Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
podcast
Filter by Categories
Galleries
Uncategorized

Mentorship, Leadership and Career Advice

mentorship leadership and career advice

Welcome to another episode of the MapScaping Podcast. My name is Daniel, and this is a podcast for the geospatial community. If you’re a long time listener of this show, you might recognize that delightful Australian accent that you just heard as Denise McKenzie. She’s been on the show before, and she is the community and ethics partner at PLACE. Before she got there, she had an incredible career in geospatial, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

We’re going to be talking about mentorship. We’re going to be talking about leadership, and, hopefully, offering some career advice and career encouragement for people that are still trying to find their way in geospatial. 

Welcome back to the podcast, Denise, it’s a pleasure to have you here again, and I’m really looking forward to this conversation. You’ve had this really broad career in geospatial, and that’s what I’d like to focus on today. Before we dive into that, for the sake of context, would you mind letting the listeners know who you are, and how you got involved in geospatial?

Denise McKenzie:

Thanks for the invitation to come back, Daniel. It’s always nice to be on the podcast. For those that don’t know me, I’m Denise McKenzie. I really fell into geospatial about 25 years ago after having done an undergrad in international politics and public policy. It was really through a quite amazing individual called Bruce Thompson down in the Victorian government who took a good 45 minutes to wow me, so to speak, with the power and the capabilities of geospatial, and using maps for good in the world. I stayed working there doing innovation and policy work for about 12 years, really focused on that nexus between public and private partnerships and what can be achieved there. From there, I moved to OGC, the Open Geospatial Consortium international standards body, and worked as the head of outreach and communication there for about six and a half years. Following that, I became a consultant and worked with the Ordnance Survey and the media network for about two years through what’s called the Benchmark Initiative that was really looking at the ethical use of geospatial and location data throughout the world. That resulted in me becoming one of the co-authors of a thing called the Locus Charter. It’s a 10-principle charter looking at how we ethically and responsibly use location data. After all that, I joined a new not-for-profit organization called PLACE. There I’m their community and ethics partner. I look at how we build out a new global membership organization that’s really focused on ethical and responsible use of data, as well as using data for good, particularly in developing nations.

Daniel:

Wow. You’ve had this really broad career so far, and I’m sure there’s a lot more to come. I would like to talk about mentorship. I believe you mentioned someone called Bruce earlier on, and I know he was pivotal in your career, so I’d like to touch on that. First, I’m really curious to know, do you consider yourself to be a technical person?

Denise:

I’m probably less technical these days, although people constantly remind me whenever I say that, that I can usually engage quite well in a lot of technical discussions. Back in my early career in government, I was definitely deep in the world of GIS and creation of maps. I’d say these days, I’m more technical from the perspective of that architecture and strategy, but really looking at how new innovations and technology fit into our existing stack of geospatial tools. That’s my level now more than being a day-to-day map making practitioner. To be fair, I did a master’s in sustainability last year and went back and actually did a module in GIS. I’ve been getting back into ArcGIS Pro in the last 12 to 18 months, and it was quite fun to go back and make some maps.

Daniel:

Do you think you could be in that position to be in architecture, to be looking at different infrastructures and how they can fit together without cutting out room for knowledge of GIS and geospatial?

Denise:

I think so in that, you can come at it from different angles of the data world. You have to have some level of grounding and understanding of how data works. I know that the knowledge that I’ve got, and certainly one of the amazing things about that first role I had in government back in Australia, was that I was on a policy team, but I was on a policy team that sat next to people that were making maps on a day-to-day basis. We weren’t sitting in our own little world doing policy. We sat with people who were day-to-day building, collecting data, working with users, etc.. I know that a lot of my technical knowledge comes out of watching that day-to-day experience and the challenges of data collection, of not getting the data you want, of having to clean it, and trying to work out how to share it. The level of knowledge I’ve got is definitely a learned on-the-job level of knowledge, more than in an academic context.

Daniel:

The reason I’m asking you these questions is because I really want to highlight that it is possible to have an extremely successful career in this space without being a deep technical person, or a programmer and machine learning specialist, and that it is possible to create a future for yourself. I want to get back to the earliest stages of your career, because you are involved in a mentorship program. I believe it’s through the Women in Geospatial community. You, yourself, had a mentor when you started out earlier on in your career, Bruce Thompson. Would you mind telling us why this person was a great mentor? What did they do?

