Dominika Religa joined Gaist as a geospatial analyst, one year ago. Today, as part of our Digital Insights team, she plays a critical role in building our rich digital maps of the country’s roads and roadscape.  
We sat down to discuss her path from Wroclaw to Skipton, the explosion of interest in geospatial data – and life working with her twin sister, Patrycja.  

Q: Your first degree, at the University of Science and Technology in Wrocklaw, Poland, was in Geodesy and Cartography. A fairly specific choice…

A: Ever since I can remember I have enjoyed learning maths and geography.

A flair for technology followed when I reached university and was learning about state-of-the-art geodetic equipment.

Back then, I didn’t want to spend eight hours in front of the screen. I wanted to go to the field and collect data. I also wanted to choose something where I could use my maths skills. Geodesy sounded perfect to me.

It essentially connects geomatics, land surveying, geology and mining. It has a lot of maths behind it.

Q: Did you have plans for how you would apply it?

A: Like most of my friends back then I didn’t think about how I was going to apply it or have any idea how my life would look like after I finished my degree.

Now, I am part of a company that is at the forefront of digital mapping and because of its vast databank has a critical role to play in the changing digital landscape. That is a really exciting thing to be part of.

Q: After graduation, you continued your studies in Greece for a year..A good year?

A:  A very sunny year! After graduating in Poland I spent a year at the Technical University of Crete, Greece, mostly studying remote sensing.

I had great professors who spoke English perfectly, had a great knowledge and were super friendly. After the lessons we used to grab an iced coffee, go to the beach and enjoy the sea.

By that stage I was keen for an opportunity to live and work in the UK. I applied for and secured a student internship at the University of Leicester –  and after that came Gaist.

Q: It’s a good time to be a GIS expert – Geospatial data (data about location) and technology  has attracted a huge interest in recent years and now in the UK we have a Geospatial Commission and a UK Geospatial strategy? What has prompted that?

A: Organisations and governments around the world are recognising the power of geospatial technology and the endless opportunities that it brings. It can help us to solve national complex problems, and helps data driven decision making for a range of national policies.

It will play a huge part in how we manage our critical national infrastructure – our road networks, our internet networks and so on – and will help to focus investment in the right areas, reduce costs and increase efficiency and also safety.

We have seen with Covid-19 too the importance of geospatial data in responding to international problems and helping us to formulate strategies for managing them, such as the reconfiguaration of road and footways to ensure safe distancing is maintained. Another area is supporting the reconfiguration of roads for increased cycling and wider mobilty requirements such as scooters.

Q: The highways sector is undergoing something of a revolution too?

A: Yes, we have connected autonomous vehicles becoming a reality, electric scooters coming onto our roads and now the shake-up in our road network being pledged as part of the response to the Coronavirus.

A company like ours, with a huge bank of data about the road network and with the tools, skills and capabilities to continue to re-fresh it and help companies who need it to make sense of it, is right at the centre of that revolution. The integration of HD imagery allows all stakeholders not only to view the data but also see the surrounding area for additional context. This saves considerable time and cost and greatly reduces the safety risk of having send teams out and close roads

Q: Your twin sister, Patrycja, followed your exact path – and you now work at Gaist together. Had you always planned to stay together?

A: We don’t plan about whether we stick together or separate. We just go with the flow. If there’s an opportunity for us both to work in the same place we take it, but we don’t have a problem with separating either.

It’s fun to work with a twin. You have always someone to talk to and someone who always has your back.

We both live in Harrogate now but in separate apartments.

In our downtime we enjoy lots of visits to the Lake District, to go hiking. The people are very nice and welcoming, although, I don’t like the weather that much.

Q: What sort of skills  /strengths make someone a good data analyst?

A: A high level of mathematical ability, curiosity but also, essentially, good communication skills.

Technical analysis is only one part of the job – a good data analyst should be curious about the data and be able to communicate about it with colleagues, stakeholders etc.

Q:What does the day-to-day role of grappling with data involve?

A: Our Digital Insights team works closely with our team out in India. Once we get the video from the survey fleet, we upload it to our system and prepare the work spaces for and make sure they can quickly start the inspection process. Once that is done, we carry out the quality assurance checks and processing. We clean the data, edit it and structure it into the format the client requires.

Some of the datasets are obviously very large and we need to work diligently to check for any mistakes and to correct them. Accuracy is essential.

Our presentation of the data is also critical – the end-user needs to be able to quickly make sense of it and understand what it is telling them to gain value from it.

Q What are your clients seeking to learn from the data you give them?

A: They want to gain a deep understanding of their assets and their condition and how it is changing year by year. They also want a deep understanding of geographic context – where things sit in relation to each other, this is where access to our up to date HD imagery is so uniquely powerful

For Connected Autonomous Vehicles to come onto our roads for example, there has to be access to highly detailed cm accurate data for both urban and rural areas  about features such as road markings and street furniture.

Q: Was it a busy time in lockdown?

A: Yes, the traffic was light during the lockdown and we managed to collect and deliver the video faster. As a business we were able to support both government and energy and infrastructure clients maintain roads and footways and support the deployment of 5G and fibre rollout which will become so important as more people work from home.

As a business we continued to work as normal regardless of what was happening. I think that’s one of the pros of working in technology sector.

Gaist captures and curates the most up-to-date and highest-definition roadscape datasets in the UK – Covering all ABC & unclassified roads. For information on how your organisation can unlock the power of this data, please contact