Case study

GIS and information management technical adviser — Fiona

Fiona works for the British Red Cross, supporting communities affected by disasters, such as the Ukraine crisis and Haitian earthquake

What degree did you study?

I studied Global Development and Sustainability at Bath Spa University, graduating in 2017 as a mature student.

What is your current job?

I work as a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and information management technical adviser for the British Red Cross. This means I collect and analyse data, turning it into useful information to help better support those affected by a disaster, or as part of a longer-term programme. I also ensure communities are engaged as part of any response, making sure the work of the Red Cross is appropriate, needed and understood.

How did you get your job with the British Red Cross?

After university I arranged an internship at a very small refugee charity where I had been volunteering. This helped me gain some experience to be able to apply for my first job with the British Red Cross, managing a project that supported and empowered refugees and asylum seekers to raise their voices for change, and influence how the Red Cross supports other migrants. Through this I joined training courses around international disaster response and later moved into my current role.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree taught me a lot about the different issues affecting the world, from climate change to migration, global education and disaster management. It gave me hands-on experience using GIS software, as well as the chance to complete work placements to explore career paths further. It helped me to decide I wanted to work in the NGO (non-governmental organisation) sector.

What's a typical working day like?

Some days I am deployed to support another Red Cross somewhere else in the world to respond to a disaster. For example, last year I supported the Polish Red Cross during the Ukraine Crisis and the Haitian Red Cross after an earthquake. On other days I am organising colleagues to deploy, matching skillsets and availability to need. That usually involves a lot of emails and Zoom calls. I also run training and support colleagues in building their capacity to respond. On other days I am creating maps and dashboards from my laptop.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Often after a disaster people have lost everything, so it is great to be able to play a small part in supporting those impacted on the road to recovery.

What are the challenges?

This type of work is very busy, and there are never enough hours in a day. It is difficult to meet every need, and to prioritise where you can have the most impact. It is important to look after yourself and your colleagues.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that over time, other Red Cross societies in disaster-prone areas that I've supported get to the point where they no longer need international support.

What advice can you give to others?

If you want to work in the charity sector, my number one piece of advice is to volunteer. This is how the majority of my colleagues started. It gives you a chance to get involved and see if it is right for you, plus charities both large and small are often looking for extra support - with everything from supporting clients, to running events and social media.

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