An ambitious GIS professional, Haseeb Malik has risen to an executive leadership role in his organization as the vice president of data operations at Iris Software, Inc. The authors sat down with Malik at the 2023 Esri User Conference to learn about his GIS journey and how internships and networking event opportunities led to an executive leadership role in his organization.
Q: How did you get your start in GIS?
A: My interest in GIS began when a family friend introduced me to geomatics. It sounded very technical and interesting. After a deeper look into the industry, I realized there were a lot of opportunities in this space. I discovered that GIS enabled people to solve real-life problems with location-based analytics. This really intrigued me and started me on my journey in GIS.
Q: Tell us about your college journey.
A: I went to the University of Toronto, where I received my bachelor of science in geographic information systems. My GIS program was very small, but this was a huge benefit as my cohorts became very close to one another. I started networking early on in studies with classmates and professors, and it was a valuable experience for relationship building. During my undergraduate studies, I was exposed to various GIS and city planning courses, which helped me become very familiar with the technology.
Q: Did you do any internships while in college?
A: During university, my program didn’t offer internships. I had to take the initiative and responsibility for my success. So, I attended Esri events and would meet with career counselors to discover internship opportunities. My first internship came in my sophomore year for the City of Toronto, as a GIS research technician. I helped to develop analytical maps around the subway systems with the intent to improve pedestrian accessibility to those subway systems.
In my junior and senior years, I worked for the local school board to use GIS to identify where schools should be built within the community. I volunteered with Esri Canada as a conference assistant, which helped [me] to gain more opportunities to network with professionals in various industries. These events were vital to my career success as I was able to interact with experienced GIS professionals and learn from their stories. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and putting yourself out there.
Q: What other opportunities were available to network while in college?
A: My GIS professors would promote various Esri events to my classmates, and I would band together [with my classmates] to attend these events. Having my colleagues with me provided an added layer of comfort because we weren’t alone, and it also became a social thing.
We took advantage of discounted rates offered to students. That is something students can and should take advantage of when attending industry events and conferences. Don’t be afraid to ask about special offerings for students. Very often, students gain access to these events for little to no cost simply by asking.
[Esri also offers student assistantships where admission and full conference access are available in exchange for volunteering.]
Q: What was your path to becoming VP of data operations?
A: Right now, I have the fancy title of vice president of data operations for Iris, an internationally recognized pioneer in solving the most difficult data collection challenges facing the roads, tunnels, and transport infrastructure sector today. It’s very rewarding applying GIS data to help municipalities and governing bodies build and maintain safer roads—the very same roads you and I drive on.
I started as a municipal GIS analyst, which allowed me to become more engaged in customer-facing meetings, leveraging my experience working for the City of Toronto. After putting myself out there coordinating GIS projects and helping wherever there was an opportunity in both tech and customer success, I earned a promotion to GIS manager.
In this role, I managed a lot of our tools and databases—it was less technical and more of a leadership role. In addition, as the company began to grow, I was taking on even more responsibility. I maintained my loyalty and contributions to the organization and soon after, I became the VP of data operations.
In this role, I am not just responsible for the technical deliverables but also for customer success and sales. Now I get to wear multiple hats, ensuring the continued growth and success of the organization. While it’s not always easy, I embrace the challenge. I believe in pushing yourself to the edge because that is where your growth lies. I’ve learned so much in this position, and I’m grateful for the exposure that I have received. I attribute much of my success to those earlier internships and industry events I attended. They truly helped me to understand the path and challenges that were ahead to take on a leadership role.
Q: What’s your best advice to other young professionals?
A: Put yourself out there and be confident. Remember, you belong in this space. Put a smile on your face—it’s important for you to be approachable.
Be open to feedback because not everything is rainbows and sunshine. You’re going to make mistakes and that is OK so long as you learn from them.
The best way to elevate your career as a young professional is to build trust with your leadership. That is how I grew within my organization to a VP level today. My final word of advice is everyone’s journey is not the same, so be mindful of comparing yourself to others. Go out there and give it 110 percent and everything else will fall into place.
About the authors
Marcus Seepersad is a marketing automation specialist for Esri’s digital performance management team. He stands up web forms and marketing campaigns supporting Esri’s various marketing teams. He is also an advisory board member for the Esri Young Professionals Network, a community for GIS professionals to learn and collaborate while sharing ideas and insights. In his free time, he enjoys giving back to the community and volunteering with local youth organizations.
Rosemary Boone works as an education marketing specialist for Esri, concentrating on executing marketing strategies for K-12 schools and higher education institutions. She holds a master’s degree in education technology with an emphasis on multimedia. Prior to her career in marketing, she taught elementary school and taught overseas. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, exercise, spend time with her cats, and explore her favorite city in the world- Claremont, California.