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Amanda McCallum, B.Sc., B.Ed., MCPM President & Principal Consultant Ignite Education Inc.

How did you decide on pursuing your degree(s)? Did you know about geology/geoscience before you entered university?

First inspiration to study geology was not a “who”, but a “what”. It was the rocky hills, rugged coastline, coves and inlets of my childhood hometown that first sparked an interest in geology. Growing up on the island of Ramea, located on Newfoundland’s southwest coast ignited curiosity in “The Rock’s” natural environment.

The summer of Grade 11, I completed the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Student Summer Employment Program (SSEP). I worked at the Marine Institute’s Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS) at the St. John’s Campus. In this job I designed icebergs for the Ship’s Bridge Simulator. It was an incredible experience and first opened my eyes to a career in STEM.

During my first year at university, I enrolled in a number of science courses, including biology and physics. Since my high school never offered chemistry, I had to complete the foundation chemistry course before I could enroll in the first-year courses. In my second year of university, I enrolled in an elective Earth Sciences course. I was hooked! Shortly afterwards, I declared my major.

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

I'm a prospecting geologist, a science communication specialist and business owner.

I completed my training/education at: B.Sc. (Major Earth Sciences; Minor Mathematics & English); Memorial University

B.Ed. (Intermediate/Secondary); Memorial University

Masters Certificate in Project Management (MCPM); York University

I am currently completing the ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program, University of Toronto and working towards the ICD.D designation.

After completing my science degree, I completed an education degree. I then spent many years living, working and travelling abroad teaching mathematics and science in Norway and The Bahamas. Life is not linear or always predicable. Your career path will be a journey filled with many twists and turns. It’s important to embrace these experiences. It never occurred to me then that I would be able to combine my geology and education background to start my own business. It’s when you step outside your comfort areas that you grow the most. I enjoy exploring and learning. My passion drives me to continue to challenge myself and to ignite new opportunities!

My experience involves working with the private and public sector, including corporations, government, industry associations, not-for-profit organizations and boards. My business, communications and public relations roles in the oil and gas, mining and the mineral resources sector, economic development and the tourism industry has provided leadership to support monitoring and analyzing issues in a changing social, economic, political, and environmental landscape.

During previous work experience with the public service, I worked with the Department of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Newfoundland and Labrador. In this outreach role, I coordinated mining and minerals related outreach, promotions and marketing initiatives, including organizing mining and oil and gas week initiatives, serving as the chair of NL Mining Week, founded and chaired the Women in Mining Forum and authored numerous publications. I also undertook a professional development assignment with the Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination Division to plan, research and develop a departmental strategic plan.

In January 2015, I founded Ignite Education Inc., a project management and geoscience communications consultancy company. Ignite provides services to a multitude of clients, including industry, government and not-for-profit partners and stakeholders, including creating governance, management, marketing and strategic planning documents, grant proposals, training and technical resources. I have also developed and facilitated programming, field trips, travel itineraries, workshops and various business, stakeholder, community and industry events. I provided project management and technical services to lead the nomination for Newfoundland and Labrador’s first UNESCO Global Geopark. This included writing and preparing the application dossier, leading the national and international field inspection evaluation missions and developing the educational programming and the interpretive framework.

If you could go back to your first year in undergrad, would you pick the same degree and career trajectory? Why/why not?

I always had an interest in engineering and business, so maybe if I could go back to my first year in undergrad, I might have considered a different path.

What are the three best things about your job/career? What are three things you would change?

As a prospecting geologist, I spend time during the summer and fall months doing field work. This is grassroots prospecting and mineral exploration. This work is balanced with office work. Some of the things I work on include historic project research, writing reports, and working on creative science communications and marketing projects.

As a writer and science communications specialist, I take complex, technical information and tailor communications to a variety of audiences. The best way to describe my work is “science translation”. I change complex, technical information and topics into simple, concise messaging.

My work allows me to connect my geology and science background with creative projects and communications. This field of work has provided the opportunity to travel to many incredible places. I have travelled to many remote locations throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and around the world. Each workday is different, depending on the project and time of year.

Why is gender balance in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience important to you?

The greatest challenge I have faced is being a woman working in a traditionally male-dominated profession. It’s time to change the narrative. We need to celebrate women and girls who are working in STEM careers. We need to work together to remove barriers that hold them back. I would like to attend a project’s meeting, and not have to count the number of women in attendance. I do volunteer work to advocate and support women and girls who wish to pursue a career in this field.

Why should it be important for everyone?

Geoscience is a "people-facing" discipline requiring Earth Scientists to have a vast range of skills, talent and interests. Given that “Earth” problems are incredibly challenging and dynamic, we need diverse representation to be a part of finding solutions. Today, it’s more important than ever for everyone to work together to focus on the things Earth Scientists do to help people and society. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to our work culture because it fosters creativity, fresh perspectives, and deeper understanding.

What advice would you give to young women starting a career in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

Remember the 3 C’s: Care, Courage, and Confidence!

Be open to taking different courses and exploring new experiences to broaden your options. It’s not always about figuring out what you want to do, as much as eliminating what you do not want to do! Take time to learn about yourself, your likes, interests, and passion. Volunteer experience is also valuable work experience. Don’t be afraid to get involved and grow your network. Take advantage of opportunities to attend events and network to build professional, authentic relationships.

What motivates you and keeps you busy outside of mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?

I enjoy hiking, gardening, traveling, photography, collecting rocks and minerals and spending time with my family. In 2021, I set a personal goal to hike the entire East Coast Trail Network. To do this I trekked over 300 km along 25 trails. I also do volunteer work. I have served on the boards of various provincial and national organizations. These included Women in Resource Development (WRDC), the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES) and the Canadian Geoscience Education Network (CGEN).

Much of my professional volunteer and service work is deeply rooted in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In 2009, I founded and coordinated the NL Women in Mining Forum. It was incredibly rewarding to grow this successful event over five years and create and publish the Women in Mining Career Connections Guide. Today, the legacy of this initial work continues. It is gratifying to see NL Women in Mining events continue to profile industry’s leading female role models.

I also have certifications for coaching gymnastics and trampoline.

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