Interview with Siddharth Pandey
Siddharth Pandey (Sid Pandey)
Senior Associate and Senior Geospatial Technology Manager
URISA Vanguard Cabinet – Chair, xyHt 22 Young Geospatial Pros to Watch in ’22, GW 50 Rising Stars 2021
Washington DC-Baltimore Area, USA
Q1. You are emerging as a pioneer of Geospatial domain. Please share your remarkable journey with us?
I found my way into the Geospatial industry through my undergraduate career at The Pennsylvania State University. I was in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and was exposed to the geography elective courses that were offered in the program, one of which was an Intro to GIS course. I absolutely loved the concept of using GIS to answer problems and the versatility of what you could do with the technology and decided to pursue that as my career.
After graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I worked part-time for the City of Gaithersburg in Maryland as a GIS Technician. My role was to help the city develop a parcel fabric and incorporate impervious services within each parcel so that they could assess a water quality fee for the residents of the city to mitigate stormwater runoff.
Roughly 1 year later, I was offered a job with Dewberry Engineers Inc. based in Fairfax, Virginia. My role there was initially focused on supporting the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with developing Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In 2016, I assisted with the response to significant flooding in Louisiana, where I supported a 24/7 operation to conduct damage assessments to help FEMA understand the impact to the residents impacted by the storm.
It was the first time I was able to see the direct impact of my work, as the damage assessments we conducted, directly supported FEMA with providing financial assistance to disaster survivors more rapidly than ever before. This is when I realized the power of GIS and geospatial technology.
Shortly after that event, I joined Dewberry’s Geospatial and Technology Services Group where I currently serve as a Senior Associate and Senior Geospatial Technology Manager. I support a variety of our services, including emergency management, asset management, cartographic production, and traditional GIS services.
In addition to this, I serve as Dewberry’s ArcGIS Online administrator and support our company with the use of GIS technology, and also lead the geospatial community of practice where we discuss and share the various uses of gis technology across the firm.
Outside of work, I also volunteer with multiple organizations in the geospatial industry, including the Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC) and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) where I support multiple committees and activities primarily around growing the industry and supporting young professionals as they progress through their careers.
Within URISA, I was recently selected to serve a 3 year term as a member of URISA’s Vanguard Cabinet, which is an advisory board made up of passionate, young geospatial professionals who strive to engage young practitioners, increase their numbers in the organization, and better understand the concerns facing these future leaders of the geospatial community. I am the chair of the cabinet this year and help our team with executing our mission of supporting young and emerging geospatial professionals across the globe.
In 2018, I was recognized in xyHt Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list of Remarkable Geospatial Professionals, and by Geospatial World as a Top 50 Rising Star in the Geospatial Industry for 2021. In January of 2022, I was also recognized by xyHt Magazine as one of their 22 Young Geospatial Pros to Watch in 2022 and in October of 2022.
I have been recognized by Esri’s AEC sector as an AEC Hero. At the 60th annual URISA GIS Pro Conference in October 2022, I was selected as one of URISA’s Young Professionals of the Year for my service as a member of the Vanguard Cabinet.
Q2. How GIS is helpful as a Business Solution for world?
GIS is and will continue to be a critical tool in business across the globe. While many may not realize it, spatial data is critical to maintaining many of the essential services we require daily. We saw an explosion awareness of – and use of geospatial technology during the early days of COVID when everyone was monitoring the John’s Hopkins COVID dashboard and many other similar dashboards and viewers that were also developed.
We saw governments across the globe tracking PPE shipments, food, fuel, and many other goods as the supply chain was impacted and thus having geospatial data and tools became critical to enabling that kind of situational awareness and data-driven decision-making.
Understanding demographics, trends, patters and other indicators in spatial data is critical for many businesses and as others continue to get exposed to the possibilities and the benefits of leveraging this technology, it’s only going to continue to grow in in adoption and use. Whether you are in business, an elected government official, an emergency responder, or just a regular citizen, it is clear that having an understanding of how geospatial applications, data, and tools can be used is an extremely valuable skill.
Q3. Please give your comments on the open source geospatial technology and its future?
While I do not currently use a lot of open source technology, I do believe that there is a growing movement in the geospatial industry to use open source technology and data, which is great to see! The geospatial community is growing but at the same time I still feel it is a very supporting community and one where most are willing to share. Open source geospatial technology is only going to grow within this space.
Q4. How do you see the latest technologies like AI, ML and Data Science in Geospatial Domain?
I see AI/ML/Data Science as critical technologies that are part of the geospatial domain. The use cases for AI/ML/Data science are growing tremendously and the combination of spatial vector data and raster datasets that can be used to train models, detect features or conduct an operation and then be reviewed and corrected by data scientists and geospatial professionals to then train and improve the model results is going to be a model that many in the geospatial domain will be leveraging in the near future.
As our data gets larger and larger and the need for tools and applications with real time insights and the ability to make quick and informed decisions is only going to grow and this will be supported by AI/ML. This technology is going to revolutionize how the industry operates in the very near future as we will be able to focus less on preparing data over time and focus more on making decisions with it.
Q5. How do you see the geospatial technology to support towards mitigating the climate change scenarios?
Geospatial technology is- and will continue to be a huge support in the effort to manage and reduce climate change. I believe that the kind of change we need in the world to reduce our carbon emissions and other practices that harm our environment, will require the use of geospatial technology to provide spatial context so people understand where the impacts are most likely to be felt and how significant they will be.
Visualizing where the impact is going to be felt and the magnitude of the possible issues so that people can understand how they will be impacted is the fastest way to start to lead change.
Q6. What did attract you towards Geospatial/GIS/Remote Sensing Domain?
When I was first exposed to this industry in college, I was blown away by the versatility of the technology and data and the variety of ways in which they could be used to answer interesting questions. As students we were taught about the variety of industries that were using this technology and the important challenges, they were working to solve with it.
The idea that I could support everything from disaster response and national security, to farming, energy, and healthcare was extremely motivating and inspiring. I have supported numerous emergency response efforts and have seen firsthand how this technology and our expertise as geospatial and remote sensing professionals can be used to save lives and help people recover from difficult situations, so the ability to support efforts like that is extremely motivating for me.
I always tell people that if you are in this industry and you are bored, you’re doing something wrong. There are so many ways to apply this technology and data that there is always something interesting to work on.
Q7. How do you see the scope of GIS, Remote Sensing and Geospatial Domain in upcoming years for students as a career?
I see the scope of GIS, Remote Sensing and the Geospatial Domain as a whole growing significantly in the very near future for students. I have already seen that the use of GIS has expanded beyond the traditional geography/GIS programs. I am noticing engineers, environmental scientists, and students from multiple other disciplines are also learning GIS as a tool that can be applied in their fields, which is an incredible trend to see.
I believe we are going to continue to see significant growth in the use and adoption of geospatial technology over the years and that we will see a lot of new applications of it that we haven’t seen before, which will also create new and exciting educational and career opportunities for students!
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