If you’re looking for the first instalment of my journal, you can find it here:
After I’d been out on bat and habitat surveys with Jo Gregory four or five times, Rob suggested I draft up the reports for our site visits and make recommendations etc. (eek!), then send them to Jo to proofread.
This was a challenge and a half, but again, really great for confidence. When you’ve drafted a report you have a much greater appreciation of the whole survey process and how your decisions affect a customer’s project, as well as how to write in a professional ad scientific manner. I ensured I made mountains of notes while out on site with Jo, so that I could at least write thoroughly and coherently once back in the office, which if my feedback is to be believed I am a bit of a natural at. I haven’t quite got the methodical, scientific flow that Jo has yet, but Jo is pretty great at just about everything (and regularly receives Rob’s highest praise: the monthly accolade of ‘Admin Hero’) so I won’t beat myself up too badly. To work like Jo in role is my long-term goal and the standard I one day want to adhere to.
So writing the report: fairly difficult. Drawing the map on QGIS that I hadn’t used before – very difficult! I Googled it (disclaimer: other search engines are available, haha), downloaded it, stared terrified at the blank intimidating screen that appears with about 30 unrecognisable icons dotted around… Anyway I spent a (very) long time playing around and managed to produce a very basic, not particularly attractive site map, then sent it over to Jo.
Jo is pretty much nicest person ever and manages to compliment it regardless of its uncountable errors and omissions. However, I practise both report writing and creating habitat maps on QGIS every time we go out on site and predictably, they slowly start to improve. If only someone ran a course on QGIS?
The course was run by ThinkWhere and hosted at the Salford University campus, in Manchester. The first day consists of learning about GIS in general and swiftly moves on to basic operations, such as how to load a map, create shapes and so on. The second day goes into the complexities of the QGIS package. The two days were invaluable as I now feel I can produce high quality habitat maps. Going from struggling to draw a map to knowing I can create a great looking plan is a lot more than I expected to gain out of the two day course. I can’t wait to download all those extra features and plug-ins…
Online Course in Ecology
Whilst going out with Jo and attending various courses, as part of Arbtech’s amazing ‘no limits’ CPD fund, I also do a basic introduction to ecology online course provided by Acorn Ecology.
Every week they send you a new topic that you need to spend a few hours researching and making notes on. This is great, as time-wise it is doable (while holding down a full time job, doing other courses and managing to do up my new house!); and it is constantly topping up your memory.
The course content isn’t exactly in line with the surveys we do, but the background knowledge is extremely helpful as it all ties in and sometimes, it’s the scientific reasoning behind explanations (e.g. to customers) that are important and take you that extra bit of time to learn due to their complex nature.
Course review coming – check back soon…
This is pretty much where I am up to at the moment and to be honest I really love it; some weeks it’s more challenging than others, for example if I go out Jo more than once a week and write the reports, I’ve then got to catch up at the office as I’m still doing all my original duties (if not more – but I like being useful and having more responsibilities). I also hope that demonstrating my ability to cope with the varied workload is an example of my efficiency and determination to do well for myself and for the Arbtech team as a unit.
If anything, working in the head office while training to become a surveyor has given me the chance to learn about the whole chain of events that takes place, from quoting someone for a survey to invoice and payment, to the survey actually taking place and then being completed by the client achieving their planning consent. A lot of effort and resources go into the ‘back office’ systems at Arbtech to ensure customers are getting the best service we can offer. I wont claim to fully understand the complexities and nuances of everything the team does at every stage, but I have learned an incredible amount in my year here; about the industry we work in, about our client industries and about the business, which is terrific. It has certainly helped me appreciate that you need to do your job properly so that things run smoothly for everyone else (especially our customers).
Rob said I could be as honest and brutal as I wanted in this journal, but honestly I’ve learnt so much I can barely even explain it all… and for me that is what’s important. It’s pretty sweet to have a career end goal, but even better to be given the freedom to get there by myself; by choosing my own courses; going out on site as frequently as I can and so on. It removes the stress of the dreaded ’12 month review and career plan’ that is so common in other companies.
Roll on emergence season so I can play with my new bat detector :D
Thanks for reading this instalment. The next journal blog will be up soon, as I chronicle my journey from ecology zero to surveyor hero. If you’d like an automatic notification of this, follow us on twitter (@superfastsurvey) or sign up to our mailing list below. Please also feel free to leave any comments below – even if it’s just to say that someone out there is reading this!