Women in Geospatial Series: Dr Nadine Alameh
In this Women in Geospatial Series, we spoke to Dr Nadine Alameh, the CEO of the Open Geospatial Consortium about OGC, her proudest moments and challenges she encountered in the geospatial field.
Did you face any challenges entering the geospatial field? If so, can you please provide a brief summary?
The main challenge that I faced when entering the geospatial field was that it wasn’t really a clearly defined field. When I was studying at MIT, geospatial was a little bit in the Urban Studies department, a little bit in the Transportation department, a little bit in the Earth Sciences, a little bit in Computer Science. In a way, we had to define our own programme, which actually turned the challenge into an opportunity- in my case, I focused on innovations in GIS around the Internet, the World Wide Web and distributed computing – which really set me up for my career.
The other challenge was starting a business doing geospatial consulting back in 2004, and having to explain to your potential customers the value of geospatial! Nowadays with geospatial/location everywhere, what we do is a bit more understandable and mainstream. 20 years ago, it wasn’t the case and there weren’t enough documented use cases on the value of geospatial.
Please share about what you do at OGC and what is one of your proudest moments.
I am currently the CEO of OGC. It’s an amazing privilege to lead this 27-year-old global organization in times of change and disruption! Today we have to develop standards at the pace of innovation, today we can have way more impact in way more domains than ever, and today we realise the value of bringing together the community of geospatial experts and users to collectively solve the toughest challenges of our time!
I have many proud moments, but what stands out is how proud I am of the rebranding of OGC. Changing not just how the OGC logo looks but also what we are focusing on: APIs, cloud native geospatial and impact via our Innovation Programme! I am also very proud of the fact that OGC is at its largest ever in terms of number of members! An amazing achievement and commitment from the global community.
I am proud that I have been able to make the changes needed to get us this far and to set us up for the future – changes that were not easy to make or implement. I am proud that I have the courage to make those changes to make OGC better and geospatial more impactful!
What advice would you give to women who wish to excel in leadership positions in the geospatial sector?
Regardless of the field, I have 3 pieces of advice: 1) Trust your gut. The nagging feeling/voice inside you knows you best, listen to it. 2) Don’t be afraid. As long as it’s not life or death situations, things will be ok. Take a risk. What’s the worst that can happen? 3) Grab those opportunities. Always be ready to grab those opportunities as they present themselves – that’s how you can be at the right place at the right time. Oh, and speak up, promote yourself, it’s totally ok.
In the geospatial field, network with the right people. They can take you places! But also, don’t restrict yourself to geospatial. Geospatial is in every domain, which means you can actually be a leader in any domain. The sky is the limit. Just go for it.
What excites you about geospatial innovation?
The amazing things we can do with it! The sci-fi stuff that we can make happen today because of our expertise. Self-driving cars, drones, space, mining on other planets, digital twins, metaverse. So exciting! At the same time, I am excited – actually I am humbled – when I see innovations making an impact by bringing data and people together during disasters! Seeing our role as making information FAIR for climate change! So much impact from our innovations – that’s what excites me!
Please let us know if there is anything else you wish to add.
We are still not where we should be with reference to women in geospatial, or women in technology overall. Women still don’t get the same opportunities as men, our networks are still much smaller, our pay is lower, and we still have to work harder to prove ourselves! It’s time we do better and provide women with opportunities to grow, to excel and to lead! I am proud that the last 4 hires at OGC have been women.