Once you stop learning, you start dying
“Once you stop learning, you start dying”
– Albert Einstein
The above can be closely related to where we are currently as a profession. With technologies such as machine learning and AI creeping into our workplace, if we don’t keep on investing into our learning we will quickly find ourselves out of jobs.
In May I was given the opportunity to attend the FIG Working Week in Helsinki, Finland. FIG is the International Federation of Surveyors and every year they hold a week-long conference known as the Working Week. The Working Weeks follow a general theme, but all 10 commissions within FIG are represented during technical sessions, workshops and commission dinners. I presented at the FIG Young Surveyors European Meeting about the changing face of the surveying profession, and through attending plenary and technical sessions, I had the privilege to hear from world leaders from the likes of Google, Bentley Systems, and many of the world’s top surveying and spatial universities. The experience left me with great personal and professional satisfactions.
Being geographically isolated from many of the world’s technological and business centres, I think it can be easy to become complacent about global trends, new technologies and different ways of thinking. With recent advancements and the rise of social media we are exposed to random blasts of articles and videos but rarely do these promote discussion and proper involvement. Since entering the profession I have been fortunate enough to attend several different professional development events locally, nationally and internationally. It is widely accepted that the young people of our profession are the way forward. I think it is equally accepted is that to progress our profession and the businesses within it, we need our young people to be well rounded and up to date with the latest ideas, technologies and methods.
Below I have given a few of my opinions and experiences on the massive positives that come from attending such events, with a focus on young professionals’ involvement.
Sharing our Experiences and Learnings
The obvious experience during a conference is attending our peer’s presentations on their recent work or research. With many of today’s events featuring multiple short, information-packed presentations within each session, it is easy to take in a wide variety of ideas on one general topic. During all of the events I have attended, the presentations have acted as a segway into deeper conversations on the topics discussed. They allow you to become familiar with experts on topics, and I have always found that I get immense benefit from follow-up discussions with presenters. I have never met anyone at a conference who is not generous with his or her time or knowledge. Lessons learnt can then be brought back and shared with our peers and our company, expanding to the wider profession.
This is a two-way street, and young professionals should be pushed to present at events. It serves multiple purposes, including improving their public speaking skills, finding clear ways to best communicate their ideas or findings, and it raises their profile, and the profile of the company they represent amongst our profession. Personally, I have never been a particularly strong public speaker. Through speaking at events such as FIG Working Week, and presenting on behalf of the NZIS Young Professionals at the Otago University School of Surveying I have learnt skills that would not have been accessible in my workplace.
Technology and Attending Exhibitions
Seldom are we graced within our own workplaces with all of the latest hardware and software or experts who themselves have helped to develop these tools? More often than not we are sheltered within our workplaces to one brand of equipment, or one piece of software, while every day our tasks vary and adapt. Speaking to different providers about their latest methods or tools allows us to stay aware of changes that are on their way and maybe ask better-informed questions of our own suppliers about advancements or industry shifts.
This is not to say we should all go out and buy the latest gadgets because they are new. More than the people most often using these tools, the young professionals, know where efficiencies could be made and can ask the right questions to potentially progress our businesses. I found it fascinating how fluent my European peers were in the underlying coding of our day-to-day software. Their understanding of the internal processes and methodology used behind the scenes blew me away. The ability to re-write or manipulate programs to better suit their needs was something that I think most young and experienced professionals in this country lack.
You can’t talk about professional development and not highlight the relationships that are created. The FIG Working Week in Christchurch last year was an amazing example this, highlighted by Taryn Martin’s input into our last article, “Giving Back and Making Connections”. Ideas and experiences are shared just as frequently after events as they are during it. While topics might not always come up during an event, with social media having the presence it does today I often find myself discussing potential solutions to problems or generally hunting for advice from people I know have likely faced similar challenges and are based on the other side of the world.
The experiences and friendships made are things that will stay with me a lot longer than many of the event topics stay relevant.
I would like to thank NZIS and their Diamond Partner Eighty4 Recruitment for giving me the opportunity to attend the Working Week and to my employer Woods for their generous support with this and countless other professional development endeavours.
Rob Mears – Graduate Surveyor