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Starting a New GIS Job?

Things You Should Know About Your New GIS Department

Ally Fumo
3 min readFeb 16, 2023


You made it.

After a long and difficult journey of searching, applying and interviewing, you got the job. Congratulations!

Whether you’re straight out of college or have been in the workforce for a while, there’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with a new job. A new set of responsibilities, new people, and, maybe, even a new town.

Since no two organizations are alike, being cognizant of how your new organization does things matters. Knowing what you’re walking into can help relieve some of the jitters of transitioning into a new role and an unfamiliar landscape.

Set up a one-on-one meeting with your new manager. Show up to your meeting prepared with these questions:

Software and Extensions

What GIS software, and version, does your organization use? Does it use ESRI, open source, or custom-made software?

Do you have the right tools to do your job efficiently? Having the right tools makes a big difference in your productivity, regardless of the field you work in.

Right tools mean more than just a computer, a desk and a working telephone. They include software, extensions, and access to relevant folders. Not having the right access/permission to relevant folders is one of the biggest sources of frustration in the early days of any new job.

Having the right tools will not only fully utilize your capabilities, but also help your new organization’s business goals and financial targets.

You should also find out all the extensions that will be available to you. Familiarize yourself with these programs, especially ones that are new to you.

Spatial Data Storage

How is spatial data stored and shared?

Data is an asset. Businesses use data to make better-informed decisions on their day-to-day processes. How the data is gathered, managed and shared varies from one organization to another.

GIS departments are keepers of spatial data. They manage and distribute the data to users to help organizations reach their economic goals.

They may have different storage methods for static data, used for references and rarely change, (like roads, parcel boundaries and aerial imagery). Dynamic data, that changes frequently, (like active wells). And different storage methods for project-specific data (like study areas).

Data storage methods choices influence data transfer speed. Slow-loading maps when panning around is one of the biggest sources of frustration for GIS users.

The format in which your GIS department stores data will directly affect how you interact with, update and share the data.

Templates and Guides/Restrictions on Cartographic Products

What restrictions/guides are in place for cartographic products? Does the organization use any templates?

GIS goes beyond map making. Producing data visualization is, however, the most common request most GIS departments receive. As a GIS person, you will get many requests to make maps, either for people inside your organization or for external clients.

Get to know your organization’s guides and restrictions for cartographic products.

Many organizations use templates and set rules regarding design, symbology, typeface and other map elements. It helps them be both consistent and makes maps more persuasive and interesting.

Some organizations require disclaimers on all maps produced for outside clients.

Your Primary Customer

Who is your primary customer (both internal and external)?

GIS departments provide spatial data support for customers both internal and external. From routine maps and exhibits, spatial features creation and maintenance, to integrating departmental and specialized databases for special maps, analyses and reports.

Depending on the size of your organization, your GIS department likely addresses the spatial data needs of many departments. For example, a large oil and gas company may have a GIS group that ensures data integrity. This group works with the regulatory and compliance department. Another group works with the commercial department to figure out potential routes for new connections. Some GIS people work with the IT department developing mapping applications.

Know who your primary customers are and develop positive working relationships. These are people you’ll probably be working with regularly.

Knowing your primary customers will help you manage competing priorities. You don’t want to be a victim of end-of-project requests that were needed yesterday.


Remember, they hired you for reasons more than what you wrote in your resume. You impressed.

Arm yourself with this knowledge and show that you’re a good fit.

You got this!



Ally Fumo

Former GIS Analyst in Oil and Gas industry turned Copywriter.