Denise:

I’ve had a lot of great mentors across my career. It’s one of the things that I would say is so important to anybody. It’s not so much about progression, but I think about how you develop your understanding of what you want out of your career and what you want to do. Bruce, in particular was my first boss. He was the guy that really brought me into the world of geospatial. Outside of that element of Bruce, as a leader, he was really one of these people who quite intrinsically understood the value of diversity in teams. He had a leadership style where he was about supporting the nurturing of the teams, the nurturing of his staff, and helping them to understand and foster collaboration, and the value it brings.

He was always a really great mentor because he was looking to use his position of leadership as a mechanism to encourage people to be the best they possibly can be. He’d be the advocate. He’d always have your back. For me, as a mentor, I got to watch a leader that, ultimately, completely influenced the way I operate as a leader. All of my aspects of working with teams, of working with partners, and building memberships around the world were heavily influenced by this guy. I probably characterize him as what I would call a servant leader. He really looked for what he could do for all of these people that he was responsible for. How could he make them shine? How could he give them opportunities to improve and to develop the skills and interest areas that were relevant and best for them in what they’re doing?

He was quite the amazing human. Sadly, we lost him to cancer late last year, which was quite a shocking thing for the geospatial community. He’s greatly missed, because as well as being a brilliant mentor, he was an incredible visionary for where and how geospatial can be used. Going back to your comment about the career of geospatial, he actually started out in the world of architecture, and was an architect before coming into and becoming a leader in the geospatial realm. You’re very right in saying that you can absolutely have high, and highly valuable, careers in geospatial coming from a huge, vast, different array of areas.

Diversity in Geospatial

Daniel:

I think one of the first comments you made about Bruce was his ability, or passion, for building diverse teams. What does diversity mean for you when you think about building a team?

Denise:

For me with diversity I always imagine that what you’re trying to do is build a team that somehow tries to capture the broad range of diversity that there is in the world. The global population is amazingly diverse, and different, and comes from a whole variety of different perspectives. Part of it is about trying to address that ethical and responsible use. If you build a team with a very similar set of people, from very similar backgrounds, you are only ever going to build a solution that contains very similar experiences from those people. If you build a team that is hugely diverse in age, cultural and religious backgrounds, and interest and skill areas, you’re going to get people bringing in huge swaths of different experiences.

It might be that they have a background working with deaf people, or blind people, or vulnerable populations, people with all manners of different life experiences. Consistently over my career, what I’ve seen is where you have diverse teams, you get far better solutions that meet a far greater realm of the population and what they need.

Daniel:

It’s one thing to be diverse, in terms of gender, or ethnicity, or beliefs. It’s a whole other thing to let that diversity shine out, to be brave enough to be yourself. Now that you are working as a mentor, how do you do that for people? How do you encourage them to accept that diversity is a feature and not a bug? I think the tendency is to want to fit in and to be the same as everyone else.

Denise:

One of the things that I always say is that every single person in the world is unique. You bring your own background, values, experiences to the table. If I look at how successful my career has been, it’s been because I’ve recognized the things about me that are different. Rather than feeling like that difference is a negative thing, I’ve said that’s what makes me special. That’s what makes me different. When I’m talking to my mentees, I try to encourage them to have the confidence to understand that you are special, just because you are you, with your life experiences, and with your people that you know and your network.

You are unique, you are valuable, and what you’ve got to contribute is going to be valuable too. That could be because you are from a different generation, or because of the country background that you’ve got. It will always be valuable to the teams that you are working with. It’s an element of understanding your self-worth and trying to quiet that imposter syndrome component that sometimes rattles around in your head. When you look around the room and you think, I don’t look like these people, or I don’t talk like these people- instead of seeing that as a negative and thinking that you don’t fit in, I encourage seeing that as a positive. Look at that as your unique value proposition and say, what can I do with that? How can I share that uniqueness that I’ve got?

Daniel:

Have you always found it easy to be comfortable with being different?

Denise:

No, not at all. It’s quite funny actually, because people see me now, and see my daughter, for example, who’s a highly, highly social human, and make that comment that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The truth is, as a teen and as a kid, I was absolutely the one that hid in a corner and didn’t want to socialize, because I didn’t feel like I fit in. I’d say that it has been a learned art that I’ve been able to overcome because of the supportive people I’ve had around me. I do count myself incredibly lucky to have worked with people like Bruce Thompson. There was another manager there, Elizabeth Thomas, who I worked with for most of those 12 years, as well. they were just so good at amplifying people’s uniqueness.

