Monday, October 3, 2011

Indispensable Skills

YunLung Steven Yeh, who is from Taiwan, graduated with an MS in Applied Geography in 2010

My Master’s program focused on Retail Geography and Economic Geography with Dr. Rice, and my research concerns global expansion of foreign retailers. I am currently an expansion manager with Decathlon Co., which is a leading French sports-retail company. My job is to do market analysis and expansion planning to locate sites to open new stores. There are three experiences I want to share that concern how my graduate education prepared me for my career.

First, Geography is Indispensable
Many people in jobs like mine are business-school graduates, but geographers are the only experts who think from a geographic point of view. In my company, the expansion development team includes experts in many fields including finance, accounting, construction, architecture, marketing, geography…etc. Each expansion decision requires my approval. The reason is that well-designed expansion planning entails analysis of spatial patterns. Because a geographic perspective is unique in a field filled with business graduates, geographers are difficult to find and hard to replace.

Second, Skills are Important
Not only should you be an expert in your area of interest (for me retail and economic geography), you need to be able to apply other conceptual and mathematical tools. The tool of GIS is a unique weapon for a geographer. Dr. Hunter and Dr. Dong gave me a complete training in GIS. Although my company does not use the same software (ArcGIS) as used at UNT, I simply convert GIS concepts to Excel, Painter, and Google Earth together to create my own GIS tools. In addition, mathematical tools are important. Under training by Dr. Wolverton and Dr. Rice, I have confidence in speaking the language of statistics. Being an expert in a focused area of interest is not enough, if you can communicate in “numbers,” that will be a big plus for your career.  

Third, Always ask Questions
Employment deals with the real world. Text books and classes provide a general idea of knowledge. Answering practical questions in the real world is another issue. My major professor, Dr. Rice, always encouraged me travel as much as possible. I would try my best to understand any phenomenon I saw during the trips. Indeed, Dr. Rice and I would spend a lot of time discussing my observations after each trip. This helped me build real-world experiences so that I have been able to easily catch on to my job. Hence, I strongly recommend that students always find questions and answer them in the real world. It is good training before entering a career.

I am proud that I completed my degree in Applied Geography at UNT. There, I developed into a more skilled and mature geographer, which has made it easier to get a job and to succeed in the workplace. Learning to think geographically and to communicate scientifically leads to unique professional development, which makes a person indispensable in the workplace.

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