The MS program is proud to highlight our 2019 MS GIS graduate, Siddharth Pandey as our Alumni Spotlight student this fall. Siddharth is currently employed with Dewberry Engineers as a Senior Geospatial Technology Manager and was recently selected as one of Geospatial World magazine's 50 Rising Stars of 2021.
Name: Siddharth “Sid” Pandey
Year of graduation: 2019
Current employment status: Employed Full time
- Employer: Dewberry Engineers Inc.
- Position: Senior Associate | Senior Geospatial Technology Manager
What is a recent project that you have worked on that you have drawn on skills from the MS program?
- I have been very fortunate in that all the courses I took in the program lined up very well with the work I was doing at the time. I have been able to leverage the skills I gained through the MS program in every project I have worked in and in various ways. Most recently, I completed a project with NOAA (blog coming out soon) where we helped NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management explore how they could incorporate the next generation of web-based data visualization and dissemination products into its suite of offerings. They wanted us to explore the out-of-the-box capabilities within Esri’s suite of software and tools to develop immersive and engaging experiences for their stakeholders to analyze and interact with their data. This project required a mix of experience with analyzing and manipulating data, so that we could find the best way to visualize it in an Esri application including ArcGIS Hub, Experience Builder, Story Maps and the Web App Builder, as well as the ability to develop prototypes of each application. Through the MS GIS program and courses like Web GIS, GIS and Spatial Modelling, as well as the Project Management elective course I had taken, I was able to bring quite a bit of experience to support the team throughout the project.
How have the skills you have learned in the MS program helped you progress in your career?
- The project-based approach that each course took was extremely helpful to me as I was pushed to find real applications to apply the knowledge we were gaining. Thankfully, each course I was taking lined up very well with the projects I was working on at work, so each end of course project I developed was related to something I was doing at work. This was especially helpful for my progression because I was able to find unique ways to support and add value to the projects I working on at Dewberry, and also developed a great portfolio of work that I could showcase to my colleagues and supervisors. Being able to show what I learned in class so quickly in the workplace, was extremely helpful in my progression as a geospatial professional.
What drew you to the MS GIS program at Maryland?
- The reputation of the program was one of the main things, I had multiple colleagues who had gone through the program who spoke very highly of it. I was also drawn to the hybrid nature of the program. Being that I work in Virginia, having the option to travel to campus when possible and attend the rest of the classes virtually was a huge bonus – nobody likes to sit in 495 traffic! I think all the professors and instructors did a great job making sure both the in-person and virtual students were equally engaged. I was also at a point in my career where I felt that I wanted to learn more about project management, and this program was one of the few that had a GIS Project Management course, which happen to be taught by a colleague of mine, Rob Pitts, from New Light Technologies. Finally, I am a huge believer in the power and value of having a portfolio, and the fact that this program focused so much on projects so that each student would leave the program with a solid portfolio of work was a big draw for me.
What advice can you give current and prospective students about the MS program?
- Keep your sights set on your goals and find every way to use the knowledge gained through this program to help get you there, don’t just focus on the “now”. If you are (or plan to be) working while in the program, think about what you would like to see yourself doing within your organization in addition to what would be helpful to you right now. Are there projects you would want to work on, or clients and organizations you would want to work with? Try to identify what kinds of skills are necessary and identify which courses will help you develop them.
- If you plan to do the program full time and will be looking for a job upon graduation, start identify what those positions look like and what skills are needed to land that job.
- Start building out your portfolio and keep it up to date. I’ve seen so many great and unique examples of GIS portfolios from the traditional printed examples of your work, to the interactive ones in Story Maps.
- Use that portfolio to boost your presence in the industry as well, you can link them to your LinkedIn profile or other social media so that others can easily access and see examples of your work.
What recommendations would you make to current students for career and academic success after graduation?
- Generally, when you all graduate, you will either already have a job, or will be searching for one. Once you do find yourself in the working world, don’t forget to stay involved in the MS GIS program, offer your support to the students coming up behind you. Some of the most rewarding work I get to do is helping current students chart their path by offering advice, reviewing resumes, speaking to classes and just being generally supportive. There are a lot of people who will be able to learn from your journey, so don’t forget to share your story with the next generation of GIS leaders!
- Also, don’t forget to stay involved in the industry through professional organizations like the Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC), the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) just to name a few. Offer your time to support their events, network with other professionals, take part in their conferences and learn about what others in the field are doing, you never know when you might find your next opportunity, or inspiration for something you are working on. And I can say that the geospatial community is extremely supportive, especially when you’re just starting out, so don’t hesitate to jump in and get involved!
- Finally, don’t confine yourself to just being with your fellow GeoGeeks 😊. The beauty of our industry is that there seems to be limitless potential for how geospatial technology is being used, from helping to combat climate change, responding to natural disasters, to figuring out where to build something. Take every opportunity to talk to your other non-geospatial colleagues, figure out what their needs are, learn about the challenges they face, and don’t be afraid to suggest a way that GIS could be used to help them. I have been able to create multiple opportunities for myself and my colleagues just by talking to others and showcasing the possibilities on how using geospatial tools could help. It certainly ensures you never get bored!
What are some of your hobbies/interests?
- In my free time, I love to be outside, either hiking and kayaking, or playing sports like soccer. I’m also a martial artist (a few years out of practice) but hoping to get back into it again, I am a 4th degree black belt in Taekwondo and would love to get back to training again.
- I’ve also played a lot of TopGolf in the last year or so. I don’t think my swing has improved at all though 😊
- I also really enjoy mentorship and supporting other young geospatial professionals, so I am a member of URISA’s Vanguard Cabinet and a member of MSGIC’s Emerging Professionals sub-committee. I spend a lot of my time mentoring, and planning events and activities to help emerging geospatial professionals be successful in this industry. Please feel free to reach out to me if you want to learn more and get involved!
Anything else you'd like to add?
- Don’t ever let your age, years of experience, position/title, or anything else hold you back from pursuing the things that interest you and from advancing your career. Take every opportunity; don’t be afraid to speak up, voice your opinion, share your thoughts; stretch and challenge yourself as much as you can, even if you think you aren’t fully ready – chances are, you probably are ready and will do great!
Thanks Siddarth for that excellent advise and input. We wish you the very best for the future and congratulations on your recent accomplishments!