I don’t think my enthusiasm is likely to fade any time soon

Older map of Sheffield
Matt Tapley
Social Researcher at the Department for Work and Pensions
Applied Geographical Information Systems (GIS) MSc
A former Geography graduate, Matt studied his masters to hone his skills in GIS, an area he currently works in.

What did you enjoy about the MSc?

One of my favourite things about the MSc was its focus on the use of GIS and spatial analysis tools to turn data into meaningful information.

The course had a great balance of the technical and practical sides of GIS meaning that I was able to explore the theory behind spatial analysis techniques whilst also being able to appreciate their potential application in a range of real-world situations.

For example, it was really rewarding to learn about Network Analysis in our Advanced GIS methods workshops and then go on to apply the technique to the modelling of school catchment areas as part of my dissertation.

The fact that so much of the course content was very current made the course really exciting for me.

Techniques such as flow mapping using open source software and data were genuinely cutting edge and Dr Rae’s engagement with the GIS community through blogging and Twitter really opened my eyes to how innovation in the GIS world is shared amongst fellow academics, consultants and enthusiasts.

I really enjoyed being able to post my own work online to encourage discussion and receive useful criticism.

The IT facilities at Sheffield were also superior to those of any of the other courses i considered. The provision of a dedicated GIS lab in the department with a double-screen desktop setup for each course member was a definite attraction.

Matt Tapley

Applied Geographical Information Systems (GIS) MSc graduate

Why did you decide to take the MSc you did?

I’d always found maps fascinating whilst growing up and through studying Geography at undergraduate level, this fascination developed into an understanding of their power and an appreciation of the importance of spatial analysis in a range of contemporary research and business contexts.

I found myself really engaged in GIS lectures and workshops at undergraduate level and this was certainly a factor in choosing to study GIS further. When choosing the specific course, I found the emphasis on “real life” application very appealing. If i was going to pay to study a Masters course, I really wanted a definite end product from it.

The focus of the MSc on the specific ways spatial analysis can be used in work settings such as the planning industry, insurance and public sector certainly suggested it was geared towards employment prospects.

Furthermore, the inclusion of the “Professional GIS Project” module in the course was highly attractive due to the vital work-style project experience it would offer.

Why did you choose to study in Sheffield?

Sheffield was an obvious choice for me. I studied my undergraduate degree in Sheffield and fell in love with the city and university. 

On top of this, I was aware of the excellent reputation of both the Geography and USP departments and had actually come in to contact with some of Dr Rae’s and Dr Whitworth’s work in previous study.

The IT facilities at Sheffield were also superior to those of any of the other courses i considered. The provision of a dedicated GIS lab in the department with a double-screen desktop setup for each course member was a definite attraction.

Tell us a little bit about your current job.

Whilst completing the MSc I secured a place on the analytical section of the Civil Service Fast Stream, the national graduate scheme for civil servants.

I am currently in my third week working as a Social Researcher at the Department for Work and Pensions in Sheffield. The projects I am involved with are largely concerned with the evaluation of labour market interventions being carried out in Job Centres across the country.

So far this has included contributing to in-house quantitative research and overseeing the external commissioning of large surveys.

Did your degree help you with what you are doing now?

Having a Masters degree was definitely looked upon favourably during the application process for my job.

A large proportion of civil service analysts employed through the fast stream have postgraduate qualifications. In terms of the specific skills I learnt from the MSc, the most applicable to my current role probably relate to data handling and project management.

Working on the professional GIS project, advising on future greenbelt land review for an external planning consultancy, was excellent preparation for some of the time and people management responsibilities I have in my work now.

What are your ambitions for the future?

For now, I am enjoying the challenge of settling into Civil Service life and getting stuck into the range of analytical project work that presents itself.

Through the support of the graduate scheme, I am aiming to progress into more senior positions in my department over the next few years.

Having spoken to a range of colleagues, there is a definite appetite for some research in the department to take on a more spatial conscience. Hopefully I can be a part of this potentially exciting new direction. 

Aside from my current job, I am enjoying using many of my applied GIS skills in my spare time: I recently produced a stylised Fresher’s map of Sheffield for my sister who has just started at the university.

Staying up to date with what’s going on in the GIS community has become habitual for me now and I don’t think my enthusiasm for building upon the skills learnt during the MSc is likely to fade any time soon.

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