Maps have guided travelers around the globe for hundreds of years. And after careers in archaeology and IT, a longtime love of maps led Julie Witmer to Fleming’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – Cartographic Specialist post-graduate program.
“I’ve always loved maps – I collect map brochures when traveling and have poster maps decorating my home,” she said.
Discovering the Fleming program and realizing she could make a career of map making, Julie now owns her own cartography business, Julie Witmer Custom Map Design. She creates custom maps for a range of clients such as local associations, publishers, authors, small business owners, non-profit organizations, and municipalities.
“I love that I get to design maps every day! I love being my own boss and choosing what projects to work on. Every day I make maps, usually working on a few client projects at a time,” she said. And, as a small business owner herself, she handles all the marketing, social media, accounts, and administrative work that comes with entrepreneurship.
“In many cases, my clients start out with little or no knowledge of the map-making process. But that’s never been an issue, because an essential part of my approach is to create an experience that is informed, easy and enjoyable from start to finish,” she said.
“While a primary function of maps is to help people get around, they aren’t just tools for navigating. They help people learn about their communities and to become more active and connected to them. Maps can guide visitors, but they can also attract them to events and points of interest,” she added.
Julie initially studied and worked in archaeology, digging in ancient sites in Israel and Jordan as well as in southern Ontario. Deciding a career in academia wasn’t for her, a second career in IT landed her to a job at RIM (BlackBerry). However, a layoff in 2011 prompted Julie to research new career opportunities.
“When I saw that I could learn how to make maps at Fleming, I jumped at the chance!” she said.
Students in both the GIS – Cartographic Specialist and GIS – Applications Specialist programs take the same foundational first semester courses before choosing one of the specializations, which Julie appreciated.
“I loved designing with MAPublisher and Illustrator so that’s why I chose the Cartographic Specialist stream.”
She added that her favourite part of the program was the geovisualization courses.
“The program gave me good exposure to GIS software programs and the opportunity to work on several projects during the courses. I like that students can choose a specialized stream after the first term and have the opportunity to work on projects for real clients in the final co-op term. It helped me develop a workflow for custom map creation, which I still use today,” she said.
Geographic Information Systems are computer systems or software
that capture, store, and display all types of spatial and geographic data.
Working within those systems, GIS practitioners create, analyze and manage that
data. Within the Cartographic stream, students analyze and visualize data using
a variety of mapping techniques.
Fleming’s GIS programs feature multiple options for post-graduate learners. Students can study full-time or part-time in the Applications Specialist and Cartographic Specialist programs. The GIS – Applications Specialist program also offers an online option for distance learning.
“If you love maps, GIS, cartography, and being creative, I recommend this program.”
Interested in a GIS career, but not sure which stream might be right for you? Visit flemingcollege.ca/discover-gis for more information.