Profile - Trish Merz
How long have you been doing your current job, and what do you do?
16 months at the bank joining as a Network Planning Analyst before moving into my current role as ANZ’s Representation Planning Manager.
As the Representation Planning Manager I’m responsible for the strategic placement of our branches, ATMS and bankers - what we collectively term our “representation points”. Location is pivotal to my work as I need to understand where it makes sense to deploy our network and what form our representation points should take.
What made you want to work in the spatial sciences?
I suppose my interest in the spatial sciences stems from my upbringing in Canada where I spent most of my summers at camp, first as a camper then as a camp leader. My initial exposure to maps was as a camper during orienteering training. We were given a map and a compass and tasked with navigating our way through the bush to find hidden treasure! Leading portaging trips as a camp counselor required me to feel comfortable reading and navigating maps. I suppose I still attach this sense of adventure to maps.
When it came time for university Geography seemed like the logical choice for an undergrad. I enrolled in an Honours program at Wilfrid Laurier University and my fate was sealed after attending my first GIS course, taught by Professor Bob Sharpe. Dr. Sharpe’s passion for the spatial sciences had me hooked and led me to focus my degree in the field of Geomatics taking courses such as remote sensing, geographical research methods, spatial analysis, marketing geography and perhaps my favorite, spatial stochastic processes where we used GIS to model habitat corridors.
I enjoyed the problem solving and hands-on nature of my course work but it was largely my experience working as a Teaching Assistant that made me realize I was destined for a career in GIS. I enjoyed both the challenges and rewards that teaching brought as well as having the opportunity to pass on the knowledge that I had acquired to my students.
Knowledge however comes at a price. The more I learnt about GIS, the more I realized how much more there was to learn! After taking a couple years off for my OE I enrolled in the Advanced GIS Diploma Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. It was eight of the most grueling, challenging and eye-opening months of my life and finished with a practicum placement at an engineering firm. My lecturers warned me that a placement at a consultancy would be hard work. I’ve never looked back!
How did you first get involved in the spatial sciences?
My involvement in the spatial sciences really steams from my education path, first at university and then during my post-grad. Coming to New Zealand I furthered my experience in geospatial education, setting up and running the Southern Institute of Technology’s (SIT) first-ever community GIS course. This week long-course was free to attend and open to anyone in the community wanting to learning more about GIS. My students ranged from local council workers, to university lecturers to general hobbyists wanting a tool to help document and analyse their work. I then landed my dream job when I was selected for an internship at Eagle Technology and was given the opportunity to put all of my knowledge and experience to the test working for the Esri distributor.
You’re originally from Canada - what made you want to move to New Zealand?
My husband is a Kiwi so moving here was always on the cards – it was only a matter of when and where. We both pursued post-graduate studies in our respective home countries and then I joined him in Invercargill where he’d landed his first job out of school.
Apart from my short stint at SIT I did find it difficult to land a GIS job in Southland so decided to look further afield. I was fortunate enough to land my six-month internship with Eagle in Wellington. There was no question about moving up to the capital!
One piece of advice I’d give to anyone starting out in the field of spatial sciences is that you can’t be picky when it comes to job location. The reality is that you often have to go where the work is.
What did you study and how did it help you get to where you are now?
My Geography B.A at Wilfrid Laurier University, my GIS post-grad at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and my internship at Eagle Technology all paved the way to my current career. Dr. Sharpe’s GIS course ignited my passion for the spatial sciences and from that point forward my education decisions centered on furthering my exposure to the field. My post-grad gave me more hands-on experience and industry exposure through my practicum placement which along with my internship at Eagle, provided invaluable workforce experience. I feel it is this balance of education and industry experience which have helped me to get to where I am now.
What is the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
Very early in my career I was involved in Eagle’s supporting role to the Canterbury Earthquake response. Many long days were spent creating operational datasets and geoprocessing models used by key Christchurch organizations such as Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and Civil Defense. This project allowed me to put my skills as a geospatial professional to a very worthy and needy cause.
What do you like most about New Zealand?
The lifestyle. I have a relatively short commute to work meaning I have more time for my interests, family and friends. Wellington has so much to offer both as the arts capital of the country and as a city that caters to those who enjoy an active lifestyle. The beach and mountains are easily accessible and there are plenty of great restaurants, cafes, boutique bars and shops. With the many festivals and events that are held throughout the year there are plenty of opportunities to get out and about and experience all the city and region has to offer.
What advice would you give anyone considering a move to New Zealand?
I really do feel that New Zealand is the land of opportunity. Employers are crying out for skilled geospatial professionals and now that the ‘Other Spatial Scientist’ category has been added to Immigration New Zealand’s long term skills shortage list it’s now much easier to make the move, have a rewarding career and benefit from the great Kiwi lifestyle.
For most however, a move to New Zealand will mean sacrificing being close to family and friends back home. That said it’s certainly possible to setup a schedule of regular Skype chats and phone calls that help to make home seem that much closer. I set aside an hour or two on most Sundays to catch up with my family on Skype, and being a Facebook user certainly helps! On the flip side living in such a beautiful country gives your family and friends an excuse to come and visit! Just requires a bit of careful planning and saving.