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My RICS: Shane Mcilwain, land surveyor

For Shane Mcilwain, education and a support network were crucial to finding his path

By his own admission, Shane Mcilwain was professionally adrift in his young adulthood. When he was 18, he went to the Bermuda Department of Workforce Development and the career councillor, upon hearing from Shane that he’d like the opportunity to work both indoors and outdoors, suggested land surveying. It piqued his interest and now, more than 20 years later, he has achieved his RICS qualification and he’s a certified Land Surveyor for the Government of Bermuda. He loves his work and prides himself on his ability to serve others in his role.

So how did he get here?

“I was lucky enough to receive a lot of great guidance from some truly smart and caring individuals,” he says. “I had to work hard, continue my education and challenge myself, but having a support network was crucial.”

His experience informs his present-day commitment to helping others, particularly those he sees in a similar situation to himself at 18.

“I want my career, my passion, my sense of purpose and my journey to serve as a positive example to others,” he says. “RICS and the Bermudian Government help give me a platform to impact others positively, especially high-risk youth. Setbacks and not having a specific idea of what you want to do early on don’t have to define you for life.”

Shane Mcilwain - first day on the job 1999
Shane Mcilwain - first day on the job 1999

He was hooked on surveying after that first summer working with the Ministry of Works and Engineering. He eventually became a full-time Survey Assistant and, four years later, a Survey Technician. Infused with his new found passion, he was motivated to continue his education and development toward his dream. In 2008, he went abroad to the University of East London, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Surveying and Mapping Sciences.

It was difficult, being away from friends and family, but the sacrifice paid off for Shane.

“Everyone has their own path and their own pace, and for me, at that point, I was ready to study hard and I learned the math critical to professional surveying.”

“I see RICS as invested in the same mission I am,” he says. “That’s why I see this professional body as important to creating a better and more inclusive industry. Education and professional development are a process, and everyone is going to have their own. RICS encourages you to be the best version of your professional self.

RICS is fundamentally invested in ongoing training, education and standards, and becoming involved with RICS brings with it credibility and trust.

“With that credibility and public trust comes global opportunities,” he says. “I’ve met other professionals and had access to thought leadership, best practices and career opportunities that I simply wouldn’t have found otherwise. But first I had to challenge myself and earn it.”

These resources and this global network have been valuable for Shane as he works for local solutions for community issues in his native Bermuda, where land surveying helps to ensure fair public practices.

More than that, though, the job is simply fun, and he’s grateful for the variety of challenges in his day-to-day problem-solving.

“I get to be outside a lot of the time, because this job is very much field-based. I think that as we become more technology-based overall, a lot of kids like I was really don’t want to be at a desk all day. Surveying is a great field with a mix of indoor and outdoor work.

“And the work will make you flex your problem-solving abilities. I’ve created any number of fascinating databases and reports, such as old monuments dating throughout the history of the island, and documenting parish boundary stones that date back to the nineteenth century. Surveying is a mix of old and new; you’re constantly learning new things about the past but it’s also very much about data and technology and the future.”

Similarly, Shane’s work has helped him map his own future and gain new perspective on his own past.

Shane Mcilwain - topography survey 2019
Shane Mcilwain - topography survey 2019

“When I speak with young people who are struggling to find their way, I want them to know that it’s okay to try new things, because when you eventually find your passion, everything will change for you.”

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