Dorothy, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed for the Sentinel Hub "Meet the team" series. Could you start by introducing yourself?
My pleasure! I'm currently working as a Remote Sensing engineer at Sentinel Hub GmbH in Austria, which I joined approximately a year ago. I grew up in Kenya and lived there until 2018. After high school, I went to Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to do a Bachelor's degree in Geomatics Engineering and Geographic Information Systems (GEGIS). Actually, a fun fact for you: I hadn't planned to get into Geospatial studies and first thought of studying Telecommunications engineering. However, I got admission for the GEGIS program, and once I started studying, I realised that I really enjoyed the subjects that were being taught! The program was really broad, and the subjects included land surveying, remote sensing, GIS, urban planning, amongst others... This variety allowed me to develop a better idea of the specific field I wanted to specialise in: I enjoyed GIS over all, and wrote my thesis on suitability analysis using GIS.
I actually got into Remote Sensing at a much later stage. Once I graduated, I started working on a project that involved mapping infrastructure for the national Power Company in Kenya (KPLC). Then I moved to Ramani Geosystems, where I joined the Geosystems department. I was in the production team, where we would generate maps for clients based on aerial photography. We worked for very different clients, ranging from the governement to farmers or NGOs. My first encounter with satellite imagery in the work environment was with Google Earth images. I used the high-resolution multi-temporal images to map human settlements for an NGO that was looking at the impact of human encroachment on Elephant habitats. I got to work with satellite images in a further extent later, when I did my Masters degree.
Yes, but before picking up my studies, I first changed department within the company. After 3 years in the Geosystems department, i moved to the Land Services department. This was an interesting move in my career: I didn't have much land surveying experience, and I got to learn the techniques first hand in the field. We did a lot of static GPS observations and real-time kinematics measurements and it was a lot of fun. Although it was an interesting experience, I still felt the need to expand my knowledge further, and the idea of doing a Masters started growing in my head. I was searching for a funded scholarship, and was lucky to be accepted by Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart in Germany. I enrolled in the Photogrammetry and Geoinformatics programme, thinking that with a Master's degree, I would be able to contribute more to society. At the end of my studies, I realised that my knowledge was still very theoretical and started looking for a position in Europe to gain practical experience in a company.
Remote Sensing was my favourite subject during my studies, partly due to the excellent professor I had, and I was really keen to find a position in that field. Furthermore, with my background in aerial photography and mapping, working with Earth Observation data seemed like the next logical step in my career. I was interested in the scalability offered by the use of satellite imagery, that you just can't get -or it would be extremely resource intensive- with aerial photography or in-situ measurements.
No I don't think so: I would actually say the opposite "the more the data the better"! Yes, we have a lot of new data being made available each day, but this enlarges our possibilities. Of course, you have to filter the information for it to be relevant, but the recurrence of the observations is a big plus in my opinion. Furthermore, the diversity of sensors providing complementary data offers new perspectives for the analysis of processes on the Earth's surface. What is really important is the accessibility of the data. Speaking from my perspective, in Kenya satellite images are largely under-utilised. There are many fields that could make the use of Remote Sensing data but are not, still today. Only recently have agricultural companies started looking into using satellite images for their analysis and even then, I believe only a small percentage of companies truly benefit from Earth Observation. There is a huge potential to be exploited, and it is our responsibility as Remote Sensing experts to democratise the data. At Sentinel Hub, one of our missions is to provide access to this huge archive of data to the widest range of public possible, allowing non-experts to benefit from the rich source of information that is available, without getting stuck by the complications of having to find, download, and pre-process the images. Accessibility is key!
This position is the first time I am working for an Earth Observation company. I have learned so many things in the last year, I don't know where to start. I would say that the biggest revelation to me was learning about cloud-based solutions. Previously, I am used to largely processing data in my local machine, which is extremely inefficient. The approach at Sentinel Hub has completely changed my perspective on big-data analysis. Working with the team is great: we are all young and dynamic individuals, and the work style has pushed me, in a nice way! In a small team you have to be responsible for many aspects of the work, which is challenging and builds you on a personal level.
I would say it's on-boarding new data collections to our services: I get to discover fascinating data-sets that I didn't know of previously, which I can then refer to customers to support their analysis. That's a great benefit of Sentinel Hub services, there is no limit: if you don't find the data collection that you want in our services, you can upload your own tailored one with our BYOC API. And of course, I get to look at beautiful images of our planet!
It's very different from the previous locations where I have lived! Not only is it very different from Nairobi, but it's also very different from Stuttgart. I appreciate the relaxed vibes of the city, people aren't too stressed and aren't rushing. Particularly compared to Stuttgart, which was always bustling. Of course having only been in Graz for a year, I don't have the community that I had in Nairobi. But I'm hoping to get to know more people here, but that's the reality of moving countries.