Finding direction and knowing which way to go is always important when people are starting their careers or entering a new field. This also rings true in the geospatial industry, and two of the most important and common ways to do this are by being mentored and volunteering.
In the August episode of the Geospatially Africa Podcast, titled Mentoring and Volunteering in the Geospatial Industry, Opeyemi Kazeem-Jimoh spoke to Sharon Omoja, a regional ambassador for Women in Geospatial+ about her personal experience in volunteering and mentoring women in the geospatial industry.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring focuses on the future and developing larger abilities for personal or professional development.
A mentor in one way or another influences the professional growth of the mentee. They offer professional guidance and constructive criticism which are the objective insights a beginner/mentee needs to build relevant skills and truly grow in the profession.
Having a mentor can also grant the mentee the relevant insights into how to guide their career progression to achieve their professional goals, and where they need to focus more on to achieve their aims.
As Sharon has reiterated though, no one is too old or too advanced to have a mentor.
Importance of Mentoring
Mentoring is about relationships and support and it plays an important role in bringing up the next generation of career professionals. Mentoring in fact can help entry level GIS professionals or those seeking to do a career shift into the geospatial industry, given that the mentors are usually those with substantial experience in the field who can figuratively hold your hand and show you the path.
However, the mentee still must play a greater role in the outcome of the mentoring. In the podcast, some of the things the guest advised were to “never stop learning”, given the nature of the geospatial industry – which is always changing as innovations set in – so it is important to be up to date with the trends.
This podcast episode also explores possible reasons for the Imposter syndrome especially amongst women in the geospatial industry. It has become an increasing trend identified amongst women making waves, especially in the STEM sectors.
As a long term mentor to women in geospatial, this episode’s guest sheds more light on what she has observed in this regard over the years. She however hinted that mentors also serve to motivate their mentees and instill in them the necessary attitudes like having the “growth mindset”, which could help them overcome Imposter Syndrome.
The internet has made it possible to meet people who are on the same career path as you who can become your mentor. A previous article on this website list networking opportunity for women.
Women in Geospatial+ (WiG+) is a professional network to promote gender equality in the geospatial industry & academia and in October 2019, they launched a career mentorship programme to bring people together who want to grow and develop professional skills for a geospatial career. The first cohort consisted of 42 participants from 17 countries in 16 peer mentorship groups or mentor and mentee pairs, and this has been running since.
According to the WiG+ website, the Programme offers two types of mentorship: “one-to-one mentoring and group-based peer mentorship. Group mentoring is organized by a group facilitator; this person is a peer mentor with additional responsibilities for organizing the group (e.g. by arranging meetings). Programme participants are selected based on their level of interest and commitment, as demonstrated through their application. The mentors and mentees are matched based on areas of expertise, the skills and knowledge they wish to develop, and other practical considerations, such as grouping people in similar time zones to facilitate communication.”
On the podcast, Sharon talks about her role and the benefits of taking the mentoring journey.
As of the time of writing, the application for the 3rd cohort is open and is set to close by 19 September, also there is no cost to apply or participate in the Programme.
While the WIG+ Mentoring program is targeted mainly at women and other underrepresented gender groups (cis men can however serve as mentors), there exist other mentoring that do not have this limitation. A few of the awesome ones available are the Africa Geoportal Mentorship Program and URISA Mentoring Network.
Do well to gain a mentor or two in your professional journey, and when you feel up to it, pay it forward by serving as a mentor to others!
About the Author
Opeyemi Kazeem-Jimoh is a Geospatial Data Analyst and Cartographer with interests in Disaster Risk Reduction through Geohazard mapping and promoting sustainable futures. She contributes actively to causes that champion this, and also co-hosts the Geospatially Africa Podcast, a podcast to showcase geospatial talent across Africa and beyond.