Meet the Team: Elena Robu, Metadata Consultant

Elena joined us in September to work alongside Jo Cook, our Data Discoverability Lead. Elena began her career in metadata working for a company that provides metadata content for their clients’ streaming and broadcast platforms. As an Astun Metadata Consultant, Elena helps to run the cloud-hosted data discovery platforms that we manage for our clients. She also undertakes customer-facing professional services work, such as developing data import tools that automate the process of populating catalogues with metadata records.

In this blog, Elena explains her role in more detail and reveals some of the technology, including OSGeo software, that our consultants use. 

Becoming an Astun Metadata Consultant

I knew it’d be a challenge to join Astun two months ago as I came from an entirely different arena (film & TV). Switching to the geospatial industry was both daunting and exciting. I could see the growing importance of metadata, but I knew I had a lot of new technology to get to grips with.

Learning new software

I quickly learned the basics of GitHub (software used for version control) and Docker (a tool used for running and managing applications in the cloud) and then started learning the ins and outs of GeoNetwork, one of Astun’s supported OSGeo technologies. GeoNetwork is a great catalogue application for Astun as it has powerful metadata editing and search capabilities. 

Putting learning into practice

Before long, I got hands-on with a project for the Scottish Government. Astun manages the metadata catalogue that underpins its spatial data infrastructure, and it was time for an upgrade to both infrastructure and software. Putting my new learning into practice, I started looking at the changes happening in GeoNetwork between two consecutive versions and suggesting updates that needed to happen to their online documentation in line with the upgrade. Opening my first successful GitHub pull request as part of this project within my first few weeks at Astun was a very rewarding experience!

Meeting Astun’s clients

Helping Jo resolve queries soon gave me an insight into how Astun’s values come into play. Astun’s commitment to being curious, open and proactive helped to attract me to the position and I was happy to see that these values are truly at the heart of everything Astun does.

Taking part in various client meetings has been beneficial in terms of getting to know Astun’s customers better. With clients across multiple sectors, it’s interesting to see how geospatial technology is applied to achieve different objectives.

Continuing professional development

Once I’d settled in, it was time to develop skills in PostGIS and QGIS. I’d never used these technologies before, but joining the PostGIS Essentials online training course, run by David and Ian – two incredibly knowledgeable colleagues – gave me one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. The curriculum is very well-structured and David and Ian made following along a breeze, even for someone completely new to everything involved! There were plenty of exercises to help me consolidate my knowledge and see it applied in practice. Although I was quite worried about taking such a complex training course online, their experience helped everything run as smoothly as possible.

Looking ahead

There are some very exciting things on the horizon and in the not-so-distant future. Now that my background in film production has come to light, I’ve been asked to use my filmmaking skills to help create data and metadata-related content for our website and social media.

I’m also helping Jo and Jill, our Marketing Consultant, to plan and deliver short webinars focused on metadata. These will help clients understand the relationship between quality metadata and effective data sharing and decision-making. We’ll also explain how we’re using the latest technologies to automate metadata creation and data sharing. This liberates data teams from time-consuming manual processes and makes it easy for data consumers to access datasets and assess their suitability before use. 

On the technical side, I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty with some more techy projects, like expanding on GeoNetwork’s capabilities to make metadata creation easier for non-experienced users.

I’m also really excited about representing Astun alongside Jo at the FOSS4GUK Local 2022 meeting in Bristol next week. As well as having a whole day focused on open source, it’ll give me a chance to meet some of my new colleagues face-to-face for the first time. 

Pictures: Elena wearing green to show her support for World Mental Health Day and her first training certificate from Astun.

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