Inspirational Woman: Donna Lyndsay | Strategic Market Lead, Environment & Sustainability, Ordnance Survey

Meet Donna Lyndsay

Strategic Market Lead for Environment & Sustainability, Ordnance Survey

Donna Lyndsay is the Strategic Market Lead for Environment & Sustainability at Ordnance Survey. She supports Ordnance Survey’s mission to be a world leader in geospatial services; delivering location insight for positive impact with colleagues, partners and customers. Donna is also Vice Chair of the Space4Climate group who aim to put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to create and use trusted satellite data for climate action for all.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Donna Lyndsay, I’ve been working in the geospatial industry for over 30 years now and more recently have been involved in supporting the development of the Earth Operation data supply chain and commercialisation of space data.

I am passionate about connecting space data with geospatial data to help drive the right decisions for net zero and adaptation, which is why I am now the Strategic Market Lead in Environment and Sustainability for Ordnance Survey. I am also Vice Chair of the Space4Climate group which aims to put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to create and use trusted satellite data for climate action for all. I am also on the UK Earth Observation Advisory Committee.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. In fact I was originally studying to be a graphic designer but I decided I didn’t think I would be good enough to do really well in the industry, so I dropped out of my course (not recommended as a plan!). Luckily enough, I managed to combine my love of art and geography working as a traditional cartographer for a national park. It was there that I developed my knowledge in geographical information systems and gained an interest in remote sensing, analysing information taken from satellite or high-flying aircraft. I took a sabbatical to do my MSc and then moved on to various roles in industry where I created new products and services and founded new companies using my geospatial and space sector knowledge. One of my favourite roles was with the European Space Agency as their Business Applications Regional Ambassador for the Southwest and South Wales, dealing with companies in areas such as PropTech, quantum security and lasers in space! Coming from a rural area (where I now live again with my family), I don’t think any of my teachers would believe what I have done, or do, now.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many, but sometimes I only realise the challenges I have overcome with hindsight, as I’m so focused on driving outcomes. In the past when I have come across challenges, and what I am doing is important to me, I’ll find a way to work through them. I think some of the challenges I have faced in my early days have been due to a lack of confidence or expecting others to value or reward me for my effort – this rarely happened. Once I realised it was up to me to push myself forward everything changed. Ordnance Survey, however, is one of those rare places of employment that genuinely does value effort and rewards accordingly.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Apart from my children, who have had to tolerate me dragging them along to robotics and rocket experiments, and transforming a local education system (long story), I think it’s all the work I have done in showing why it’s important to bring space data together with mapping data. The world is a very visual place, and individuals understand the issues facing us better if the data is contextualised in a pictorial way. If we are going to enable the world to use the incredible climate science data that has been curated over the years to better understand the impacts we will soon face, we need to use both space and mapping data to create visual tools and assets. An example of the type of tool I have had the privilege of helping to create is an air pollution map, where people can input their postcode into the map to see which zone they are in and the pollution levels around their location.

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What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I am stubborn! I also believe we need to use our skills to help society and the planet. I have built a career that enables me to do that. It’s that passion, mission and hope for change that has led me to where I am today. I believe my success right now, is due to the realisation that I was stopping myself from taking up opportunities by making excuses and creating false barriers due to a lack of confidence. Once I realised that, it gave me the freedom to progress. I now check myself when I feel I am making silly excuses, so I don’t miss any opportunities.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think it’s a great thing, to be able to mentor another person. I believe to be a mentor you must be patient, and allow time to help your mentee progress at a pace that suits them. At this point in my career, I am unable to offer the necessary time and dedication that I would want to give to a mentee to help them develop and find their own way. However, I have been fortunate enough to be able to lend a hand to colleagues or give advice when needed and asked for. It can take only one person to positively change everything for someone else. That happened to me, and I’ve never forgotten it, or them.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I think it’s now about seeing more women at the top in C-Suite roles and developing corporate supportive frameworks. I’ve found that companies are taking great strides in progressing women to senior leadership roles. It is now for women to grow their own confidence and step up, and this can include a change of mindset. Very often we look at what we can’t do in roles and get put off. Let’s just have the confidence to try. If it’s a progressive company they will see your value.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t get in your own way, take every opportunity you can – you don’t know where it will lead, but it could be somewhere amazing.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Helping the world meet net zero is my latest challenge. My hope is we get there in time, and I look forward to driving the efforts to make this happen.

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