Julia Singh, P.Geo.


How did you decide on pursuing degree in geoscience? Did you know about geoscience before you entered university?

I did not originally plan to go into geoscience. As a young girl, I always imagined myself becoming a doctor. I entered university with a clear plan to take science courses that would help me get into medical school. I took a few geoscience courses as electives and was surprised how much I enjoyed them. I changed course and pursued my geoscience degree instead, never looking back. Interestingly, my parents were not nearly as surprised as I was. I had a mineral set as child, loved learning about dinosaurs and was completely fascinated by volcanoes but I never knew that you could make a career of it.


How did you land your first position? (Through networking, applying to an ad, etc)

I heard through a University Professor that there was a company looking for a junior geologist to start logging core immediately and I emailed the VP of Exploration, had one phone interview, and within a few days was on my way up to Bissett Manitoba for my first job! I was very lucky that I graduated right before the big crash in 2008, at a time when the mineral exploration sector was booming. It happened very quickly so I didn’t have time to consider what my career path was going to look like or what I was hoping to do. As someone who grew up in a big city, Edmonton, it was a new and exciting experience for me.


Can you briefly describe your career progression?

I spent the first years of my career working for a junior mining company which gave me exposure to many sides of the industry. Since there is limited staff you often work long hours and put on many hats to fill all the positions needed to complete a project. I primarily worked in the field doing mapping, prospecting and drill program management but I also had the opportunity to attend conferences, help with company presentations, meet investors and be part of the exploration program planning. The senior geologists I worked with always encouraged me to ask questions and participate in discussions which really helped me become more confident in my abilities as a geologist. I then joined a consulting group and had the opportunity to work on several different projects across Canada before joining Orix Geoscience where I have been for over 6 years.


How has career progression been handled in your company/ies? For example, is it outlined or have you specifically applied for positions?

When I joined Orix as a Project Geologist, I was 5 months pregnant and was extremely worried about how I would continue my career path and be considered a valuable contributor with a toddler and baby on the way. Thankfully I joined an amazing company that gave me the opportunity to grow my skills and recognized my abilities during and after maternity leave and supported my endeavors both in the workforce and as a mother. I know that many women in our industry face challenges when starting a family and I encourage all companies to offer flexible schedules and support continued career development. Over the past few years I have moved into a Senior Project Geologist position, leading our Technical Services and our Winnipeg office team.


What made you decide to take a leadership role and play a significant part in growing a consultant firm? What skills, experience, or people helped you along the way?

My passion is the technical side of geology and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I considered the business side of our industry when I had the opportunity to play a bigger role leading our Winnipeg Office. I was meeting with clients and I was giving them our “business pitch” and I started to realize I had a lot of great ideas on how we could grow and market our business. Some of the most important skills that I’ve learned along the way is to own your mistakes, see them as an opportunity to improve yourself and to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You must be open to new experiences and can’t make assumptions that your career path will be linear. I have had a lot of support from my colleagues and mentors along the way both on the technical side and on the business side and they always push me to challenge myself and grow when I get too comfortable.

If you could change anything in your career, what would it be?

I wish I was better prepared to join the workforce when I started my career and that I had a better understanding of what it would be like to be a geologist. There is a big difference in what you learn in school where you are looking at nice hand specimens and studying the theories behind geoscience but very different when you step out onto a highly metamorphosed and altered outcrop that looks nothing like what it should. It can feel overwhelming and there is a steep learning curve in the first few years to accept that you don’t have all the answers until you realize even the experts don’t know everything. And being a geologist is not for everyone, I struggled at first to be away from my family working in a remote location with people I did not know. I worked almost exclusively with men and I felt like I had to act a certain way to be taken seriously. I struggled to assert myself and realized later that if I had just been myself, I would have been taken seriously as an up and coming geologist.


What are the some of the best and worst things about your job/career?

Being a geologist and specifically an exploration geologist is very fun. Geoscience is constantly evolving as we gain a better understanding of the earth’s processes and I’m always learning something new since no two deposits are the same. I enjoy both the field work and business side of my job including traveling remotely to field projects as well as networking and meeting new people in the industry. It can be hard to maintain a work-life balance because some months are much busier than others and when you are working in the field it can be lonely and you need to be mentally strong.


Do you see, in either your workspace or the industry in general, the place of women becoming more mainstream, about the same as when you started, or worse?

I am very lucky that I work for a company that is breaking the mould when it comes to diversity and supporting women moving forward in their careers. Although I see changes in the industry from when I started, there is still a long way to go. The most noticeable gap is at the top level where there are far fewer women in executive roles.


What advice would you give young women starting a career in geoscience?

I strongly recommend making connections and building your support network. While a student, take advantage of student rates and become a member of local chapters for associations like Women in Mining and Women Geoscientists in Canada. Networking is a skill and it takes a lot of practice so take advantage of anytime that you can mingle with others in the industry. I also suggest joining a mentorship program and reaching out to women that inspire you to get advice and support as you navigate through your career.


Why/How is diversity important to you? Thoughts on what should be focused on or how to improve diversity within geoscience?

It is very important to encourage diversity and inclusion to ensure that the next generation coming through school has an equal opportunity and support network that they need. It is also important to me on a personal level as I am a mother to two young girls, and I want them to feel like they can achieve anything they want and won’t be held back for being who they are.


Why should others be talking about diversity and trying to improve things?

Having discussions about diversity helps us recognize our unconscious biases. We often don’t realize that we are comfortable in what we already know and can be scared to try something new. Considering a diverse workforce in your company opens the doors to innovation and creativity.

© 2020 by WGC

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