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Bird’s Eye View With Brandon-James Chalwell


Seventeen years ago, a young Brandon-James Chalwell started his career when he got his first internship working with his father. Most people would guess that this young entrepreneur was an old entrepreneur, but that is nowhere near truth. Work opportunities in the surveying field presented themselves to Brandon-James and he welcomed a chance to learn, even before leaving primary school.

Brandon-James reminisced about his humble beginnings in the field. “My aunt would pick me up from primary school and I would go to my father’s office and play with the instruments. I didn’t know what they did, but I fiddled with them to help me pass the time. When I was about 13, I began working part-time during the summer months.

My role was to hold the pole that the instruments sat on. You could say my title was pole-holder, but I think Trainee Surveyor is better.” Brandon-James laughed as he recalled his first role. “The typical name is Field Assistant, but I worked closely with the Surveyors to learn how to use the instruments. In those times, we would go through deep vegetation to cut lines and place boundary marks. It was very hard work, but it was fun.”

Brandon-James completed his primary matriculation through St. Georges Primary School, and he graduated from the BVI High School (now Elmore Stoutt High School). While in high school, his education was focused on auto mechanics. When asked how he got from auto mechanics to surveying, Brandon-James said, “I was doing surveying all through high school, but I’ve always loved working with my hands.

When I looked at the programs that were offered, auto mechanics was the only one that stood out.” Brandon-James considered continuing his education in auto mechanics, but surveying was in his blood by now. It was what he knew! “When I went to HLSCC,” he shared, “I considered auto
mechanics, but opted to do general studies with plan surveying coursework.”

During Brandon-James younger days in the field, he was able to adopt a real understanding and appreciation for work ethics and teamwork. You can surmise that much of this soft skills training has been what lead him to open his own business. “The guys I worked with were older. It was hard, but it was like hanging out with the guys.

I learned so much working those guys. They taught me leadership. As a surveyor, you are the one in charge. You spend a lot of time watching everyone else and making sure they do their jobs and that the ultimate goal is met when it is all said and done. It taught me about control without feeling the need to control people.”
During the start of his career, Brandon-James indicated that he learned to work hard and that nothing in life comes easy. If his coworkers from his part-time job saw him on the rode riding his bike, they did not hesitate to pull over and remind him to head for work. At times, they would even pay him themselves for the work he did with them. “Park your bike. Let’s go!” they would tell him.

He was always encouraged to get his education which is what he did. Brandon-James received an offer to go to the University of Technology in Jamaica, which is the university his father attended. After hearing about the University of East London where his cousin went, Brandon-James decided to forego the tropics of Jamaica and headed to London. “I made a tough decision. I said no to UTech and waited for the one in London to get back to me. Within a few weeks, they accepted me and I was off to London,” Brandon-James disclosed. He went on to finish his Bachelor’s degree with Honors in Civil Engineering, Surveying and Mapping Sciences within three years.

“After graduating, I stayed in London for a few months looking for a job. Eventually I decided to come back home, and I currently work for the Surveying Department of the Government of the Virgin Islands.” Brandon-James hopes to get his license as a surveyor but the licensing board has a requirement that surveyors have to work for Government or under another licensed surveyor for at least four years before they can apply. This should be possible for Brandon-
James at the end of 2020.

In the meantime, Brandon-James started his own company. “I saw value in myself, and I saw an opportunity to do aerial mapping, virtual tours, and aerial photography. These services aren’t something I saw here so I jumped on it while I wait for my four years of surveying experienced to be gained. I have already applied to the Land Surveying Board, and I am waiting to hear back them. Once they get back to me, I will have three months to do my practical and study for
the written exam.”

He recalled that it was hard to make the step to business ownership and opened up about his vulnerabilities which included fear. “You can’t be afraid. You have to make the sacrifices. I had to invest in myself. I had to give time I didn’t think I had. Some of the things I am doing now took many hours of research and practice to fine tune the skill. I want to make sure that when I am called to do my work, I am great.”

Brandon-James has also seen his share of business ownership challenges. He told VI Life&Style that one of his biggest challenges is getting people to believe they need the service being offered. “People want the service being offered, but sometimes when you put value to it, they turn away.” This doesn’t hinder him. He continues to better his craft and look for new opportunities to use new technology.

“When I’m in a better position and have my office up and running, I’d like to offer the young minds the same opportunity I got; pull some kids off the streets and train them in the field,” he shared. This is something YE of VI Life&Style can support!

Anyone that needs aerial mapping, virtual tours, aerial photography, and surveying can go to www.geoimage.vg for more information. You can also email Brandon-James at info@geoimage.vg or call him at 284-442-2356.