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Victoria (Vicki) Yehl, M.Sc., P. Geo.

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

I was always interested in the sciences, but I didn’t do very well in first year university and wanted to stay in a science program. It is because I did know about geology before university that I switched to a geology program in second year – I was extremely fortunate to have a real geology course in my high school that piqued my interest in the subject. I’m glad because I found my “happy place” in geoscience.

Describe your career progression since finishing undergrad.

I was fortunate to get a summer assistant mapping jobs with a provincial government at a time when there really were very few such jobs to be had. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I had one last summer mapping but prospects for full-time work didn’t look great. I applied to Master’s level programs in a variety of places hoping to continue some kind of mapping or exploration focused project. I finished my Master’s and interviewed for a few roles but ended up focused on a large mapping project in the Yukon that turned into just over twenty years with a major.

I went all over the world and looked for a variety of commodities and both worked at and visited operations and projects everywhere. I’ve had a lot of fun looking for zinc, copper, diamonds, gold and oil sands and just about anything else that came along. During this time, I learned to recognize opportunities and decided about seven years ago to take on a new challenge by stepping into the role of a regulator. It’s a new and different role, and just as rewarding as being out and about, and gives back to and participates in the industry in a different way.

I have also been fortunate enough over the last 25 years or so to have support from my employers to participate in extensive volunteering with the Vancouver Mining Exploration Group (MEG), AME’s Roundup Conference, and various roles within the Geological Association of Canada (GAC) to name some. The geo-community is a small one, and fully participating really adds to your experience in the industry.

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

If I could go back to first year, I would have started in geology and not felt lost in something else I didn’t enjoy. It has been a truly rewarding career (thus far – I have more to do!) as a geoscientist.

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

This question takes a minute to answer, the three best things are (1) never doing the same thing twice, every single day is different; (2) the travel and experiences, some spectacular and some crappy but on the balance its been extraordinary; and (3) always learning, not a day goes by where I don’t add to my own in-my-head database of geo-knowledge and I love the people in the industry – oops I snuck in four things. I’m not sure what I would change, loads of travel also has a downside as you do miss important events that family/friends don’t understand. A second thing to change would be maybe not losing so many rock hammers over the years, I think there are several dozen lying on various outcrops around the world. I’m not sure I have a third thing that I would change, even mistakes. Any mistakes I’ve made, I hope I’ve corrected, and I believe I’ve learned from them to do better.

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

I think diversity and gender balance is likely still in the distance for the industry, but it is getting better. Diversity always brings different perspectives to any project. It is important to me not to have everyone thinking the same way, or having the same backgrounds, this helps to make advancements and changes on any project. Differences in a team enriches projects, and usually result in better outcomes.

Why should it be important for everyone?

Again, different people bring different knowledge and experiences with them, we should all embrace that. The exploration and mining industry are always changing, we can learn from that, and if we can incorporate those changes hopefully, we can increase our successes. I also think that we need to encourage the next generations to bring their perspectives to geoscience. We need fresh ideas, and exploration and mining often are painted as the villain, and entrance into geoscience isn’t encouraged – but it should be.

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

Seize every opportunity to do different or new things. My best experiences have come from saying “yes” to opportunities. Fully embrace any opportunity, and if you say yes to something and you don’t like it, there will be other choices to come – you’ll find that thing you are passionate about in this business. There are just so many things to do. And if you want to do something and it hasn’t been offered, ask to do it – sometimes you get what you want. Lastly, find a mentor who you trust to ask even silly questions of - a student who “adopted” me as a mentor asked one time “how many pairs of pants should I bring” to a field program – it was a good question, you need to be able to get feedback. The answer was three pairs of pants and one good pair of clean jeans for travel and going into town!

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

I have a wonderful partner (also a geo) with whom I bought a run-down off-grid boat-access only cabin ten years ago. We have rebuilt it little by little and turned it into a nearly-every-weekend of the year retreat, and yes there is Wi-Fi. Most people thought us nuts after our years in remote camps, but we took it on as a new adventure we thought we could manage from our remote experience – we learned and honed all kinds of new skills: carpentry, electrical, metal work, solar power, plumbing, composting, the works! The only thing we have left to do, other than enjoy it, is we need to map the rocks around it!

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