Scott Tansley - Geospatial Senior Consultant at Statistics New Zealand

Profile - Scott Tansley

Scott Tansley photo


How long have you been doing your current job, and what you do?

I joined Statistics NZ in May 2013, after 2 years of working for NorthSouth GIS NZ Ltd. As a Senior Geospatial Consultant, I contribute to Statistics NZ’s spatial enablement program. This is primarily through focused geospatial research, analysis and GIS implementations. The role requires the development of connections and clear communications between internal and external stakeholders in order to influence the strategic direction of the spatial enablement programme. A key part of this is promoting debate and drawing out suggestions from the wider organization in order to improve ideas and processes.

I also research emerging geospatial and supporting technologies in order to ensure continual improvement of Statistics NZ’s frameworks and systems. Having worked for a number of consultancies I’ve picked up on the theme of Best Practice, and it is this that I look to deliver and engender in Stats.

What made you want to work in the spatial sciences?

I chose to go to university as a mature student. After school, I had taken an accelerated management training program with a major bank in the UK. While there I decided to join the Territorial Army as a Royal Engineer. All of the various military engineering trades were displayed photographically in the TA Centre and I was drawn to the surveying section. Eventually, I decided to leave the bank and study Geography as it seemed a good way into surveying and cartography. I’d always been fascinated by maps and the great outdoors living close to the Peak National Park in the UK.

How did you first get involved in the spatial sciences?

After deciding to change the course of my career I chose to study Geography at Loughborough University. After Graduation I went to work in the Education Department of Nottingham City Council. The job was actually around Project Management and IT support for a team, but while there I was asked if I had studied GIS at university. With an answer of yes, I was told that I was on an Esri training course the following Monday!

What made you want to move to New Zealand?

While studying at Loughborough I gave serious consideration to studying for a PhD abroad and considered both Canada and New Zealand. It didn’t happen, but it was a dream that never went away.

I was looking to change jobs at one point and had a chance conversation with an ex-Esri UK colleague who had already moved to NZ, and he quickly sold me on the opportunities to work in a skills shortage area while having such amazing scenery, outdoor activities and being able to live so close to work.

We had a discussion about working as a consultant for NorthSouth GIS NZ Ltd. They offered me something that wasn’t available in the UK, so I used my Development and Business Analysis skills to substantiate my immigration application, and I was accepted by Immigration New Zealand and gained residency status (now permanent residency). I arrived in March 2011.

What did you study and how did it help you get to where you are now?

I mentioned earlier that I studied Geography at Loughborough University. After some basic ESRI Desktop training I was quickly using GIS to determine optimum locations for schools in the Nottingham City area. I took to GIS and quickly saw the potential for a career in that area. My new-found passion saw me enrol on an MSc Geographical Information Science program at Birkbeck College in London.

It was the MSc that opened doors for me initially, and during my studies I saw an opportunity to work as a Data Technician at the Coal Authority. This move made my career!

It’s important in my opinion to not just have the ‘academic’ studies to underpin your career. GIS is constantly evolving and you need to keep current in so many areas. As an example, the Coal Authority knew I had some advanced knowledge of MS Access and so I was asked to build a ‘temporary’ application to create ‘Land Information Reports’ from data in the corporate GIS. This integration opened my eyes to what GIS can do. My skills were noted and I was very fortunate to be trained in SQL Server, VBA, C#, ArcIMS, ArcSDE, ArcGIS Server and quickly started developing and implementing multiple projects. These applications were mainly at the ‘Enterprise Level’ requiring integration with other business systems.

What is the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?

I arrived in New Zealand just after the February 2011 Earthquake. NorthSouth GIS had a hosted Geospatial platform, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) needed such a platform - and we were selected to provide geographic services. On my first business trip to CERA I saw people struggling to integrate maps from various sources, including Google, Esri, Intergraph and Paper. It was almost impossible. We quickly delivered viewers with all the available data, created more data, built more viewers and generally geo-enabled the organization. This later came to form part of a ‘Spatial Data Infrastructure’ where data was shared between the various recovery parties in Canterbury. While very cool it was also an honor to be involved with such an important project.

What do you like most about New Zealand?

The outdoors! I lived in a Coronation Street type house in the UK, in a very urban area in Middle England. I could travel to areas of beauty, but it was a drive to get there. I now live on the Northern Edges of Wellington (also known as Middle Earth). From my front window I look across the Cook Strait to the South Island. I can walk for 10 minutes and be on the beach, or in some amazing coffee shops. Or if I drop down to the rear of the house there are some great footpaths that give amazing views of Inlets and Mountains. It’s an amazing place to live. If you have a hard day in the office, you walk it off with clean fresh air and amazing views. The people are great too. We have travelled to the major areas of New Zealand, and each is special and amazing. It’s a constant adventure. Our next major trip will see us go off in to the back country and explore some new and more remote places – we can’t wait.

What advice would you give anyone considering a move to New Zealand?

Pay NZ a visit first. I came over for four days and it took less than two hours before I knew I was ‘home’. Convincing the family took longer! Family and friends are a major consideration. I’ve found it hard to be away from loved ones at times, even though NZ is great it would be a lie to say I don’t feel homesick. You need to consider the time differences. For 6 months there’s an 11 hour difference, and 13 hours for the remainder. That can mean only being able to speak to some family members in the morning/evening at different times of the year – especially if you have kids.

Speak to people that have made the move, ask loads of questions. Use the FAQ pages on the Immigration NZ website, if there’s anything you’re struggling with then don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you get around to applying for the process you need to build a strong rapport with your case worker. They are human, things take time and the process can be frustrating. If you have a good level of communication and treat them as a human being then you’ll find the experience more rewarding. Finally don’t book the travel or house move until you’ve got your Visa agreed!