Female USGIF certification holders shared their various reasons for seeking certification in GIS & Analysis Tools
The Certified GEOINT Professional (CGP) program provides a foundation on which GEOINT professionals can certify the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to successfully meet the duties and responsibilities within the multi-faceted GEOINT tradecraft.
USGIF offers certifications in a variety of focus areas. The Certified GEOINT Professional–GIS & Analysis Tools (CGP-G) describes the knowledge necessary to ensure the various elements and approaches of GIS and analysis are properly understood in order to successfully capture, store, manage, and visualize data that is linked directly to a location.
Female USGIF certification holders shared their various reasons for seeking certification in GIS & Analysis Tools.
Erica McMaster, CGP-G
McMaster has over 15 years of experience in GIS and Esri software products, and is a Certified GEOINT Professional in GIS & Analysis Tools.
McMaster’s career has been quite a journey—she began as a GIS analyst for McCrone Inc. an Engineering firm. While working there, she was able to move up the ranks to Project Manager before joining the Washington College team in 2011. Now leads a team of dedicated GIS professionals and student interns in her current position as GIS Program Director at Washington College.
“My interest for GEOINT started when I joined the team at Washington College, under the previous Director Stewart Bruce. He introduced me to the GEOINT community through partnerships established to prepare our students for careers in the field,” McMaster said.
In 2012, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program at Washington College was the recipient of the USGIF Academic Achievement Award for their work in placing youth on clear paths to become productive members of the future geospatial intelligence workforce. Since then, she has continued to grow these partnerships, and engaged in geospatial intelligence work both domestically and internationally.
In addition to her role as GIS Program director, she serves as an associate director for the Center of Environment and Society and teaches academic courses on GIS, Remote Sensing, and Human Geography.
McMaster has over 15 years of experience in the GIS field, using Esri and open-source software products, and is a certified GIS Professional through the GIS Certification. In her research, McMaster was impressed with the concepts tested as part of USGIF’s Certified GEOINT Professional–GIS & Analysis Tools examination.
“I will be introducing these concepts into my academic courses, and in the GIS apprenticeship program at Washington College, and plan to have my students work toward this certification, setting them apart from other entry-level candidates in the growing GEOINT field,” McMaster said.
Kari Signor, CGP-G
Signor gained an extensive, interdisciplinary background through diverse field research projects and personal pursuits across the U.S., Latin America, Kenya, and the Antarctic. Signor is a Certified GEOINT Professional in GIS & Analysis Tools.
Work and academic pursuits have given Signor opportunities to explore Kenya, Central and South America, the Falkland Islands, and the Antarctic, which exposed her to diverse cultures, landscapes, and environmental challenges.
“I have great interest in understanding how communities across the globe are impacted by these unique challenges, and I am intrigued by the potential to resolve related issues using novel, multidisciplinary approaches like GIS,” Signor said.
In 2002, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Wildlife Science at Virginia Tech. Her first encounter with GIS was through an introductory course at Virginia Tech in 2001, before GIS was a standard part of the undergraduate curriculum.
“The concept of geospatial science was completely new to me. I was immediately intrigued by the potential to reveal patterns and relationships between the natural forces shaping our environment,” Signor said.
Later, in 2009 Signor received her first master’s degree at Utah State University in Wildlife Biology. She is currently completing the Master of Geospatial Information Science and Technology (MGIST) at North Carolina State University. She also works as a geospatial production analyst for Geo Owl, where she is a part of a diverse team conducting feature extraction, quality control, and geospatial data production in support of global humanitarian assistance, disaster response, and policymaking.
“Given the technical and dynamic nature of this field, the opportunities to learn new approaches to solving geospatial problems are limitless,” Signor said. “I want to take advantage of every opportunity to improve my skills so that I can make a positive contribution to the GEOINT community and help resolve geospatial issues affecting our communities and environment globally.”
Her GEOINT Certification in GIS & Analysis Tools validated the strong progress she has made as a student and professional in the field and has inspired her to continue enhancing her geospatial analytics repertoire.
Andrea Simmons, CGP-R, CGP-G
Simmons is an experienced imagery and geospatial intelligence analyst with a demonstrated history of working in the Defense & Space industries. Simmons is a Certified GEOINT Professional in GIS & Analysis Tools and Remote Sensing & Imagery Analysis.
Simmons career in the GEOINT field began in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), where she enlisted as an imagery analyst. Her career and formal training were heavily focused on the remote sensing and imagery analysis aspect of GEOINT. She also first utilized GIS technology while supporting missions in the USAF.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then non-literal and complex data is worth even more, by orders of magnitude. I find the science and physics behind remote sensing fascinating,” Simmons said. “I enjoyed creating geospatial data and conducting feature extraction, but in the USAF, I used GIS in very limited ways.”
In the years following her active duty, her first job as a defense contractor introduced her to Esri’s ArcGIS. While continuing to fill various imagery analyst positions, Simmons learned a variety of new and exciting ways of working with the data, such as geoprocessing, ArcPy scripting, and modeling.
“I immediately fell in love with the software and tradecraft,” Simmons said.