Over that decade I really had the opportunity to be supportive of myself and to get that confidence by being pushed into situations, like public speaking, which used to make me feel physically ill before. I did it. Now, I do it without even thinking. I do know that you can learn that, and I do know that you can learn that confidence. I do count myself lucky to have had amazing people around me that have been encouraging. As a mentor, myself, there is a feeling like you are paying it forward. I’ve had this great experience and had these great people supporting me. Therefore, I feel a bit of a responsibility to make sure that I try and offer that to others, as well.

Finding Your Voice

Daniel:

It makes complete sense, the idea of paying it forward. How do you approach public speaking? There’s a lot of people that would really love to have a voice, but they’re terrified. They are afraid, maybe they don’t know what they like to talk about, maybe they’ve never tried it before, maybe they’re afraid that they’re not enough, maybe they’re just afraid of being seen. What can we do to get better at this?

Denise:

How did I learn it? Honestly, by having people like Bruce say to me, you’re going to go and do this, and I’d go, I’m going to go and do what? Instead of really fighting it, going, okay, well, actually I am going to go and try this. One of the things about public speaking that I would say is it’s like riding a bike. It’s frightening when you start doing it, and you feel all wobbly, and you feel like you’re going to fall down, and you probably will a couple of times. I think you just have to recognize that’s part and parcel with doing that. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll walk off stage. You’ll go, why did I say that in that way? That’s just part of it. What I would say though, is that it is like riding a bike in that it does get easier the more you do it. The more you practice, the more you’ll read faces in the audience, and see how people respond to the way you talk about things. 

It’s so valuable to watch how others speak that you enjoy, so spend time on things like Ted Talks, if you like that style. Spend time really looking. Next time you watch someone give a public speech, make a note to yourself of what you liked, and what you also thought they didn’t do well. It’s just as important to work out what doesn’t work, as it is what does work. Remember that public speaking is something humanity has done since we were able to speak. We are a storytelling community.

Instead of thinking of it as I’m getting up on stage with my PowerPoint to deliver a presentation, sit back and actually go, well, actually, what I’m really doing is getting up to tell a story. If you think about most stories, they’ve got a beginning, a middle, an end, and a moral or something that you are trying to get across as a point within that. If you think about your presentation more like that, you’re far more likely to be comfortable and conversational with your audience, and potentially a lot more engaging with what you’re doing. 

Daniel:

Do you think public speaking has had any major impact on your career?

Denise:

In the type of career that I have, absolutely. I think that these days, particularly working at that international scale, you’ve got a globe to try and talk with. Because of the technology we’ve got, so many of the presentations these days are recorded, and so much more accessible to people around the world. For your individual brand, public speaking has a huge impact on people knowing who you are, what you are capable of, and how to connect with you as a person. If you are an expert in a field, I think that public speaking gives people a way to see you as a person. There’s an element that that role plays in helping to build trust in leaders that are around the world. People will really look at how someone delivers a presentation, but when you think about having a conversation with someone, how someone speaks to you is a big element in creating trust between you.

What Leadership Looks Like

Daniel:

First of all, let me say, I completely agree with everything you said. It’s different from writing a blog. You are on display. You, as a person, are standing in front of other people and saying, here I am, this is what I think, and trying to communicate a message to them. You’re on the hook in a completely different way than you are when you write an article, or when you post on social media. It’s more intense. I think that because of that, the rewards are much greater. There’s a lot of great things that come with public speaking, with having a voice, with showing this leadership. There’s also a lot of responsibilities that come with it as well. I have a few ideas about responsibilities that come with leadership, but I’d really like to hear what you think about that.

Denise:

I would agree with that completely. I think that public speaking is about having a voice. Leadership is about having a voice too. There’s an awful lot of different styles of leadership. For me, responsibilities-wise, my style is probably more like that of Bruce. I know that I’m only as good a leader as the team that I’m working with, or the group, or the community, or what have you, that I’m trying to speak on behalf of. I know that responsibility-wise, when it comes to geospatial, that I often walk into situations, whether it’s the UN, or the World Bank, or World Economic Forum, where my responsibility is to be not just a representative for my organization, but as a representative of our whole geospatial profession.

