Emma HolgateEmma Holgate

What did you enjoy about the MSc?

I enjoyed all aspects of the MSc as everything we were taught was new and interesting. Every lecture and practical involved a new method or piece of software to explore and was always presented using a new data source, which really kept things interesting. I particularly enjoyed learning about open source GIS and data, which is largely untaught in undergraduate courses.

The course leaders online presence was also really useful in terms of identifying key people in the industry and I was inspired by this to start my own GIS blog. Getting involved in the GIS community can be really helpful for networking, inspiration and advice. As part of this course we also had the opportunity to attend the ESRI UK conference which allowed us to gain a better understanding of the industry and was also a great day out for the group. Throughout the whole course there was a strong emphasis on us gaining as much knowledge as possible about GIS whilst providing us with the skills necessary for employment.

Why did you decide to take the MSc you did?

I really enjoyed the GIS and statistics modules I took as an undergraduate and wanted to see where the skills I held in those areas could take me. The Applied GIS MSc really appealed to me because of the emphasis on applying these skills to real world issues and not just in learning the technical methods. I was also really interested in gaining new skills in software other than ArcGIS and, particularly, in open source software. Overall the course really fit with how I wanted to progress in the field and I was confident it would help me get to where I wanted to be in the future.

Why did you choose to study in Sheffield?

I undertook my BSc in Geography at The University of Sheffield after transferring from the University of East Anglia in Norwich. Moving to a new university can be a daunting experience but the staff and students were all really friendly, allowing me to fit in easily. Additional to the fantastic standard of teaching, all staff and lecturers are really enthusiastic about what they do and it really shows. Living close by to Sheffield, I was really excited to move here as the city has plenty to do but it isn't too overwhelming. There is a real community feel in Sheffield, lots of great cafes and bars, and the Peak District is right on your doorstep. I will definitely be reluctant to move away from Sheffield in the future!

Tell us a little bit about your current job.

I am currently working as a GIS Research Analyst at Midland Heart, a housing association based in Birmingham. I am part of the Research Intelligence team and assist in projects across all parts of the business including, digitising site plans, creating and maintaining an online mapping service of our properties, providing effective maps and visualisations and carrying out strategic research projects. There is also a strong emphasis on innovation in my team and so we are constantly finding new and exciting ways to present our data, which has meant I have had the opportunity to increase my skills even further.

Did your degree help with what you are doing now?

I definitely wouldn't have had the skills necessary to even consider applying for my current position had I not completed this course. This course allowed me to gain skills in GIS software which I was previously unaware of, such as QGIS, as well as developing my analytical and statistical skill set. Gaining skills in more than just proprietary GIS has undoubtedly increased my confidence when introduced to unfamiliar software such as Tableau and Cadcorp. The course also increased my confidence in understanding both how GIS can be used in real life situations and where it's limitations lie.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I hope to develop my technical skillset further and gain more experience in the housing industry in order to become a valuable member of my team.