. I co-wrote a successful project proposal to the European Space Agency and later also managed the marketing part of the project. Discovering my passion for networking and explaining complex products, I went to trade fairs and events and spoke in webinars. This experience sparked my interest in sales so I could share my enthusiasm for satellite data in various projects to the outside world.
Since the beginning of 2020, I have been working at European Space Imaging as a sales manager, selling VHR satellite imagery. The most exciting part of my job is to be in contact every day with people who use our imagery and data for different purposes and to be close to the market trends and new applications based on geospatial data before they even enter the market. Last year, I gave a webinar on vector maps from VHR satellite data and a presentation on imagery for autonomous driving.
It all sounds great, and it is, but there were always moments when I felt like I had to fight to be taken seriously. For four years, I have been working in the geospatial industry without relevant studies and without having planned it. But I was lucky that my manager was a woman, a woman who had worked and built up a lot in the industry and who didn’t have to motivate and encourage you with words. She created such an atmosphere just by being there.
You always think it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. But the reality is that we need other women to look up to, achievements to take as a guidance. Only then can something become normal. The reason why in some professions we don’t even think that we have the option to take up this profession is because in our world view, in our everyday life, we hardly see any women there and this shapes us from an early age.
I’ve been to a lot of events and conferences over the years. One thing I could always be sure of was that I would be one of the few women in attendance. People were more likely to remember me because of this, which has its advantages. But when the astonished looks come, and you step on a stage with all eyes on you, you feel as if you have to work harder to prove your place. Then come the comments. Oh, you are the speaker for this presentation? I would never have thought. As if one had to justify one’s mere presence and place special emphasis on revealing one’s knowledge aloud to ensure that one is perceived as a thoroughly qualified conference participant.
Women think that in order to hold their own they have to appear the same as men, but that’s wrong. We make up over half of the world’s population. We use the same technology. We go through the same training. It is absolutely legitimate to bring a female perspective and a female wind into technology industries as well.
We are long overdue to have more women in the GIS industry who are brave enough to bring in their perspective. Make no mistake. It takes courage, courage to go into an industry where not so many women are represented.
It’s about not being afraid to feel out of place. There is a place for every one of us in this industry. We just have to claim it.
I absolutely love it, when I do spot another young woman at an event, and I think that visual representation is important to make a difference. However, I also think the inner attitude plays a big role. If we always feel out of place, then we radiate that to the outside world. The moment you realize that the others also only boil with water — and your opinion and experience is just as valuable and just as competent, regardless of age, gender or studies — the moment you have found your place. I have found mine.
This article was originally published in the March 2021 issue of POB Magazine.