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Earth Observation Technical Specialist and Project Manager (Remote Sensing)

A project manager at Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) has a mixed role. The primary role is to oversee and manage individual projects and contracts acting as a technical point of contact for the client(s) and for internal teams such as sales. I engage regularly with clients, with satellite operators and also work with clients to understand their needs and help them understand the products and services that they are receiving.  My role could therefore be considered a form of technical consultancy where I work closely with our sales team to support different requests that our clients have and then work with our internal teams to identify and put in place the process needed to complete that role

Why is remote sensing and GIS important in Earth Science? 

Remote sensing and GIS have been used for decades in the Earth Sciences and its usage over time has only increased owing to the improvements in data availability and processing possibilities. Remote sensing from satellite is a screening tool to improve decision making, reduce risk and costs and has significant value for a wide range of applications.  Whilst it has a long history in Earth science and in particular in oil and gas, mining and engineering, as these industries have changed as well there is a continued need to continue to raise awareness and educate users on the real value that information extracted from satellite data can provide,  particularly now there are so many data sources available. The answer to a client’s question may not come from one dataset alone and may require a number of datasets or integration of datasets across remote sensing and GIS data layers. The industry is changing and that is also another reason why it is a very exciting time to be part of this community.  

What are qualifications and previous work experience did you need to get your job? 

I never thought Remote Sensing be the career I got into, it just kind of happened, sparked by interest during my Undergraduate degree. I have a BSc in Physical Geography and an MSc in Remote Sensing.  I would say however that these specific qualifications are not required to get into remote sensing or into project management. Other experience including Maths, Physics, Computer Vision, Geology, Environmental Science etc. are all valid routes into a career in Remote Sensing and of course I cannot speak highly enough of the opportunity to get work experience at a company in this field.

What other skills or characteristics do you need in your job?

Communication is key. Being able to communicate clearly with good knowledge on your subject is not easy and something you learn to do well but is so vitally important. In addition, being happy working in a team is essential however being able to be independent is also a valuable skill and taking the lead on tasks is always seen as a positive.  A key part of my role is talking to our clients and helping them understand products etc therefore building a good rapport with clients is essential and means overtime that a trust has built between you and the client which is so important in what we do and allows them to have confidence in us.    

What sort of organisation do you work for? 

I work for the World’s leading ground station services provider who provide antenna and ground system support to an extensive variety of commercial and public systems globally. It also means that they are in a very unique position allowing them to both downlink data from satellites (they do not own any themselves) and also provide data, products and services from that data to a wide range of clients globally. The ‘value added service’ side of the business, so called because we are deriving useful information fro the data thereby ‘adding value’ to it is the side of the business I work in where we work closely with international clients from both the public and private sector to provide them services both in Near Real Time (within 2 hours of image acquisition) and tailored solutions to meet different requirements across both land and maritime application areas.  

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

It's exciting and every day is different. I work with some fantastic people who are all, like me, passionate about what they do and see the potential and value in what is coming in the future and how we as a business can adapt to it. The company has a lot of heritage and is well known in the industry but is always changing and improving to meet needs and demands of our clients whilst being highly proactive in terms of technology. I also get the opportunity to travel a lot to visit both clients and attend conferences allowing me to add more technical knowledge but also to continue to build relationships with my clients.

What opportunities do you have to develop your skills in your job?

I work closely with people across a wide range of teams and skillsets.  KSAT put a lot of value on personal development and training.  Whilst not everything is possible of course you are always encouraged to ask.  With the growth in our industry it also means that there are a lot of opportunities to grow and there is strong encouragement to take up other positions internally if they are of interest to you as well as to take external courses. 

What advice or information do you wish you’d had before starting this career?

I would advise anyone interested in a career in Remote Sensing to join as a student member to organisations like GRSG and RSPSoc because that’s when you not only start to learn a bit more about the topic but also you get to meet people. There are so many free events in London including those held at the Geological Society and elsewhere which cover a wide range of topics regardless of your background interest. I would also encourage you to do some research, maybe some work experience or at least a visit at a commercial company that does Remote Sensing because its very insightful to see how this works in commercial world rather than just what you are taught at university. Most of all don’t be scared to speak to people, we are a friendly industry and always happy to share our knowledge, a lot of the special interest groups also have special benefits for students (and early careers) and a mentor scheme as well.