Career Profiles: Claire FitzGerald

Questions about your career and it’s development

  1.  What is your name
    Claire FitzGerald
  2. Where do you work and what is your role/job title?
    I am the Founding Director of Mapsphere Ltd., an Earth Observation & Geospatial Consultancy
  1. What were the main ‘career decision’ milestones in your life so far?
    Leaving Ireland to gain valuable international work experience, and then deciding to return to Ireland to use this experience to set up my own company.
  1. Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
    I’ve been very lucky to work with many inspirational people in previous roles in commercial and NGO sectors. And then of course there’s my Dad, who introduced me to maps & navigation when I was old enough to sit in the front seat of a car.
  1. Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
    Absolutely – working for yourself is hard but very rewarding work, and while it’s great to have flexibility on your working hours you have to keep yourself in check and try not to work 24/7!


Questions about your current Job

  1. How did you go about getting your current job?
    I set up my own company.
  1. Describe a typical day?
    It varies a lot, but almost every day starts with checking emails & the diary for what meetings are scheduled, possibly travel around the country for meetings/presentations, phone calls etc. As a consultant I spend a lot of time on communications and reporting.
  2. What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
    I provide professional support to existing and new users of remotely sensed data with a particular focus on Earth Observation applications and downstream services – basically I help people use Space Based Data to solve problems. In the Big Data landscape of Earth Observation data strategic planning of how we as a country can best capitalise on this is the area I’m currently focussed on.
  1. What are the main challenges?
    Lack of knowledge and/or awareness of Earth Observation, and explaining the potential of Earth Observation in a meaningful way to a wide range of people.
  1. What’s cool?
    The space sector is a thriving international business and offers exposure to some of the most advanced technology on the planet – and some of the images that are captured from space are mesmerizingly beautiful.
  1. What’s not so cool?
    Administration – the least fun part of any project is preparing documentation.
  1. What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
    International space sector knowledge and experience through time spent working in the UK and USA.


Questions about education and training

  1. What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
    Honours Maths, Physics and Geography were among the subjects I studied for my Leaving Certificate and have provided a great base for my BSc. and MSc degrees, while digital cartography and infographics have benefited to some extent from my Art studies.
  1. What is your education to date?
    After 4 years studying Oceanography, Maths, Statistics, Geology and the biological subjects of Marine Science, I received my BSc Hons. Marine Science from NUI Galway, which I followed with a MSc in Geographic Information Systems & Remote Sensing from NUI Maynooth.
  1. What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
    Presenting scientific information in an easy to understand format and relating subject matter to the audiences involved.
  1. Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
    I have completed training courses for various spatial software and computer programming languages.  There is always potential to upskill and I would envisage that in the future I would undertake further training.


Questions about yourself

  1. What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
    Working on large international projects with societal and environmental benefits – from conservation work with the United Nations Environment Programme to disaster response coordination with the International Charter Space and Major Disasters.
  1. What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
    Ambition, focus, and enthusiasm.
  1. What is your dream job?
    To oversee the successful uptake of Earth Observation data by Ireland where it is as well-known and relied upon as the weather forecast.


Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice

  1. What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
    Working in STEM requires solid knowledge of computer based technology – if you have an aptitude for this and are genuinely excited and enthusiastic about learning and pushing technical limits and finding solutions then this is a great career option. In the advent of Big Data more and more people with the curiosity and skills to work with and extract meaningful information from these enormous datasets are needed, meaning there are a lot of employment opportunities in this area.
  1. What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
    Organisation, communication and problem solving skills.
  1. What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
    Data analytics – in GIS and Remote Sensing preferably but scientific research of any kind would be very beneficial. Complementary to analytical skills project management experience is very valuable.