June Alumni of the Month: Trevor Olexy
Meet Trevor Olexy, a Masters of Professional Studies in Geographic Information Science alumni currently working as a Data Vizualization Expert for the Bureau of Conflict Division at the US Department of State. Trevor recieved dual Bachelor's degrees in Pyschology and Jazz Bass Performance from UMD before graduating from the MPSGIS program in 2015.
What is a recent project that you have worked on that you have drawn on skills from the MPS program?
I have been running time-series statistical analysis on conflict data in Africa. Without a solid background in spatial stats from the MPS program, I would not be able to properly address questions I received from ambassadors. I routinely lean on ArcGIS to make stunning maps with a story. Model building and scripting are key when manipulating and organizing or cleaning data. Data is almost never clean. I’m down in the data-trenches daily, one of the best ways to get to know your data.
How have the skills you have learned in the MPS program helped you progress in your career?
The skills gained from completing the MPS program allowed me to apply my expertise in transportation, deforestation monitoring, and now conflict analysis/big data. The wide array of courses available in the MPS program allowed me to take those courses I thought would be the most exciting and useful to me in the future.
What drew you to the MPS GIS program at Maryland?
Two previous alums of the MPS program turned me on to the existence of something called GIS. It was only natural that my love of maps and computer programming led me to pursue a master’s degree with some wonderfully experienced professors at UMD.
What advice can you give current and prospective students about the MPS program?
GIS is a massive and ever expanding field. I cannot stress enough how many opportunities exist for GIS professionals, even in fields you may think do not have a geographic aspect. As a student, it can take some time to pinpoint your geo-passion (unless you are one of the lucky-ones) but once you do and actually even if you don’t, doors will open. I started out as an intern with Amazon Conservation Association here in DC, was promoted to GIS/Remote sensing consultant under-taking large projects, and now on to the US State Dept on the advanced analytics team as their geospatial analyst for conflict. Never stop exploring!
What recommendations would you make to current students for career and academic success after graduation?
Focus on what excites you. GIS is an expansive field with myriad niches to explore. Possibly anecdotal, but I have been required to back up policy recommendations, research, and analysis with a sound statistical foundation. Focus on your stats classes, they will help you in the future even if they may be painful (as they were for me!). It can be hard but if you can make some sacrifices for unpaid internships or lucky enough to find paid ones or consultancies, do as many as you can. Experience is paramount in the GIS job search. Strive to tell stories with maps. Shapes and colors can be made to look stunning, but if the customer is unable to interpret it and draws incorrect conclusions from the map…well you get the idea.
What are some of your hobbies/interests?
Almost too many to mention: competitive track cycling, sitar performance, woodworking, performing with my bluegrass band, fixing anything I can get my hands on, cooking and taking care of my dogs and chickens.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Worked full time as a train control technician with WMATA while earning my Master’s degree (it’s possible!) and happy to have found my niche in the professional world.
We're so proud of how far you've gone since graduation Trevor! Best of luck in the future and congratulations on being our June Alumni of the Month!