Perhaps not the first thing you might think of, but from modelling catastrophes for insurers, to advising huge corporations on geopolitical risks, geography offers career opportunities in some of the most forward-looking sectors
Dr Tina Thomson, Head of Catastrophe Analytics EMEA West-South
Willis Towers Watson
Degree: Geomatic engineering, UCL
My background is in catastrophe model development. As Head of Catastrophe Analytics at Willis I am responsible for the analytical service offering to a wide range of reinsurance clients across the West and South region of Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). I am responsible for a team of over 30 staff from diverse backgrounds and different geographical locations including the UK, France and India.
The job keeps me challenged and there is always something new to learn, whether this is expanding into the various natural perils (seismology, hydrology, structural engineering, and atmospheric sciences); different lines of business such as property, life and cyber; to the more commercial, presentation and client-facing skills.
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Kate Edwards, CEO and Principal Consultant
Degree: Geography, University of Washington (US)
I have been obsessed with maps and travel since a very young age. Every summer found our family on a road trip to some new place in the US and beyond. After initial studies in aerospace engineering and industrial design, I ultimately opted to pursue geography and cartography as I’ve always had a strong interest in the subjects.
While pursuing my doctoral work, I was recruited into Microsoft to work as a cartographer on Encarta Encyclopedia. That role evolved from being the cartography lead on Encarta, to Encarta World Atlas and then into a new role as the company’s first Geopolitical Specialist within the Geography Business Unit – to help the company with geopolitical sensitivities on maps (Kashmir, Taiwan, etc.).
When the company had a significant faux pas with two products in 1997, I created the Geopolitical Strategy team to protect the company from geopolitical and cultural content risks. This led to my involvement in most of Microsoft’s video game projects, and in that work, I found my true calling – performing a hands-on, critical risk assessment of how creative decisions in digital content may affect a company’s global business. After managing this team for seven years, I departed Microsoft and created my own consulting company, Geogrify, that has provided culturalisation services to many companies, including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Electronic Arts, Bioware, Ubisoft, LEGO, and many others.
Very few companies will ever have openings for a ‘geographer’ so with guidance from mentors in the tech and video game fields and some trial and error experience, I was able to eventually discern how my skills and perspective could benefit companies. The work that I do on a daily basis relies upon my ability to view the world through a geographer’s lens. From logistical travel knowledge, to discovering a potentially offensive symbol or gesture, to understanding the importance of a historical event in a specific locale, to comprehending the folk costumes of a local culture and how they might be leveraged by a creative designer – all of these aspects (and many more) are reliant on geography.
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