It is quite a big responsibility for people who have a lot of those leadership roles to realize that you represent more than yourself. It might be just you that’s in that room, but often you are representing a much bigger group of people. Whether it’s the work that they’re doing, whether that’s the belief system that they have, or the culture and background that they’ve got, there’s a great level of responsibility for you, as a leader. For me, leaders really have a great responsibility to not just represent that group of people well, but to also look at how they might help them grow. You are in this leadership role of power, which means actually you have more avenues, more opportunities at your fingertips, so to speak, than a lot of people that are working in different roles within the organization you are leading. You have a responsibility to look at that diverse group of people you are representing and say, how do I take this power and opportunity that I’ve got, and help share that to the broader audience? That’s probably going to be good for me as a leader, but it’s also probably going to be really good for our organization if my staff, and the staff within our organization, are being the best they possibly can be.

Daniel:

I think you managed to summarize a lot of my thoughts around this amazingly well. Thank you very much for that. It sounds like you’ve been really fortunate. You’ve had this amazing leader, this amazing mentor, really early on in your career. For those of us that haven’t had that experience, that don’t know what good leadership looks like, help us understand if we are stuck in bad leadership. What does bad leadership look like?

Denise:

I think bad leadership is when you’ve walked out of a meeting with your manager, or boss, or what have you, and what you are doing in your head is feeling like you are not worthy, feeling like you are not able to do your job, that you are always getting things wrong, and feeling unsupported. If you’re coming home at the end of the day, and your position or role in your organization isn’t bringing you some joy, or you don’t feel like you’re growing and doing things that you want to be doing, I think you really have to then look at the leaders that you’ve got that are responsible for you, and evaluate whether they’re doing the most they can.

Sometimes I would say that they may not even realize that they’re not giving you the support that you need. There is an encouragement I would give to people to say, if you feel like your leaders are not giving you what you need, first try to have a conversation with them. If you can have that confidence to say, I’d really like to try growing in this direction, or I’m really interested in these other opportunities that I’ve seen in the organization, or I’ve got a skill area that I don’t have, but I’d love the opportunity to try and build that. Is that something the organization can support me in doing? Most good leaders will hear that approach and if they’ve got it within their power, will try and then help support you to achieve and to do that move. Sometimes it can be as simple as trying to create a good conversation, and sometimes your leaders need a little help to be better than what they are. For me personally, feedback’s the only way you can do that and be able to get some sense of where you as a leader need to change.

Daniel:

It sounds like this could be a pretty difficult conversation for both parties involved. You talked about feedback there. How do we give good feedback? Or how do we request feedback in a way that doesn’t sound like we’re complaining, or that we are entitled to something? Do you have any advice for us there?

Denise:

I think with feedback, first of all is about building a relationship of trust with somebody. You can’t just walk up to someone and start critiquing what they’ve done, if you don’t have a prior relationship. Perhaps, that’s saying to your manager, or your CEO, or whoever it is, have you got the time, could we have a coffee? Can we have a conversation about something else, so that we can establish some sort of relationship that is going to enable us to have a better conversation? That goes with any relationship, whether that’s work or otherwise. No one is going to receive feedback from someone else, if there isn’t trust within that relationship that’s there. I think that’s really important. It can be a bit of a process in developing that relationship, but I would say that’s a really good skill to develop in life in general.

Building relationships that are based on trust and authenticity will always create a good space for positive and reinforcing feedback. What I would say about the feedback is that it can’t be about you complaining. It’s not about saying to somebody, you don’t do this for me, and I really don’t like the way you do X. There’s a lot of psychology all about this, there’s a lot of books you can go and read. What is really healthy, and a good way to provide feedback is to talk more about the impact, perhaps, of someone’s behavior, or the impact of what’s happening in the organization on you. Talk about it more from the perspective of how it impacts you, your work, or in your career progression, etc..

Rather than try to lay blame, look at the behavior and activities of the person and see- how do I phrase this so that it’s much more about how I’m feeling, or how what is occurring is impacting me. You’ll find that approach will often be a lot better received from people than if you critique their behavior and their actions. In that case, most people get defensive and feel like they’re being criticized.

