GIS opens the doors to many new fields for me beyond surveying

Interview with Nicole Nikolova, GIS and Database Intern at Esri Bulgaria

How can you turn the mathematics you love into a profession that is not monotonous and inspires you for life?

Nicole Nikolova, a 4th year Geodesy student at the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy and an intern at Esri Bulgaria, thinks she has already found the answer. Find out more in our interview with her.


Where did your interest in surveying come from?

I really liked math in high school, and I was looking for a field of study for graduate school where I could use math in some applied setting. And at the same time, I wanted it to be something challenging and interesting, to go into a profession that would combine a variety of activities. Most traditional fields in mathematics involve more static, routine work where you do the same thing every day. And I wanted to try different things.

I chose surveying because it combines field work, office work, design work, technical work…. I didn’t even have a clue at the time what exactly it was like to be a surveyor, I didn’t have any friends in the field, nor had I heard anyone’s opinion about it. I was shooting a little blind. But it turned out that I had a good aim and I really liked this specialty.

Was university your first encounter with GIS?

At the beginning of my second year, we started studying the subjects related to GIS and geoinformatics. Before that, I hadn’t even heard of them. Now I know that there is a GIS School programme developed by ESRI Bulgaria, the Ministry of Education and Science and Sofia University, but I didn’t catch it at the time.

Alongside surveying at UASG we study GIS quite thoroughly – in terms of how to visualise all the data we collect. We even have two departments that are dedicated to GIS. One is specialized in the cartographic area and the visual representation of all spatial data, and the other department is more concerned with the technical part, database management, GIS processes and analytics, etc. And along with the fact that we use GIS for surveying purposes, cadastre, etc., I’ve really become familiar with all the other capabilities of this technology.

And those possibilities are actually endless, as a professor from our university says “As long as you have GIS and imagination, you can create anything”. The applications of GIS tools are endless and depend only on the imagination of the person working with them. Everything can be mapped, represented, additional information can be extracted about it…

GIS is a tool that presents, analyzes, acquires new information, shows trends, etc. And it is very interesting for me to be part of that.

Why did you go for an internship at Esri Bulgaria?

GIS seriously caught my attention at university and I wanted to see in a professional environment how things actually happen in this field in our country. I believe that there is no better place than Esri Bulgaria to develop with GIS. Esri is the leading GIS company globally, preferred worldwide.

What do you do as an intern with us? Tell me a bit more about your day …

My working days are not very similar to each other, because I am dealing with different tasks, different projects. My mentor tries to bring variety to what I do. She is very easy to work with, she never refuses me help, attention, assistance.

For example, on one of the projects, I was doing the georeferencing, the processing of all the raster data to be used, with others of the interns. At the moment I am working on a very big project and together with other colleagues we are figuring out some quantity accounts, the system itself should automatically do the quantity accounts and the BOMs of the conceptual projects to be executed. Together with my mentor we have been doing mapping ideas for the GIS in Schools program. I am also getting to know the different ArcGIS products.

What are your impressions of ArcGIS?

Specifically, I’ve been looking at ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Online and doing a parallel comparison with other GIS software I’ve worked with so far. I would say ArcGIS is much easier and enjoyable to work with. It’s much more intuitive and user-oriented, the interface is more accessible, and it allows for easier creation of visualizations and tools. In the environment I worked in at university, most things were plug-ins. You have to dig around, look for a plug-in, install it, see how it works, how the particular engineer wrote it…

In ArcGIS, everything is in one place, organized, easily accessible, and even someone who hasn’t studied GIS can quite easily navigate and set up basic stuff.

Did you find the internship useful, did you learn new things?

Useful for me, yes, because I got to know the whole ArcGIS platform and the software it offers. It’s also useful for me because of the contacts and good acquaintances with my colleagues. It is useful for me because I have encountered real projects in the GIS field. I understood how things happen in practice.

The work ethic has also given me a useful example here. Things are pretty well constructed and organized, everyone knows their duties.

And I think the internship was a very good decision on my part. I had no idea that such a large team of people was involved in the production of a final product. I didn’t know how much goes on behind what the user uses and sees every day. I feel comfortable here and I am glad to be a part of this internship program.

Do you think it’s promising or interesting for you to pursue GIS professionally?

Both. It’s a very dynamic environment, GIS is constantly evolving, closely tied to new technologies. Accordingly, they are always relevant and find application to solve the problems of the day. I am convinced that GIS will not disappear soon from the professional fields, it is simply not possible without it, on the contrary, the trend is for more and more businesses and companies to choose this technology as an aid to their activities.

Apart from that, I find it interesting and I think it is both close to my surveying and opens doors to many new fields because a lot of other things are covered with GIS, not only surveying. I plan to start a course related to programming so I can get a little bit more into that part as well – the informatics part, not just the geo part of GIS.

What is your message to those who are just getting into GIS?

To try, especially to try! When one is wondering whether to go into something professionally, the best thing to do is to apply for an internship, immerse yourself in the relevant work environment and find out if this is the place for you.