How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?
I started out in the construction industry and was a draftsperson in Newfoundland for 8 years. I was hired on by BP Selco under Dr. Geoff Thurlow when BP was exploring on the west coast of Newfoundland for gold. It was a great experience and I became more interested in learning about geology and chemistry through this position and wanted to be that person out in the field. I still see Geoff at PDAC conventions and am grateful to him hiring me so many years ago! Memorial University of Newfoundland is where I graduated from with a degree in geology - a great place with great people. It was tough, but I learned a lot and had fun. We had a great class and I'm still in contact with most of them. I started out during a downturn, similar to what we are facing currently and it would have been much harder to break into the industry without the great network I developed through my classmates and professors.
What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?
Since earning my degrees I have been a junior, intermediate and senior geologist, project manager, exploration manager, senior project geologist, project specialist, lead geology supervisor, heavy oil manager and geology operations manager. I have continued to strive for roles with increasing responsibility and I always try to learn the roles and expectations of my colleagues in each position that I have held. I’ve found that helps me learn more about the industry as a whole and how it works. When I am familiar with my teams’ roles and responsibilities I can provide a better work experience for everyone, I can do my job better, mentor other geologists and ensure that the client is happy with the services being provided to them. I typically prefer contract work that involves a bit of field and office work and I prefer to take on positions that I feel challenge me on a personal or professional level.
To what do you credit your career advancement?
My career has advanced by some technical skill but mostly by sheer luck and perhaps some tenacity! I happened to be in the right place at the right time when the industry turned up a few notches and they wanted people with my particular skill set who wanted to travel! I was also lucky to have met great people in the industry who were willing to teach me new skills. As a scientist I'm a curious person by nature, but after 3 months of logging every scrap of underground core and learning as much as I could about the deposit I was working on, I began looking for additional challenges. Dan Leroux at ACA Howe International Ltd was a terrific mentor - he was seeking a cross shift for his position on the DMS plant and I asked him to train me instead of hiring someone new. He did and it was a great opportunity for me – being mentored by Dan enabled me to be able to begin consulting internationally. I was contracted over a 3 year period at 2 diamond mines on feasibility programs that advanced them into production. From this experience I was able to contribute on a professional level to the diamond exploration industry through this advanced exploration. During the 2008-2010 downturn I got involved in the oil and gas industry supervising well site geologists through a former classmate, Gary Bugden of Cabra Consulting Ltd. My experience on large projects in Africa and Russia together with my managerial skills and mentoring experience got me in the door and Cabra provided training on the lithology. This was not something I would have initially considered, but as a result of this I have learned more about the exploration industry as a whole, while still maintaining work and other connections in the mineral exploration industry too.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while working in the industry?
I've learned a lot of lessons but I would say teamwork is the most important one. Everyone has a role and it is your job to do yours "very well". Be the "best" dishwasher, cook, camp manager, helicopter pilot, driller or geologist you can be. You want to be a good team player. As a geologist, and eventually as a manager, you have to understand that no one person is more important than anyone else when you’re working in the field or at a site. You’re a part of a team and you have to learn how to get along well in order to get the job done successfully. When a team works well together management will want to keep them. You will know that you have been successful if you are sought after by your colleagues and they want you to work for and with them. I have been very lucky to meet fantastic, hard working people and I have developed lasting friendships and successful business relationships. Through these important human connections I’ve learned through others eyes about the mineral exploration and the oil and gas industries and this has helped me to succeed in both. They mentored me without really knowing it, and I have never underestimated anyone's ability no matter what position they have held. Everyone has something to teach you if you just let them.
Given the cyclical nature of the industry, you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump?
This is a tough question. What inspires you? What makes you passionate about getting up and going to work? I believe that you should "do what you love to do". I love my job. I think that I have the best job ever and people pay me to do something that I love while allowing me to travel the world. I have had to be creative and take on positions that I would not have initially considered but change is constant and in addition to teamwork you have to learn to be flexible. The exploration industry is constantly in flux; you need to be able to see the ups and downs coming and maybe take the job that might not be “perfect” for you. No job is perfect but you will always learn something even if the pay is bad, the conditions are horrible and the weather is crap. Sometimes you learn more about yourself.
Stay involved with the industry, stay in touch with your "network" of friends and business associates, go to social and professional meetings that interest you, volunteer at a university to assist undergraduates in geology and go have that coffee with a friend who is currently working. Join and stay connected to associations such as the PDAC. Get involved in the entire industry - don't just log onto your computer and expect to find a job. Geology is a career and is multifaceted and like everything in geology, finding a job takes time. Ask yourself - are you willing to spend the rest of your life doing this? If so, you will find a way. Be tenacious.