I am a geoscientist. My career is my passion; it is not just a job. I have seen geology around the world, from the oldest rocks on earth to the youngest sediments alive with life. I have learned many useful lessons about my career, my relationships, and my life. It has been an incredible journey, one I could not have anticipated in the beginning.
As a young lad the outdoors, the forests, and the animals were a great wonder to me. I would spend whole days alone wandering, soaking in all I could learn. I wanted to be a wildlife officer. In preparation I spent summers as a junior ranger with the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests. Though I love the outdoors, I decided I didn’t want to live — or raise a family — in small, isolated towns. My whole perspective changed one career day in high school. An oil geologist from Calgary gave a presentation on exploration. He spoke of summers in the field and horseback riding through Jasper National Park. That did it! Geology was for me.
I was an average student at university. My summers were spent in the field as a hydro lineman, a miner in Elliott Lake, and most significantly as a field geologist for the Geological Survey of Canada’s Roads to Resources program. For several months at a time my partner and I moved north by canoe, portaging to new campsites every four days. We undertook field traverses, two downstream and two upstream of each of our camps, received food by air once a week if the plane didn’t lose track of us, and met aboriginal peoples who had never been out of the bush. I came out of this experience with new certainty that I did not want to live in the bush all my life. So I changed direction.
I took a summer teaching certificate and taught high school for a year. I enjoyed the children but I found that I became too involved in their problems, which were many and in some instances horrendous. I realized that if I was going to teach I would have to teach the subject I loved. That required that I go to graduate school.
At this point I met two key individuals in my life: my girlfriend at the time — now my wife — and Professor Frank Beales of the University of Toronto. The faith and support of both these individuals allowed me to prove I had what it would take. I accepted the challenge of the master’s degree and immersed myself. I made it my goal to understand my subject from the very basics to the advanced theories. I intended to be the highest calibre geologist I could be.
After then obtaining my PhD, I joined Shell Development Research which gave me tremendous opportunities to grow scientifically and intellectually. I worked on geological problems throughout North America, from the depths of the Michigan Basin reef play to the regional development of the Appalachians, the Arctic, and Canada’s East Coast. Since then I have consulted in the Philippines, Fiji, Libya, and the US, taught at the Centre for Earth Resources Research at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and worked at ConocoPhillips and the Geological Survey of Canada — what a thrill to work with such esteemed scientists.
What have I learned on my fortunate journey?
- I have learned to not leave my career in the hands of others. No one knows better than yourself the scope of your capabilities and for sure no one can advocate for you better than yourself.
- Technical quality and capability establish your reputation.
- Seek broad integrated skill sets such as seismic, structural geology, paleontology, well-log analysis, rock properties, and so on.
- Always have at least two career directions available to you at the same time.
- Develop a network of like-minded colleagues and maintain the relationships. Be aware that it is you who has to do the network maintenance: don’t wait for others to contact you.
- Build your confidence by accepting challenges and broadening your global experience. To be a fine geologist you need to develop as broad an appreciation of how earth processes work as you can.
- Be prepared to teach them and be willing to mentor younger geoscientists.
I could not have asked for a better career and hobby. I wish you luck and fulfillment in yours.