Inclusivity in Geospatial

Daniel:

By the time this is published, it’ll be pretty close to International Women’s Day. I’m curious to hear, do you think that you as a woman have faced any particular issues, when you think about your career? When you think about the career path that you’ve been on, and these leadership challenges that we’re talking about.

Denise:

Yeah, absolutely. Particularly in the early part of my career I would land myself in, say, I could think of a particular conference that I walked into, where I had put on a very nice, very professional, red dress, and walked into a room of 200 males, all in black suits. Then there was me. Blonde hair, a red dress, and heels, feeling like I stood out like a sore thumb. It was a useful thing for me as a female, and served as one of those unique light bulb moments. I think, for many women, they would’ve walked into that situation and immediately gone, oh my God, I feel out of place. Despite this, I had a great conversation with someone while I was at that conference who went, oh my God, it’s so easy to find you, because you look different from everybody else. It was a helpful thing for me to realize that sometimes being the odd one out actually is a highly valuable thing. You become memorable, you become unique.

One of the things I’d say to women, because in technology I think that’s still very common to be one of the only one or two women there, don’t try and be one of the guys. I’ve seen that time and time again, where because it’s a male dominated culture, women try to dress more like men, and try to behave more like men that they’re dealing with. As a result, they will not call out the culture, behavior, and gender-based jokes. Women, I would say should almost revel in the fact that you are unique in these situations, don’t be scared of owning and being a female in those environments. That would be one of the things that I’ve really noticed over my career.

I’ve certainly had many of those instances where I’ve come up against a gentleman who has looked at me as a woman, and as a mother, and gone, essentially, what are you doing here? I don’t understand how a woman is in your role with your type of experience. I think one of the things that’s shocked me a little bit more was the occasional instance where you end up with other women, particularly women who’ve risen to high senior leadership roles who are quite competitive with other women, more so than they are with men. At times, that’s to the detriment of us achieving better diversity and better equality in what we are doing out there. As a female, I look at other women, I’m like, how do I amplify, elevate, support and encourage? In my head space, I can’t even imagine the idea of competing with another woman. I want to bond with them more and say, how do we work together? I think that element of competition from some women I found to be quite a surprising and startling thing in my career. I suspect it’s probably built off of the fight that they’ve had to have to get to the roles that they’re in, and the challenge that being a woman can be at times. I think we’re getting past that, but it was an interesting thing to look back on my career and realize those moments where that has happened.

Daniel:

This is almost an uncomfortable conversation to have, because as a white male, I feel like when we talk about diversity that I’m constantly part of the problem and never allowed to be part of the solution. Maybe you can give me some advice here. What would you say to someone like me? How can I be part of the solution, when we think about diversity and inclusion in geospatial?

Denise:

I’m so glad you raised that. It’s probably one of the things that drives me the most mad these days. I am, without doubt, a feminist. I’m all for equal opportunity. It’s that word equal, that we’re beginning to sometimes not see. For me, if we’ve got sections of our populations, and I specifically think that white male part is experiencing this, we’ve almost tipped the balance too far. If you are feeling like you can’t be in the conversation, then we’ve missed something here, because that’s not what this should be about. What we need to do is get to a point where we have a much more inclusive dialogue. We’re simply embracing difference, and we see that as a valuable thing to have.

We are embracing the fact that people have different perspectives, and different ways of being, and we’re not judging all the time. What I would say to a lot of men is, firstly, I’m so sorry that you feel like that. It’s really not something that I would ever want to see happen. What I think is really important for people that feel like that is to look at your interpersonal relationships and how you talk with other people, or what actions you can take within your workplace, look at the simple things. Even if you don’t feel like you can have an entry point into the bigger conversation there are lots of small things. Be careful of the language that you use when you’re writing a job description and try to put it together thinking about what diverse and inclusive language is.

Familiarize yourself with the tools that are out there these days around diversity, equity, and inclusion, so that you can see those pitfalls that people fall into. Language-wise in particular we’ve got a whole bunch of cultural references that we use that are still very gender stereotyping. If you can just recognize when you use them, for example we’ll see, little girls are described as bossy, whereas the same little boy, exhibiting the same behaviors, would be described as a leader. Being able to recognize when those things occur and when you’re using language that’s just so culturally complacent, and going, okay, I’m not going to phrase it like that. I’m not going to deal with it like that. That’s a really good first step, because everybody should be doing that, not just white men. That’s something everybody should be looking at doing and being inclusive.

