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Alumni Stories: Maciej Sznajder

Alumni Stories: Maciej Sznajder

“Doing creative work that you like and the feeling that someone needs the knowledge and experience you offer. Money alone is definitely not a success – it’s just a nice bonus.(...)”

Name and surname: Maciej Sznajder

Place of residence: Birmingham, UK

Position: GIS Designer

Degree subject: Geography

 

  • What is your best memory of studying at the Jagiellonian University?  

It’s hard to choose one thing, but it was definitely the college atmosphere. I had a feeling I was satisfying my curiosity about the world, because geography deals with a wide range of issues (in natural science and anthropology).

 

  • How did your professional career start? What were the turning points?

When I was still a student, I took work placements and other odd jobs. After leaving Poland, I started working in a lens factory. Money was tight and I needed to get settled, so my goal of working in my learned profession took a back seat. The turning point came when I applied for Geographic Information Systems Administrator with a telecom company. Initially, I was sceptical as the requirements seemed above my head. However, I decided to apply, the interview went well and I have been working in the GIS industry for over 4 years now.

 

  • How has your education contributed to your career development?

My subject allowed me to choose the courses myself, which turned out to be crucial. In the second year of my studies, I became interested in GIS and joined almost all the courses related to it. Even the unpopular ones, such as “GIS Programming Basics”. And all of this despite the fact that I was in a completely different specialization (socio-economic geography). This approach and the knowledge I’d gained were a big help in my current work. Thanks to this, I also got into the UNIGIS postgraduate studies in Manchester without any problems. My interest in GIS programming during my studies drove me to seek out more courses when I had a full-time job, and so the knowledge that I gained there continues to serve me well till this day.

 

  • Tell us about your current job. What are you doing now?

I work with database support, automation of spatial data processing using Python and, in general, GIS analysis for the design of fibre optic networks. I’m also helping design an application for collecting field data. This means that I sometimes need to get out into the wild (yeah, you guessed it, I’m a country boy) to test the equipment live.

 

  • What are your biggest challenges right now?

The current virological situation is not optimistic, and neither is the Brexit vision. Of the things more dependent on me: my biggest challenge is to stay informed. Learning new and improving the already acquired skills. My priority is learning more about Python and its potential for GIS. I think these are common challenges for almost every niche in the IT field.

 

  • What is life and work like in the city/country where you live?

Despite the spectre of Brexit and stereotypical weather, I appreciate the industrial atmosphere of the city. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind about Birmingham is the Peaky Blinders series. Fun fact: there are more canals here than in Venice. The cultural melting pot provides great culinary facilities. I like the openness and kindness of the local people, both at work and in public offices. And trivial things like commuting in red double-decker buses are just fun. I am aware that emigration is not for everyone, but in my subjective opinion, living in the UK is simply easier.

 

Zdjęcie ze zbiorów własnych absolwenta.

  • What is your definition of success?

Doing creative work that you like and the feeling that someone needs the knowledge and experience you offer. Money alone is definitely not a success – it’s just a nice bonus.

 

  • What advice/guidance do you have for current students who are just entering the job market?

I have some advice which is – as a matter of course – highly subjective. 1. Do internships while you study – it is a nice asset to your experience and CV; 2. Do extra courses: MS Office, programming or using other software (a college diploma alone is not everything!); 3. For geographers: don't be afraid of GIS! It doesn’t bite and is not as complicated as it may seem and the benefits are huge; 4. Foreign language. It may sound trivial, but it's worth practicing. The accent doesn’t have to a priority – communication matters (don’t be ashamed of mistakes!). Often the British don’t understand each other – due to the multitude of local dialects; 5. If the job requirements seem too high, I advise you not to give up too quickly. My current job also seemed out of reach for me.

 

  • How do you imagine the cooperation between the Jagiellonian University and its graduates?

Regular surveys (which if I’m not mistaken are already underway) are a pretty good solution. I hope that the lessons learnt from them will go far towards making a real impact on the university curriculum and its alignment with the job market.

 

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