In seeking views on the future of surveying, who better to ask than those who will shape that future? Here is a response from Eva-Maria Unger, the current secretary of the FIG Young Surveyors Network. Eva-Maria is 26 years old and from Vienna, Austria. She graduated with a master’s degree in 2011 in surveying and geoinformation from the University of Technology in Vienna and works at the Federal Office for Metrology and Surveying, Austria as well as being active in a professional surveying society.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it”—this is a quote by Peter Drucker [Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author]. I think this quote is a good way to start this essay on the future of surveying. We cannot predict the future, but we can create it, and by “creating” I think of “actively taking part in.” I think the profession and its future depends on the needs of society.
Society in general is changing through rapid urbanization, centralization on one hand and decentralization on the other hand. Technology nowadays is owned by society, and I’m sorry to say it but everybody using a smartphone can fit in the role of a surveyor somehow. I don’t want to reduce our profession, but this points out that it is necessary to make society aware of us—surveyors standing on the street or in tunnels measuring, climbing on mountains to ensure the boundaries for countries, walking around in the field to either map the topography or ensure the titles for their parcels, working behind a computer to deal with the immense amount of geodata, working with satellite images or aerial pictures—these people are necessary and are doing a good job for everybody.
We already have such a broad profession, and I am proud of being part of the surveying community. But I also think it is necessary for surveyors to broaden their perspective and be aware of this variety of our profession. We are not just users of technology; we are solution finders. Our educational background is giving us many basic skills in mathematics, physics, and all kinds of engineering studies that we are using to find these solutions.
I personally see a bright future for our profession when we learn to deal with the changing needs of society.
Therefore, I think the keys are soft skills so we can prepare ourselves for the future. We just have to listen to the needs of society and then prepare ourselves, even if that means to change paradigms. When I was in university and was told we had to attend soft-skill lessons, I reacted with, “An engineer … soft skills?” But it’s necessary. These are skills you can use in everyday life to make it possible to interact with other professionals and communities.
I think the boundaries of the profession in general are breaking down, and especially our profession has to be seen as a bridging discipline. Of course, we should never forget our roots, but I guess once a surveyor = lifetime surveyor. It’s to our benefit that we can act with all different kinds of professions; we can be on the site interacting with engineers but we are also able to interact with communities and individuals.
Today surveyors are part of a global surveying community and can join together through such organizations as FIG (International Federation of Surveyors) and especially the FIG Young Surveyors Network (www.fig.net/ys) to share experiences, network, and find new opportunities. I became the secretary of the FIG YSN in 2010, and I highly appreciate the network and the abilities and possibilities young surveyors get there. Through the network I got to know a lot of other young surveyors all over the world, and I see the young surveyors as a link between communities and professionals, a link between technology solutions and community needs—everything I mentioned above. So, the future of surveying is also these young surveyors out there.
I personally chose the study by accident, but I’m happy I did so. I am appreciating this variety, and this also makes me feel that it was the right decision.