Hydrogeologist and Coach for Women in STEM
How did you decide on pursuing your degree(s)? Did you know about geology before you entered university?
I remember the exact moment I first became excited about geology. My Grade 7 principle asked us if we had ever noticed how Africa fits into South America and went on to explain the theory of plate tectonics. I think my brain literally stretched two sizes that day. That lesson unveiled that our planet is dynamic, with a deep and expansive chasm of history and story. For me, geology and earth science has always been about uncovering those untold stories.
Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.
I graduated during the recession in early 2009. It took my now husband and I some time to find jobs. I worked briefly for the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation uncovering dinosaur bones, before being hired by Kala Geosciences in Kamloops BC as a junior geoscientist. That is where I was first introduced to more applied hydrogeology and environmental related field work and technical report writing and I am grateful for the experience I gained there.
I went on to complete a M.Sc. with Simon Fraser University. My thesis topic was related to numerical multiphase flow and reactive transport modeling of CO2 storage in deep saline aquifers; our research group was based out of Australia. My favourite part of my thesis was the international travel I was able to do, and the people I met along the way. My M.Sc. thesis and courses gave me a solid theoretical understanding of hydrogeology.
Shortly after completing my thesis in January 2014, I began contract work with Waterline Resources, a groundwater and environmental consulting company. My first job was in the farthest northeast corner of BC. It was very cold. I was very nervous. But it was an amazing opportunity, and I am still with Waterline as a hydrogeological consultant.
I took two maternity leaves after the birth of my children. After returning from my second maternity leave in 2020, the pressures of working and having limited childcare took their toll, and I resigned. I hired a coach in 2022 and through my work with her I was able to see that I wanted to come back and try it again, but with a whole new arsenal of coaching tools. I also became a coach myself and run my own coaching business where I help other women in sciences, tech and engineering overcome overwhelm and imposter syndrome so they can create more time and confidence.
If you could go back to your first year in undergrad, would you pick the same degree and career trajectory? Why/why not?
Yes, I would. Five years ago, I may have told you no. Despite my overwhelm, I was constantly taking on new projects and while I enjoyed the technical work, I sensed I was missing something.
Once I started working with people in a coaching capacity with deep long conversations, I noticed the time flew by and I’d walk away exhilarated. I realized what I’d been missing was knowing what really creates an energy flow state for me, and a solid set of boundaries to prevent burn out. I would not trade my technical skillset, but I love that I can use it in a different way than I ever imagined.
The lesson I’d love to share is that you don’t need to stay stuck within the confines of a traditional career with your degree if you don’t want to. There are so many options and possibilities open to you. The key is to discover what in your current role really makes the time fly and gives you energy and seek opportunities to do more of that whenever possible.
What are the three best things about your job/career? What are three things you would change?
The three best things about my career:
As a consultant and a coach, the best thing for me is the people. I really enjoy our team at our company. They are thoughtful, down-to-earth, funny, kind, supportive and clever. And I really enjoy all my clients. The types of people who seek out coaching are those who are introspective and willing to look at themselves and the world differently.
I love working in a field that feels like it has a finger on the pulse of the future. The demand for water, minerals, energy, and protecting the environment is only going to increase. I’m excited to be a part of it in a technical capacity, and as a coach helping other women as they navigate their own challenges in being a part of the solution.
I can work from home with an extremely flexible schedule. This has allowed me to work untraditional hours so I can be there for my kids when they need me.
Three things I would change:
I would change what a colleague of mine described as the “reliance on heroics” that dominates in consulting. It’s that urgent pull to say yes to everything, to become superhuman in your efforts, to be available and willing to work 24/7, to do everything yourself rather than delegate. It starts (and ends) in our own minds, but I also believe there is a culture that expects it of others and makes it difficult to set boundaries without a sense of guilt.
The sense of urgency that often comes with projects. Sometimes urgency is necessary and required, but in many cases, it’s become the default mode of operation, either due to deadlines that are never questioned or negotiated, improper planning or resources, procrastination, or lack prioritization and communication.
The shame that comes with not knowing something. Many of my coaching clients believe they would be fired if they admitted to not knowing something they feel like they should know. I personally have been shamed in the past for making a mistake or not knowing how to do something. I’ve experienced my own frustration at others for not being up to speed. I think we all, myself included, have work to do in this area.
Why is gender balance in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience important to you?
For me the important thing is that any individual should have the freedom and safety to do any career they want. There should never be a time when they are not able to pursue something that lights them up because of their gender.
Why should it be important for everyone?
Women bring unique perspectives and skillsets that can help make the culture everywhere become more well-rounded in terms of work-life balance. Gender balance also brings more minds from different walks of life working together to uncover biases, making it much more likely a team will find a truly creative and clever solution to a complex problem. Given the complexity of the problems today, we need these skilled minds working together more than ever.
What advice would you give to young women starting a career in mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?
Prioritize field work with a company that has a robust health and safety program and great training, especially when you’re young and don’t have dependents. Not everyone is willing to do field work, and it will open doors everywhere. If you decide to complete a master’s degree, look for one with a large field component. Later in your career you won’t necessarily have the time or availability to go in the field, and it’s critical for understanding any theory you might learn.
What motivates you and keeps you busy outside of mineral exploration/mining/geoscience?
I’m motivated by my family, coaching, health, and nutrition. I love to take new trainings on all these things. I run and lift weights to stay healthy and strong. As my kids get older, we’ll be doing more hiking, skiing, and sport tournaments together.