Fernando Gil: A Lifelong Career in GIS

Earning USGIF GEOINT Professional certification is a milestone achievement


Fernando Gil became a USGIF Certified GEOINT Professional in GIS & Analysis Tools (CGP-G) in 2017, becoming the first Portuguese citizen and one of the first Europeans to achieve this certification.

Fernando Gil | Photo Credit: Fernando Gil

In 1991, Gil graduated from the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA), School of Agronomy, Lisbon University and earned an ISCED 2011 Level 746 / EQF Level 7 (5-year degree) in Agronomy, specialized in agricultural hydraulics. He also joined the Portuguese Armed Forces in  ’90, and later joined the Portuguese Army Reserves.

During his time at ISA, Gil was introduced to GIS when he participated in a small irrigation scheme engineering project and used GIS technology to carry out necessary geographic analysis. Shortly after receiving his degree, Gil began his professional career. He leveraged GIS daily starting with Intergraph Technologies (MGE), Esri products, and open-source applications.

“The use and availability of technology, both in terms of software and hardware, is very different now then it was back then. For example, most measurements of areas were still done with mechanical planimeters on top of paper maps,” said Gil. “It took GIS a few years to achieve the visibility it has today, from its appearance in the 1960s to the widespread use of location and navigation technologies nowadays.”

Years later, in 2014, Gil returned to the academic realm and earned his master’s degree in Geographical Information Systems and Science from the NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS), where he became an adjunct professor.

Gil spoke with trajectory about his lifelong career in GIS. 

What led to your decision to become a USGIF Certified GEOINT Professional in GIS & Analysis Tools?

I was challenged by one of my fellow educators at NOVA IMS to get certified. And I gladly accepted the challenge. It turned out to be a major milestone in my career. Besides being the first in my country to become certified, I was one of the first Europeans to achieve USGIF’s CGP-G badge.

I foresee many advancements in the coming years for our tradecraft, and my GIS certification has aided me in that continuous pursuit for advancements and deeply refreshed my GIS toolbox.

Can you talk us through your career trajectory?

I’m a GIS Certified Trainer and have more than 25 years’ experience in the geospatial industry managing teams, projects, and enterprise geospatial solutions for water utilities, transportation, public works, and agriculture. After earning my master’s degree in Geographic Information Systems and Science at NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS) and because of my military background (Portuguese Army Artillery Officer in reserve), I was invited to be NOVA IMS’ Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) Adjunct Professor.

Presently, besides my teaching role at NOVA IMS, I work at Infraestruturas de Portugal (Portuguese road and railways infrastructure manager) Geospatial Information Department. I’m mainly focused on data science initiatives—leading the identification of opportunities where advanced analytics can make a difference, facilitating the process of prioritizing these opportunities, actively championing the adoption of the solutions across the business and promote cost-effective scaling, and frequently serve as project manager on those projects. In summary, I translate business problems into data science projects and I quantify the various types of risk and rewards that allow these projects to be prioritized.

In this new decade, how will the GIS field change?

At this time, we all use technologies related to Geographic Information Systems daily, which has brought great visibility to the discipline.

In terms of the academic realm, I think there will be challenges particularly in keeping pace with all technological revolutions that the new quantum computing paradigm will bring. However, there is a perception in the academic community, with which I agree, that as the use of GIS technologies becomes more and more widespread and is more embedded in a larger set of equipment, its visibility will, paradoxically, decrease more and more.

I think that GIS will evolve much further in the future compared to what has been in recent years. Not only in terms of the fusion of different formats and sources of information, their visualization and analysis in real-time, or in almost real-time, but also in terms of using augmented reality environments and artificial intelligence technologies.

In the next five to ten years, I foresee systems developed to support autonomously driven vehicles, allowing all maps to be dynamically drafted with information elements that will be collected, processed, and analyzed in real-time, contributing decisively to decision-making, and all this information shared on a common access network with nearby vehicles supporting an Intelligent Transport Network (ITS). In five to ten years, I think about drones with much greater payload capacity, agility, and imaging and data collection capabilities within privacy, security, and safety ecosystems, delivering data visualization and analysis in real-time, or in almost real-time, using augmented reality environments and artificial intelligence technologies (GeoAI).

Featured Image: NOVA IMS Campus | Photo Credit: Fernando Gil 


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