If you are someone that’s in a leadership role, you have that same responsibility. What can I do that’s going to help amplify, not just women, but everybody? How do I cultivate diversity in the teams that I’m working with? How do I help create an open and inclusive culture in what we are doing, and help to demonstrate that there’s value in doing that? Talking about Bruce Thompson, as a leader, he was a white male, but, my goodness, in the office that we were in, we had women, men, old people, younger people, people from different ethnic backgrounds. Our office was built off of so many different cultures, and he didn’t make a point of it, he just lived it as a role model in that diversity and inclusion. I think sometimes it really is challenging to get engaged at that big macro conversation level. There are smaller, more personal things that you can look at that help us move in the right direction.

Preparing for Leadership 

Daniel:

Thank you very much for that. I really appreciate your insights on that topic. You talked a lot about leaders there. That they have a clear responsibility. I think we all have a clear responsibility to make things better, in general, to look at things that are broken instead of walking past them, to pick them up and try and fix them. I think that’s our responsibility. Would you have any specific advice to young professionals, young female professionals, especially, in terms of their career, in terms of they’re looking to move into leadership roles? What should they be thinking about today, now?

Denise:

I would say watch the leaders around you, and evaluate in your head, what you like and what you don’t like. Watch how leaders behave, watch how they talk, and really sit back and go, how does this make me feel? Does this help me? Am I inspired by what they say? What would I emulate, if I was going to be a leader in this space? That role modeling element is really important, it helps you to pick out bits and behaviors that you do and don’t like about being a leader. It will help inform you as to what sort of a leader you want to be. What I would say to young women, or to anybody really in the early stages of your profession is, once you’ve got a bit of a sense in your head of a leader that you like the look of, go have a chat with them and see if they can be a mentor.

If they’re willing to have a coffee with you, ask them how they got to that role. What was it around them that helped build them into the leader that they are. You’ll probably find some incredible insights about twists, and turns, and experiences that they’ve had over the course of time. I know, these days, a lot of leaders, really good leaders, that I work with are often are very open to having that half an hour cup of coffee, or chatting over Zoom. I probably have about two conversations a week with young people from around the world who just ping me on LinkedIn, or are introduced to me by somebody else, and they just want an opportunity to talk to somebody who’s been through some of those steps. Don’t be afraid, in your head, to critique, and certainly don’t hero worship people. Look for their flaws too. We’re all human, so no leader is perfect. Whatever leader you will be, will be your style of leadership too. Don’t be afraid to just be you, and develop leadership your own way.

Daniel:

Speaking of mentors, or role models, is there anyone out there today where you can point to and say this is leadership? I think they are doing leadership in a fantastic way. This is worth copying.

Denise:

That’s a hard one. There’s a lot of them doing a whole variety of different things out there. Probably some of the leaders that you don’t necessarily see at the top. They’re not always CEOs for me. I think that there’s a lot of really brilliant leaders that sit within smaller organizations. Going to Women in Geospatial, Julia Wagemann has been an absolutely sensational leader for movement, and really took an opportunity to take action, used her network, used her passion, to really help build an organization that was about helping others. I really hold her up in quite high esteem for her leadership skills.

I think going further, another woman would be Barbara Ryan simply because she’s such an authentically passionate person about the use of geospatial, but the use of it for the positive and right reasons in the world, and to help the environment and making the world a better place. She’s really a bit of that servant leadership style for me. She’s been so much about building community, and never talks about herself as being a senior person. She always talks about herself as being part of a bigger and broader community. Really good leaders don’t elevate themselves, or really even talk about themselves as being leaders. They just intrinsically behave like them, if that makes sense?

Daniel:

It does. I really like the example of Julia there with Geospatial Women. I think people that don’t wait to be given the opportunity to do leadership, but take the opportunity to be a leader, I think, that’s really impressive. That’s something we should be celebrating.

Denise:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think the reality is, to be a leader is to take risks. There will always be people that don’t like your leadership style. That don’t share your passion, or your interest areas. You do take a risk when you decide to put yourself out in that way, or take those different roles. I think that it’s quite a courageous thing for a lot of people to step up into those spaces. You’ve got such an amazing opportunity to help change the world by taking leadership in your passion and mission areas,.

