Akmal Aslam - Coop Q & A

BEnv Global Environmental Systems, GIS & Urban Studies Certificates

Co-op Term: Summer 2023

Where did you work?

Ministry of Forests- Surface Water Team in the BC Provincial Government located in Surrey, BC

What was your role (what type of work did you do)? What were some of your responsibilities?

I was a GIS Technician and worked in authorizations of surface water licences. Our team deals with water monitoring in the South Coast region of BC and collects data relating to water flow and drought management. I was mainly working on our drought plan by auditing water use. I created an app to be able to survey in the field. The collected data informed the team on actions to support drought mitigation.

How did the skills/knowledge developed in the classroom apply to your job? What did you learn?

Many of the skills that I learned came from the GIS courses I took at SFU. GEOG 255 and GEOG 355 gave me the fundamental understanding of GIS and the analysis techniques I used in this position. GEOG 351 provided me with experience with ArcGIS online which is heavily used by the GIS team.

Can you share a challenge you faced in your Co-op and how you overcame it?

I worked on one large project in the summer and like any project, it came with challenges in analysis, lack of data, or technical issues. This required me to find new solutions and I overcame it by gathering knowledge from many staff. I discussed with my supervisor to better understand the context of the data I was provided with and worked closely with the GIS team to try new techniques.

What was your most memorable Co-op experience?

This Co-op experience was meaningful for me because it allowed me to explore new things in a variety of different areas. My most memorable experience was when our team worked with the Ministry of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship to conduct a fish habitat and count survey in Nathan Creek in Abbotsford, BC. This allowed me to learn new data collection techniques and I had a lot of fun working in the field.

What have you learned through your Co-op experience?

I was able to further my GIS knowledge and capabilities, learn about advanced methods of displaying data, and new analysis techniques outside of GIS. Working with biologists and hydrologists helped me find discover new ways to use GIS. I also learned how to code for managing large databases and improve my GIS workflow.

What advice do you have for future Co-op students?

Talk to staff in other departments, other co-op students, co-workers, and supervisors. I was very fortunate to work with a GIS team which helped me meet other GIS professionals and learn about their path in their career. I also got to meet dozens of other staff and learn about opportunities that I did not know about. Many people that I met have done some interesting work in the BC Government and outside of it. This gave me the knowledge to define my own career goals and path.