Women in Tech: Shaping geospatial technology

Geospatial technology is integral to our daily lives, shaping everything from our daily commute international logistics. In this landscape, Hexagon’s Geosystems division steps forward, providing an array of digital solutions that make sense of our physical world. By capturing, measuring and visualising the world around us, our solutions fuel data-driven transformations across a variety of sectors such as building construction and surveying.

Using our reality capture technologies enables the creation of detailed digital models, painting the picture of our world from individual properties and cities to infrastructures, utilities and entire nations. These digital representations deliver essential insights that inform understanding, planning and implementation.

When moving into the implementation phase of projects, our Geosystems division continues this support, providing users with intuitive positioning, guiding and visualisation solutions. In doing so, we ensure that key insights and understanding are readily available, further improving everyday experiences.

In our Women in Tech series, we delve into the careers of women at Hexagon who are advancing our technology. In this edition, our spotlight shines on the women propelling our geospatial technologies forward.

Wendy Watson, Business Manager, SmartNet North America

From an early age, Wendy Watson knew she would pursue a scientific career path. Initially, she started college majoring in biology. But after hearing about exciting summer job opportunities from her engineering friends, she shifted her academic focus.

Indeed, she did secure an exciting summer job. She spent the season flying in a helicopter along the Newfoundland coastline for the Canadian Hydrographic Service to calibrate their positioning and navigation systems.

Wendy’s career has spanned several companies later acquired by Hexagon, including NovAtel, Allen Precision Equipment (RTK) and Leica Geosystems. Today, she serves as the business manager for HxGN SmartNet North America. This journey has enabled her to contribute to innovative technology that has profoundly shaped the world we live in today. Recalling the early stages of her career, when she worked with the then-novel GPS technology, Wendy reflects, “No one knew what it was. Now, no one uses physical maps — everyone uses their phones”.

Wendy emphasises the broader impact of her work, including her contributions to environmental sustainability and the development of autonomous vehicles. In her own words, “It’s not a cakewalk”, but the challenges of her journey have only bolstered her resolve and her commitment to empowering the next generation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Wendy’s leadership philosophy is a testament to her belief in collaboration and mentorship. She stresses the importance of a solid support system in achieving success and says, “You can have it all, but not by yourself”. She takes pride in nurturing the next generation of technology leaders, with two top tech women under her wing.

Wendy’s advice to young women beginning their journeys? “Follow your strengths, take on real-life problem-solving challenges, surround yourself with a good support system and never be discouraged by barriers.”

Elke Hacker, Senior Product Manager, Leica Captivate and Infinity

With a career spanning 17 years, Elke Hacker has a leading position within the development of key products like the Leica Captivate Field Software and the Leica Infinity office software, which have wide-ranging applications beyond the survey industry. “Understanding the problems and obstacles customers face and building products to help them be more efficient is my prime focus”, she shares.

Her journey into STEM was spurred by a passion for math and physics and an affinity for the outdoors, which led her to follow a friend into surveying. Her achievements have been many, but she cherishes supporting new employees most. “Mentoring people, seeing them develop and watching them grow in their careers is very rewarding. I take pride in supporting others in their work”, she says.

Elke’s work has had positive impacts through the products she helped develop. “Our instruments are used in a wide range of applications, from surveying and infrastructure, to police accident scene investigations and archaeological digs. We make these tasks easier, safer and more sustainable”, she affirms.

Elke is a true advocate for increasing the representation and participation of women and girls in STEM. “It’s essential to ensure that young girls are aware of the opportunities available in STEM fields”, she states. Initiatives like the UK’s “Get Kids into Surveying” are instrumental in breaking stereotypes and presenting the multifaceted applications of math and physics.

[Related: Get Kids into Surveying interview at HxGN LIVE Global 2023]

For those young girls interested in STEM, Elke’s advice is to explore and understand the possibilities in the field. “Think outside the box and discover how your skills can be used in unconventional ways”, she encourages. She underscores the importance of gaining practical experience and not being deterred by job descriptions, no matter at what point in your career you are.