She is currently an analyst at Maxar Technology, where she works as a full spectrum GEOINT methodologist on a team with multi-faceted GEOINT specialties. In this role, Simmons researches, assesses, tests, and defines various niche GEOINT solutions for a customer’s mission through imagery, GEOINT collection, and GIS. Simmons is not only a Certified GEOINT Professional in GIS & Analysis Tools but also received her professional GEOINT certification in Remote Sensing & Imagery Analysis.
“Getting certified in Remote Sensing and GIS tools & Analysis by the USGIF has aided my understanding of industry-wide requirements and expectations and enabled me to achieve a broader scope of understanding in my disciplines,” said Simmons. “As a defense contractor, I see these certifications as my way to document and maintain my proficiencies and contribute more to Maxar’s customer missions.”
Susan Lyon, CGP-G
Lyon specializes in geographic big data analysis, spatial statistics, cartography, and quantitative human geography. She received her professional GEOINT certification in GIS & Analysis Tools.
Lyon began her professional career in telecommunication as a network technician for an internet provider. But when that industry faltered and her company went through several rounds of downsizing, she knew she needed to find something else.
“I have always been interested in complex IT applications, and I’d heard about geographic information systems (GIS) from a friend. It sounded intriguing and I wanted to learn more. So, I took a severance package from my employer and went back to college to finish my degree and study geography,” Lyon said. “It turned out to be a perfect match for me because geography crosses almost every other subject. I love getting to learn new things so I can study the geospatial aspects of them. I love it so much I stuck around and got a master’s degree too.”
Lyon received a bachelor’s degree in Geography and a Master of Science degree in Geographic and Cartographic Sciences, both from George Mason University, Fairfax Virginia. Her first geospatial job was during her master’s program, working for an aerial photo surveying company, Nearmap. She currently works as a research geographer at the Geospatial Research Laboratory (GRL), Engineer Research and Development Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, located at Fort Belvoir in Alexandria, Virginia. In this role, she uses geospatial analysis in a variety of research projects in the civil and military realms, including disease vector modeling, conflict analysis, terrain analysis, and data visualization.
“I found geography as a field because of my desire to learn GIS. I didn’t really understand what ‘geography’ meant as an academic field. I didn’t have any understanding of geography or maps beyond what the general population had, but I was willing to learn,” Lyon said.
Initially, the “information systems” portion of GIS was her main attraction. Being technically adept and enjoying figuring out new computer ecosystems, she had a few ideas for fields she could enter after she left telecom. She learned how powerful GIS is as a platform to use multiple datasets and layers in analysis of an area, which results in a fuller and deeper understanding of a problem than just using a single dataset.
She became interested in USGIF’s CGP-G GIS Tools and Analysis certification because it fit well with her areas of expertise. “Certifications are valuable because they communicate a standardized set of knowledge,” she said.
“This is particularly useful in a field like GEOINT, which crosses so many different disciplines and areas of knowledge,” Lyon said. “It is also useful in an environment like GRL because we work with a wide variety of government entities. It is valuable to have an easy way to communicate technical and analysis skills, and CGP-G does that for me.”
Kerry Mapes, CGP-G
Mapes is an experienced research associate with a demonstrated history of working in higher education. She received her professional GEOINT certification in GIS & Analysis Tools.
Mapes was first introduced to GIS during her undergrad studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she received a Bachelor of Science in Ecology. She later went to work as an aquatic entomologist for a short time after graduation, but then her life took a different direction.
“Where I currently live, aquatic entomologist jobs are few and far between. My husband serves our country as a U.S. Marine, so relocation wasn’t an option. I decided to enroll in a master’s degree program,” Mapes said. “I chose GIS and geospatial technology due to the demand for these skills in many industries. Setting up that initial meeting with my future advisor, Dr. Narcisa Pricope, was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
She eventually graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Master of Science in Geoscience with academic honors and multiple awards in research and teaching. While completing her master’s degree coursework at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), the university was going through the process of becoming a USGIF accredited institution.
“I had a previous interest in geographic information systems (GIS) and technology and was especially drawn to it due to the power of using spatial data to inform decision-making. That is the ‘intelligence’ part of GEOINT—we collect information and data and learn from it, we use it to make decisions that have positive outcomes, whether it be for people, governments, or the environment,” Mapes said.
Currently, Mapes works for UNCW as a research associate and part-time lecturer, where she works on research projects that involve using GIS and remote sensing, including UAS technology, for environmental analyses. She also works as a part-time proposal specialist at Geo Owl and as an FAA-certified drone pilot.
“I work closely with my former advisor on these projects, and overall our lab has a very collaborative atmosphere where we are able to work on a lot of really amazing problems using the latest technology and techniques, such as drones and machine learning,” Mapes said.
Her GEOINT certification primarily supports her ability to be more aware of how the data collected and analyzed can be transformed into knowledge and intelligence.
“I decided to become certified because having the certification and the USGIF name listed on my résumé makes me stand out from others in my field and is a symbol of the knowledge and expertise I have been accumulating in the geospatial fields,” Mapes said.