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Wendy Baldin: An advocate for change

Updated: Jan 23

Wendy Baldin, a seasoned GIS professional with over 25 years of experience, is a true Pathfinder in the world of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Her journey in GIS has been marked by a relentless passion for the field, unwavering action to promote its significance, the tenacity to overcome challenges, and a deep sense of humility that defines her leadership style.


In this episode, we will delve into Wendy's remarkable career journey, her profound passion for GIS, the actions she's taken to make a difference, her ability to persevere in the face of adversity, and her humble approach to leadership. Wendy's story is not just about GIS; it's about the spirit of dedication, resilience, and the power of community-building.


"Working together as a team consistently produces stronger results than working as individuals." - Wendy Baldin on collaborative leadership.


Describing GIS: Making It Accessible


When asked to describe GIS, Wendy emphasizes the importance of tailoring the explanation to the audience's level of familiarity with the field. To her, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is more than just maps; it's a versatile computer program that can store a wealth of information about our surroundings. For those less versed in GIS, she simplifies it by comparing it to a digital encyclopedia of geographic data, accessible with a click of the mouse.


However, when conversing with fellow GIS professionals or those well-versed in the field, Wendy provides a more technical definition, highlighting GIS as a tool for capturing, checking, analyzing, and displaying data related to positions on Earth's surface. GIS, she explains, facilitates the visualization and understanding of complex patterns and trends within data.


Wendy's Career Journey: From Passion to Purpose


Wendy's GIS journey began during her early education, where she developed a profound passion for geography and GIS. She was fortunate to attend the University of Waterloo's Bachelor of Environmental Studies program, specializing in GIS and information technology. Throughout her five-year academic journey, Wendy gained invaluable work experience through co-op terms in various sectors, including the federal government, regional municipalities, and the private sector.


After completing her degree and five work terms, Wendy entered the workforce with a deep understanding of GIS and a solid foundation to build her career. Her commitment to GIS opened doors to diverse employment opportunities, ranging from federal and provincial government positions to working with conservation authorities and private companies. Wendy's willingness to explore different aspects of GIS allowed her to develop a holistic understanding of its applications in the business world.


Passion: The Driving Force


Passion is the driving force behind Wendy's enduring commitment to GIS. To her, the passion for geography and data transcends her professional life. It's about the joy of waking up every day, knowing she can make a difference and contribute to something she deeply cares about. Wendy is passionate about advocating for GIS and helping others understand its value.


One of her most rewarding experiences is witnessing others, especially those not originally familiar with GIS, catch the geospatial spirit. Wendy takes pride in showing colleagues and peers the transformative power of geospatial data, igniting their excitement and curiosity. Whether it's through organizing events, sharing knowledge, or fostering collaboration, Wendy's passion for GIS shines through.


Action: Turning Passion into Impact


Passion is only as powerful as the actions it inspires. Wendy's career is defined by her proactive approach to promoting GIS. She believes in leading by example and isn't afraid to take unconventional actions to make GIS accessible and engaging. For instance, she celebrates GIS Day by decorating offices, bringing in cake, and making colleagues sing "Happy GIS Day." These lighthearted actions leave a lasting impression and create opportunities for conversations about GIS.


Wendy also emphasizes the importance of understanding her audience's needs and speaking their language. Instead of overwhelming them with technical jargon, she focuses on how GIS can solve real-world problems, making it relatable and approachable. Wendy's willingness to volunteer her time, whether organizing events or webinars, allows her to spread geospatial knowledge and connect with a diverse range of individuals and organizations.


Tenacity: Overcoming Challenges with Determination


Wendy's journey in GIS hasn't been without challenges. One of her most significant challenges has been advocating for GIS to have a seat at the decision-making table. Despite the vital role geospatial data plays in informed decision-making, Wendy has often encountered resistance. However, her tenacity and determination have propelled her forward.


To overcome these challenges, Wendy employs several strategies. She focuses on demonstrating GIS's value with relatable examples, advocating for its role in data-driven decision-making, and actively breaking down silos and barriers within organizations. Wendy's tenacity shines through her ability to persevere, adapt, and find creative solutions to complex problems.


Humility: A Leadership Style Built on Collaboration


Wendy's leadership style is defined by humility. She acknowledges that she's not the expert in every aspect of GIS and is comfortable with not being the smartest person in the room. Instead, she values collaboration and believes in building up her colleagues. Wendy is a firm believer in the power of teamwork, emphasizing that working together as a team consistently produces stronger results than working as individuals.


One of Wendy's key practices is providing a safe space for her team to share their challenges and vulnerabilities. By openly admitting her own mistakes and supporting her team through theirs, Wendy fosters an environment where learning and growth are encouraged. Her humility extends to a commitment to support and empower her team members, ensuring their voices are heard and their contributions recognized.


Final Thoughts: Wendy's Impact on the GIS Community


Wendy Baldin's journey in GIS is a testament to the enduring power of passion, action, tenacity, and humility. Her relentless dedication to promoting GIS, coupled with her commitment to building a strong and collaborative community, makes her a true pathfinder in the world of geospatial data. Wendy's story serves as an inspiration to all GIS enthusiasts and professionals, reminding us that our individual contributions can collectively transform the GIS landscape.


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