Cindy Teeven, Product Engineer, Asset Collection (GIS)

Located in Switzerland amidst her beloved mountains, Cindy Teeven pioneers new horizons in the division of Hexagon. As a member of the Asset Collection for GIS team, she focuses on creating mobile and desktop applications for underground and above-ground infrastructure for the public sector as well as for agriculture and utility mapping. Cindy and her team provide services to customers who are not surveyors, enabling them to obtain precise GNSS measurements and integrate them into their current systems.

An earth sciences enthusiast turned Geo IT specialist, Cindy’s worked in the private GEO IT industry before taking a role in public authority, where she used data to assist policymakers in decision-making. She then decided to dive headfirst into a web development boot camp, saying she wanted to “specialise in the technical part because that’s where the fun is”.

Cindy’s most significant accomplishment, she believes, was making this switch and immersing herself in the world of development. Her adventurous spirit drove her to organise meetups for geo-data specialists. These meetups eventually grew into Cindy’s coordination of a large-scale geospatial data conference.

Her advice to young girls contemplating a career in STEM? “Just go for it. If you like something, you may already be quite good at it, as passion and motivation can take you far.” Cindy encourages exploring and experimenting without fear of failure. She firmly believes in the importance of joining tech meetups and forging connections. She notes that even the most introverted programmers can be “fun and helpful once you get to know them”.

Metka Majeric, Senior Product Engineer, GNSS

Metka Majeric serves mostly as a product champion within the GNSS team. Her duties include crafting detailed presentations, writing articles and conducting training sessions for sales channels and customers. “My goal is to ensure they have comprehensive knowledge about the functionalities and values of our products”, she explains. Drawing from a family with strong engineering roots, she’s always been captivated by technical challenges and chose to study engineering to further her passion.

During her five-year tenure at Hexagon, Metka has acquired a broad range of knowledge, developed a wide array of skills and built an extensive network, all geared toward enhancing her future career growth opportunities.

Beyond her professional growth, Metka’s contagious energy and enthusiasm have far-reaching effects. “I like to draw people together”, she says, and this contributes positively to team dynamics, creating an atmosphere that encourages collaboration and positivity. Sharing her knowledge and skills, she helps others understand the solutions offered by her organisation and the benefits they present.

For women and girls beginning their careers in STEM, Metka’s advice is, “Gain respect by delivering the best you can. Be confident about your ideas and thoughts. And never stop learning”. But perhaps the most empowering advice from Metka is this: “Believe in yourself!”

Joanna Wnuk, Product Engineer, HxGN SmartNet

Joanna Wnuk, originally from Poland, now resides in Switzerland, where she has served as a Product Engineer for Hexagon for the past three years. As part of the HxGN SmartNet team, Joanna plays a crucial role in creating and managing high-accuracy GNSS corrections and software solutions.

“The work never stops moving forward — I have no other choice than to move forward and adapt”, she shares. Fortunately, this dynamic environment of technology and innovation aligns perfectly with her nature.

Joanna joined the workforce amidst the global pandemic, which thrust her into a remote working environment. As the youngest member and the only woman on her team, she tackled challenges head-on and successfully collaborated with diverse groups to achieve her goals.

Joanna is passionate about the transformative power of technology, and she’s fascinated by its potential to shape the world. Whether it’s propelling autonomous driving or making agriculture more efficient, she believes her work significantly impacts the technology field.

Joanna’s love for technology blends seamlessly with her fascination for history. One of her favourite projects was building a 3D model of historical objects in Poland, illustrating the synergy between social studies and technology.

She is also a staunch advocate for encouraging young girls and women to pursue STEM careers. She urges newcomers not to fear asking questions, explaining, “It’s not a sign of being worse, but a sign of being curious and wanting to improve”.

[Related: Women in Tech Series: Meet Hexagon’s employees who are enabling reality capture]

In an increasingly data-driven and interconnected world, geospatial technology will continue to play a crucial role. Factors like diversity, innovation and resilience are vital in STEM and fundamental in propelling technological advancements forward.