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A first experience at FOSS4G

31 August, 2022
by Francesca Drăguț

My participation in the FOSS4G conference in Florence might be the most unexpected thing that happened to me this year.

It was one week of conferencing, networking, learning, traveling, eating, and Aperol-ing in Florence, with dr. Octavian Iercan , representing Quarticle at FOSS4G.

For my first conference ever, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by the wonderful FOSS4G community, 1000 GIS professionals and enthusiasts. I had the chance to meet the big people in this domain. With less than one month of experience in this field, I learned how to listen and take notes. And after this experience, I realized that this is the path I want to follow and decided to study GIS for my master’s degree.

What was even more impressive was seeing that these people with such experience are so humble and grounded. They were curious to talk to me, even if I am an absolute beginner and they gave me valuable life and professional advice.

… and all of this happened with beautiful Tuscany in the background, the smell of good red wine and freshly made ravioli.

I entered Quarticle at the beginning of August, as a second-year student in Computer Science. For my study program, I needed to complete a summer internship. I’ve heard about Quarticle and I wanted to do it here because I was interested in discovering geoinformatics and the spatial story data has to tell us. The internship turned into something more, as I got hired by the company.

The story of how I got to the conference is not the happiest one, because I had to replace my colleague, who couldn’t attend anymore. I found out I was going only 2 days before, meaning that my preparation was minimal.

We arrived in Florence on August 22nd, after a long journey, and visited around, enjoying the beautiful architecture and the tasty Italian food and wine. We rested and prepared for the next day of workshops.

On Tuesday, we participated in workshops during the day and in the evening, me and Tavi parted ways. He went to the Business to Business event, to discuss with potential clients and I went to Geochicas, an event dedicated to the women in GIS.

At both events, we presented Quarticle and talked about our work. We prepared some flyers where we integrated our product into a story about the Florence Flood in 1966 .

I knew nobody at the Geochicas event (or anyone at the conference, to be fair), but I was surprised by how open people were. Soon, I got to talk to so many people - Ph.D. students, business owners, professors - from all over the world and made meaningful connections.

Wednesday was a full day of conferences. The opening event filled the auditorium and the view was impressive. We listened to an inspiring talk by YouthMappers, who left us with a thoughtful message: “Be a good ancestor” and I realized the main reason I want to work in GIS is that it’s a field in which you actually help people and leave a mark wherever you go (quite literally).

Thursday was again a full conference day, followed by a social dinner. After a few days spent together in the community, we felt much more comfortable with each other and we partied in a fancy setting, with a rock band playing in the background. What was funny was that the members of the band were actually conference participants, GIS professionals, who you wouldn’t have thought could have so much fun and make such an atmosphere.

After a small tour around Tuscany, our trip ended in Milan, from where we took the flight back home, after a long and tiring, but very productive and inspiring week. On the way back home, I had time to think about this amazing experience and what it meant to me, personally and professionally. I realized that it was an unforgettable experience, which was so important long term. And even if I didn’t actively contribute to the conference, I listened a lot and came back with a deeper understanding of this field and a future perspective.

I am very much looking forward to the 2023 FOSS4G Conference in Kosovo!