Matt Laurie, Systems Integrator
Systems Integrator, City of Toronto
“I love working for the City of Toronto. I feel a responsibility to the citizens of the city, to provide something easy for them to read, but also something that gives them useful information.”
Matt currently works for the City of Toronto in the Social Policy Analysis & Research unit. He was involved in the design and development of Wellbeing Toronto - an amazing online mashup that lets you see inside the city's 140 neighbourhood communities.
Wellbeing Toronto is an easy-to-use interactive map that gives you access to all sorts of fascinating neighbourhood information. Most of this information was previously unavailable to the public, incomplete, hard to find, or hard to understand.
For example, if you are doing a project on your neighbourhood you can add data on ages (such as 9-14 year olds or 20-25 year olds) and find out the percentage of these age groups living in the area, how many female or males there are, and family incomes. You can easily compare this to other neigbourhoods or Toronto as a whole. The application has all sorts of novel information - like the number of community centres, green spaces and even trees that are in neighbourhoods such as Thorncliffe Park, Kingsway South or Black Creek!
Wellbeing Toronto is a map mashup. In a map mashup someone combines, say, a street map similar to Google maps, with available online information, in this case web services and data. There is a whole world of map mashups that people do for fun or serious purposes. For example, the Royal Botanical Gardens is a map mashup that reveals at-risk plant species around the world. With a bit of effort, you could create a map mashup of your own – for example, to show where your friends and family live! Apps like Flickr, Picasa, and iPhoto let you create map mashups of your photos.
Most map mashups do just one thing. The power of Wellbeing Toronto is that it lets you see lots of different kinds of information as it relates to Toronto Neighbourhoods, much of which was previously hard or impossible to find.
Matt played a key development support role in the project. He was the city’s technical point of contact and will also be the lead for future development of the map’s new features.
“To bring together all the data, we had to reach out to other city departments, agencies, academia, and other organizations to provide us data.” From there the data had to be combined by neighbourhood, then a scaling formula applied to weight the data. The reason for this is that Wellbeing Toronto allows users to weight the data (1 to 5) based on the own importance of that selected data. For example, tree cover data may be weighted 5, while sports facilities weighted 2, the result is a combined value averaging together the data with the provided weighting.
The weighted data in the Wellbeing Toronto database gets mashed into the map every time you make an information request. As information gets updated or new information becomes available, it gets added to the database, ready to be presented on request.
Matt graduated from Brock University with a degree in geography. He did a post-graduate program at Niagara College in geographic information systems (GIS). His job combines his love of geography, maps and computer science! On a daily basis Matt uses programming techniques, database management, data analysis and a breadth of GIS tools and techniques.
A Day in the Life
Matt works with all the different systems at the City of Toronto’s social policy analysis & research unit (specifically a lot of the mapping and GIS software). He enjoys working with his team and his department. There’s a lot of positive creativity and teamwork in this innovative workplace.
He gets a lot of satisfaction being a civil servant creating information tools for the public that are informative and fun to use. He’s constantly learning and expanding his skills. Matt loves to use his imagination and learn new things such as applications engaging the public, enhanced research techniques, mapping tools and automated processes.
Why this Job Rocks
- Matt feels he is making a difference to the citizens of the city by being involved in Wellbeing Toronto.
- He enjoys working at a job that uses both his geography ,tech skills, and real life experience.
- Matt says, “Working in technology is never dull. The tech world is full of endless possibilities.”
- Graduated from Brock University with a degree in geography.
- Studied geospatial management at Niagara College.
- After graduating, Matt worked for two and a half years at a GIS software and consulting company in California.
- He came back for his current job at City of Toronto’s Social Policy Analysis & Research unit.
- Matt’s first job took him to California where he was away from friends and family. “This field can take you anywhere. There are tons of awesome and exciting jobs but some may be away from your hometown.”
Tips for Success
- Keep learning. Take night courses. Read up on new technology and be willing to learn new things!
- Open your mind. Matt thinks it’s a great idea to learn different computer skills and software. Don’t limit yourself to one area of learning.
- Don’t forget to have fun. Matt spends his downtime playing all kind of sports, especially hockey.