Changing Our View of Leadership

Daniel:

Yeah. I think that’s a really important thing to think about. It is a risk, because regardless of what you do, it won’t be for everybody. There’s a really interesting balancing act here, where we need to constantly learn along the way. This didn’t work, fix it, make it better, do something different next time. Always remember that this is not for everyone. This is for a very specific group of people. I think it’s super important for leaders to be thinking about, well, who am I trying to serve? What are they saying about it? It’s okay if there’s a person over here who doesn’t agree with me, and I’m not trying to serve them. Don’t listen to them, listen to these people here, and just be very laser focused on who it is you’re trying to help.

Denise:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. You touched on a really interesting point that has been something that’s slowly been emerging in my brain in the last five years or so. Leadership isn’t for everybody, and that’s perfectly fine. I think we have this strange culture around our career plans, and career progression concepts, that are always pushing this idea that success is reaching the top of an organization. That’s something that we really need to challenge as a concept, because I don’t think everybody needs to be a leader. You imagine if the whole world was all trying to lead, we’d never get anywhere, it’d be a complete mess. 

When we look at our careers, some advice is, don’t get caught up in that hype. That the only way you are going to be successful is if, one day, you are the CEO. If you really want to be at that level, and that’s something that you know is going to bring you fulfillment, by all means, chase that dream. However, if that idea actually scares the daylights out of you, and what you instead love is to be the really good technical person that’s deeply into your particular domain area, creating brilliant maps, and brilliant solutions. If that brings you insights to your passion, and brings you joy, pursue that. See that as your success metric, instead of going after those roles. We put a bit too much stock, at times, in the titles that we associate with the idea of leadership. Sometimes that’s to some people’s detriment, and I think they end up giving up things that they’re really passionate about and, perhaps, really skilled at, because there’s this strange expectation we have that success is about being at the top.

Daniel:

I completely agree with that. When I think about leadership, I’m less likely to think about leadership in terms of that traditional understanding in an organization, where someone gives you a title and says, please do this job here. You are now a leader. I think of leadership that happens at every level of the organization. People are trying new things. They’re voicing their opinions. They’re having ideas. They’re seeing opportunities to fix things and make things better. For me, that’s all leadership, because it requires that you see something, you have an idea, and you act upon it. That’s a style of leadership, and I really want people to understand that is an option. I’m not pushing for leadership as such as the only metric for success, but I’m a strong advocate for people pursuing leadership.

Denise:

Absolutely. I love that description, Daniel. For me, that’s also what I see as leadership. I’m not sure that perception of leadership is necessarily shared by a huge number of others. If we can do that, hopefully that will encourage more people to raise their voices, and to offer themselves in leadership, and to take those actions.

Daniel:

Well, we’ll just have to continue making podcasts like this, and maybe the message will sink in.

Denise:

I like your thinking.

Daniel:

Denise, thank you very much for being here with me today, I always enjoy talking with you. There will be people listening to this going, well, that woman is incredible. How can I reach out to her? How can I connect with her? If that’s the case, and I know it is the case, how can they do that? Where can they go?

Denise:

You’ll be able to do a Google search on Denise McKenzie and geospatial. You shouldn’t have too much trouble in locating me from that perspective. But always find me @spatialred, all one word on Twitter, so you can find me there, or on LinkedIn, Denise McKenzie is a really easy way to get a hold of me, or in my new role now at PLACE. You can find us on our website of thisisplace.org, and you’ll find my staff page there, and the way to get in touch with me from that too, so lots of different avenues.

Daniel:

Once again, Denise, thanks so much, really appreciate your time.

Denise:

Thanks, Daniel. I really appreciate it.

Daniel:

I really hope you enjoyed that episode with Denise McKenzie. As always, there will be links in the show notes to how you can reach out to her, and places where you can connect with her. I really hope you take the time to do that. You’ve just spent 40 minutes listening to Denise, and I hope we can agree that she’s remarkable. She’s had a remarkable career, and she is a remarkable person. What I really want you to see is that you can be remarkable too, and I think the only thing that’s stopping you from being remarkable is realizing it. 

That’s it for me. That’s it for another episode of this podcast. I really hope you’ll take the time to join me again next week. As always, you can reach out to me on social media. You can find me at MapScaping on Twitter. You can check out our website, mapscaping.com, there’s contact information there, or connect with me on LinkedIn. Okay, that’s it for me. I’ll see you again next week.