How did you decide on pursuing a degree in geoscience? Did you know about geoscience before you entered university?
My journey towards the field of geoscience started at a young age. With my name meaning ‘Little Rock”, I started collecting rocks, and felt destined to become a geologist. I grew up with a love for science and the great outdoors and knew early on that studying the natural processes of the earth would lead me to my future career.
How did you land your first position?
In High School I participated in a program called CyberMentor, where young females were partnered with a female professional in their field of interest. I was paired with a Geophysicist and this first mentorship opportunity allowed me to delve deep into the daily life of a professional geoscientist. Who knew that years down the road we would be working next to each other at the same company! Even at a young age, making connections in industry was critical for the development of my career.
Can you briefly describe your career progression? How has career progression in your company been handled?
I obtained my bachelor of science from Mount Royal University in Calgary. While I was pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked at Daylight Energy and Devon Energy in summer student positions exploring for oil and gas. In my second year of university, I landed a position at the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) where I focused on RockEval analysis, evaluating the geochemical maturity of rocks. Working at the GSC was an important stepping stone for me to build up my knowledge base and stand out from the crowd. Upon graduation, I was thrilled to accept a full time position at Cenovus Energy where I have worked for the past 5 years. At Cenovus, my role has focused on exploration, analyzing acquisition and divestiture opportunities, followed by working on developing one of the company’s key oil sands assets.
While I am still in the early stages of my career, one thing has been clear: career progression is up to you to seek, as an individual. Specific positions can be posted, however a majority both internally and externally come without a posting. Therefore, it is crucial to make your supervisors aware of what interests you. Once they are aware, more doors can open and lead to the shift needed to expand your career. To have a supportive supervisor is beneficial and if you are lacking this, then networking becomes even more important. Make sure you reach out to others in various areas of the company and find out more about what roles could interest you in the future. Connect with individuals in similar companies where you could be a good fit. My advice to women pursuing a career in geoscience is to take control of your career and go and get your yes!
You’ve interacted with children and young adults about the petroleum industry and science based careers. Any tips on entering the field of geoscience, finding jobs, and sticking through the downturns that you would like to share?
1. Resume. Whether you are motivated in your current role or seeking a new one, always ensure that your resume is up to date and highlights your current work and involvement. Does your resume clearly state how you add value? Also, if you have not been in a leadership role at work, get involved in the community and volunteer in leadership roles to build your skillset and accountabilities.
2. Network. Meet new people at geoscience events and conventions. Put yourself out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to ask someone to go for a coffee to find out more about their role in the industry, opportunities can arise in the unlikeliest of places. If you are able to present your technical work at a convention or speak publicly, that is an excellent way to meet others and share your learnings. The downturns are inevitable, but always build your network, as it will stay with you throughout your career.
3. Volunteer. A great way to meet like-minded individuals is to get involved within the geoscience community. Whether it be a non-for-profit organization or a geoscience society, you can have an positive impact while furthering your network and your career. A few that I have personally been involved with are Earth Science for Society and the Alberta Science Network teaching the future generation about science. The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) and the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG) are also excellent platforms where you can add value and build your network.
4. Mentorship. Find a mentor, be a mentor. Mentorship needs to happen at all levels of the business. A co-mentorship approach is one form that I recommend, to seek someone also looking to learn about another side of the business. Forget about seniority and think of it as an opportunity for both people to learn and grow. Mentors can be crucial throughout you career journey to bounce ideas off of, as well as provide advice and honest feedback within a safe environment.
What is one of the top challenges you have faced in your career?
Losing managers with the downturn has been a challenge. I transitioned through 9 managers during a 2 year period. With projects abruptly switching it taught me to be adaptable. While it was difficult, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from experienced geologists, gaining valuable knowledge for me to apply going forward.
Do you think the attitude of men in your work space has changed over the time you have been employed? Worse or better?
Being involved in the Women at Cenovus Group and spearheading the CSPG’s Women’s group have allowed me to actively look for change in my workplace. Over the past year, bias awareness training has become mandatory within most companies in industry and I have seen a shift in gender diversity discussions. Creating gender equality however, will definitely require additional groundwork. The Untapped Reserves report completed by the World Petroleum Council suggests recommendations for achieving gender balance in industry. A simple list targeting women in entry positions, midcareer points and senior levels stood out to me as an action plan that could further progress. At entry level, we need to strengthen the inflow of women by promoting STEM programs, by showcasing visible female role models and by actively fostering flexibility in women’s careers. Midcareer requires available advancement opportunities, women making their career goals clear, while encouraging men to utilize work-life balance policies, such as paternity leave, to create greater gender equality. At a senior level, women require stretch goals and the support needed to achieve them, broadening the criteria for inclusion and applying uniform standards when making promotion decisions. Yes, the attitude is starting to change, but action needs to be taken to implement gender equality across the board.
Women Geoscientists in Canada has done an impressive job of creating a community for geoscientists to connect and be inspired. I am honored to join the conversation and share my journey thus far. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org