Inside NM Group


Sophie Davison, Knowledge Transfer Partnership

A previous employee of NM Group, Sophie works for the University of Durham as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership in conjunction with NM Group looking into modelling vegetation along power lines.

How long have you worked here?
At the minute I work for Durham Uni as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with NM Group and I’ve been doing that for just under two years. Before that I worked for NM Group for about two and a half years in the Remote Sensing department. Then when the company re-structured from separate Remote Sensing, PLS/Engineering departments to multi-disciplinary production teams, I moved into the production team and worked there for a little while. I also worked in the operations department for about six months before I changed jobs, and that was really fun.

How and why did you join NM Group?
I finished my undergraduate degree in Physical Geography and I really wanted to do something that was related to that field. A lot of people on my course went on to be lawyers or into accountancy and that kind of thing, but I really enjoyed the subject, so I wanted to go on to do something related to it. A lot of the modules were specifically on remote sensing and that kind of thing, but I struggled to find a job in it. A lot of the jobs were down South and I didn’t want to move that far; I’m from Newcastle. So I spent a bit of time back at Uni doing a Masters and then a job here came up. It seemed perfect, because it was all to do with LiDAR data, so with my Masters thesis being in LiDAR, I thought I’d apply.

How did the KTP opportunity come along?
I was made aware of the opportunity to be involved in the KTP, following discussions between Research and Development here and the Geography department at Durham University that I’d been based in. They’d been awarded funding by the government, and were going through the process of recruiting an associate. The KTP advisor from the government, John Dean, and supervisors from the University; Professor Danny Donoghue, who was one of my supervisors for my Masters project and Dr Nick Rosser, came to Knaresborough and met with Shane Brunker from NM Group. Along with a couple of other candidates, they asked me questions about my background and the research; how I’d tackle the project, what methodology I might use etc. And ultimately they picked me.

Aside from the interesting projects and the innovative development work that I get to do, I really like the people.

What does your role entail?
It’s all about researching and developing methodologies to model vegetation along power lines and power line corridors; facilitating the transfer of the research that’s happening in universities into a commercial environment, so that it’s actually having some impact. A lot of the time, universities will be doing some really interesting research but it won’t actually be transitioning into the commercial world and realising its full impact.

What made you want to pursue this career?
It was the part of my degree that I enjoyed the most. My degree in the first year included human geography, with an element of social geography, and I really didn’t get into it. I think I’m more scientifically minded and doing something like this, I found way more interesting. In remote sensing there’s loads of different systems that you can work with when they’re integrated together you can work on some really interesting projects and study things that aren’t very accessible. You can get some really cool data to work with from interesting places, like Greenland for example.

What other opportunities have you been offered whilst working at NM Group?
I’ve met with important clients, gained experience of managing teams and projects, learnt new software and worked in different departments. Whenever there’s been a new opportunity, be it getting involved in operations, moving departments or spending some time working with the bid team, they’ve always circulated that around and let people know.
I’ve also been able to do a lot of travelling. With Operations I got to travel out to Oman for almost a month. I was doing some IDP work with the LiDAR survey that was going on out there. That was pretty cool, it is one of the best places that I’ve ever visited. I recently went to Australia and the US to work with clients as part of my KTP projects.

What would you say are some of the biggest challenges you face here?
For a lot of projects we have to come up with new, bespoke workflows or develop completely new products that meet different clients’ needs. Working with cutting edge technology, there’s always a lot of unknowns. We do as much research as we can to provide for every eventuality, but sometimes unforeseen challenges crop up that we need to find solutions for.

How would you describe the office environment?
It’s really friendly and everyone’s really social. I haven’t come across anyone who works here that I haven’t really got on with. It’s also quite relaxed and laid back. Management have a lot of trust in people to just get on and work.

What makes you proud to work at NM Group?
Personally I really like the fact that they’re based in the North of the country. A lot of remote sensing and geospatial companies are clustered down South around London. It’s nice to be a part of a Northern company that’s really successful and employing a lot of people from the local area.

What do you like most about working here?
Aside from the interesting projects and the innovative development work that I get to do, I just really like the people. It’s made it a really nice working environment.