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  • Joy Christine Nduta Kimani, JKUAT

I'm Just Getting Started!

Updated: Dec 24, 2020

As a fourth year Geomatic Engineering Student, what skills should one possess? My course is very wide with various branches in GIS, Surveying and Remote sensing which are subdivided further. My exploring spirit leads me to test everything in my course. I have been involved in various mapathons and hackathons which I enjoy very much. Since everyone has been stuck at home and meetings have been made virtual, I popped into a few GIS webinars. Employers and private companies owners were talking about skills they look for in an interview or one should possess to successfully set up a company. Yes, I had heard about the skills, but no I hadn’t really thought about doing them practically.


I got on Twitter to see what GIS professionals are up to and as I was scrolling, I saw a post about a GIS competition. “The URISA Student and Young Professional Digital Competition” it read. URISA (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) is a geospatial community that offers training sessions and advocacy for geospatial challenges and solutions. The competition was open to anyone in the world.

A GIS project, how does one even go about doing that? I knew I had to submit a project but had no idea what I was to prepare. Around that time, Teenage pregnancies had become rampant in the country. Thanks to GIS one can answer the question of where accurately or as Esri puts it, the science of where. Luckily, Women in GIS Kenya had organized a dataviz challenge to map teenage pregnancies countrywide. Any software was welcome to complete the challenge. Having previous knowledge on Tableau, I decided to settle for it. Tableau is a powerful data visualization software commonly used for Business Intelligence.


To best answer what, when, where and how questions, I decided to create a few maps highlighting this issue and one that was simple enough for a teen to understand. First, what is teenage pregnancy and some of its effects? When were the cases highest and lowest in Kenya? Secondly, where are the most cases recorded per county? And lastly, how do we ensure these girls get the help and support they require?


I did my best in my project and submitted it. After a while, I received an email notifying me that my project was selected for the final presentation. I didn’t believe it at first and I got someone to confirm it for me. The joy of your work being noticed is immeasurable. This meant so much to me. Only five participants were chosen from applications from all over the world and I was among them. As a finalist, I got a one year URISA membership. I get to interact with GIS professionals around the world and be part of interesting conversations and volunteer opportunities. There are also amazing learning materials and webinars which I have access to.


On August 25th I did a 5 minute presentation of my project before a panel of three judges including Keri Brennan, the immediate past URISA President. It was the first time I ever presented a project as an individual and I have to admit I was very weak-kneed. I was the only undergrad student amongst the five presenters. They had all done an amazing job with their projects.


I still wanted to connect with URISA members deeply including the other presenters and judges. Thanks to the power of social media, I connected with everyone I could remember on LinkedIn. To me, Xan Frederick’s profile stood out. Xan is a member of the 2020-2023 URISA Board of Directors. She is currently serving as the 2019-2021 GIS Division Director for the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) and is the President of the Florida Region of ASPRS. We had a long chat about her career in GIS as a woman and how she got where she is. URISA hosts student webinar series where students get to present their monthly projects and so Xan invited me to present my project in October. Oh, the joy that request brought to my heart!

And so on 29th October, I did an hour long presentation of my project where Xan was the moderator. You can go through my project here. The co-founder and lead strategist at Women in GIS Kenya was also present, one Yariwo Kitiyo. It was an interactive webinar where we got to discuss our views of teenage pregnancy depending on our cultural beliefs and upbringing. The audience was so active and I enjoyed every minute of it. Watch the webinar recording below:

URISA is the helping hand that I needed to elevate my skills and challenge myself. In a world full of discrimination in terms of racism and sexism, I was happy to see that URISA embraces diversity. From the employees to the 2020 finalists to Vanguard Cabinet, one is chosen based on their skills. I am even thinking about membership renewal in 2022!

I have to admit being consistent in one thing isn’t easy. There were days where I felt like shutting down my laptop and never looking at it again. Putting together a project wasn’t easy. I had to think outside the box and come up with ideas of how I would transform the raw data into something a teenager would go through and understand. In general, there are some situations where I was consistent and the rewards were great, so that kept me going. The best part is that the reward always comes as a surprise even when you know what it will be. So, do you love surprises? I urge you today to step out of your comfort zone, learn something new, and surprise yourself!


Currently, Joy Christine Nduta Kimani is a Geomatic engineering student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) where she is working to better her skills in spatial data analysis, remote sensing, surveying and mapping. She is familiar with various softwares such as ArcGIS Online, Tableau and ERDAS IMAGINE among others. Joy is also an active member of YouthMappers JKUAT chapter since 2018. She has also sharpened her skills in software development having attended a 5 month coding bootcamp recently. She’s also a finalist of the URISA Student and Young Professional Digital Competition 2020. Joy also enjoys travelling and exploring other places in the world through maps.


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