I’ve often been asked what my day is like as a geologist. I usually ramble on and on about what I do, but I’ve never put it down in writing so students or anyone else interested could gain an understanding of my job. So, I decided to write this blog to describe what my job is like, what my typical day is like, what’s fun, and what’s challenging, as well as to provide advice for students.
But then I got to thinking that since there are many diverse areas in geology, perhaps it would even be better if I could get other geology professionals to share their experiences too. So, after I post this blog, I will approach many of the professionals I’ve met through the years and those I’ve connected with on LinkedIn and Twitter to see if they would be interested in being a guest on my blog to share information on their careers. How cool would it be to learn about volcanologists, seismologists, hydrogeologists, paleontologists, geomorphologists, etc. all on the same blog? I’ll have each professional answer the same series of questions I present below, and I’ll post them as I receive their responses.
So here goes.
NAME: Sandie Will, P.G.
CURRENT TITLE: Geohydrologic Data Manager/Professional Geologist
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Water Resource Management/Data Collection/Hydrogeology
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 16
EDUCATION: B.S. Geology; M.S. Environmental Engineering Sciences
What’s my job like?
I am the manager of 15 personnel in a large water resource management agency and my staff includes Professional Geologists, hydrologists, field supervisors, drillers, driller assistants, technicians and a student intern. Our goal is to have a comprehensive understanding of the groundwater system and to collect high quality data.
The section I manage collects geohydrologic data and our activities primarily include coring and testing to 3,000 feet below land surface, preparing well designs, overseeing well construction, performing aquifer testing, and repairing and plugging wells. I am responsible for the successful operations of my programs, including a large, regional observation well network, as well as making sure the data we collect are reported to other scientists who use it for groundwater modeling and other analyses.
What’s a typical day like?
A typical day starts with driving approximately 40 minutes to my office where I will work closely with my boss, co-managers and staff that happen to be in the office. Many of my staff members are based out of different offices, so I don’t see them every day. I usually start my day with checking emails, where I receive the bulk of my assignments from upper management and receive notifications from staff on any administrative and technical issues or information.
Most of my day is spent on administrative tasks, problem solving, communicating our efforts to others, organizing, planning and evaluating Section processes, and developing employees. Administrative tasks include approving time off requests from employees, reviewing budgets and expenditures such as for parts and supplies, and interviewing prospective employees. Problems can be anything from mechanical issues with the rig to conflicting contractor schedules to determining the funding source for a new priority well site. Communication on the status of our efforts to others is important and I do this by attending meetings, giving presentations, and making sure our technical reports and data are shared with others. Future planning for upcoming well sites and needed budgets are also essential, and I continuously evaluate our processes and track our progress, making changes as needed to increase efficiency. One of my favorite parts of my job is developing employees. Whether it’s by coaching them on their presentation for the first time or providing them training opportunities, an employee’s success is one of my top priorities.
Visiting the sites! It’s very interesting to get behind the rig with the drillers to see the cores come out of the ground and all the fossils and the characteristics of the different rock types. I also like to see when the geologists graph all the data together (lithology, aquifer testing, water levels, water quality, water discharge) to determine the depths where formation changes occur and whether a unit is a confining unit or an aquifer. Other interesting field work includes seeing the water level changes through time plotted on graphs as the aquifer responds to pump tests to see how deep the drawdown will be, how quickly the water level will equilibrate while pumping, and how long water levels will take to return to normal once pumping is stopped. All of this will give us an idea of how well aquifers will produce water if needed for future water supplies.
My favorite times are when staff gets together during the year for our staff meetings. It’s fun to hear and share stories and work as a team to solve problems.
Life in the field can be hard and an ever changing industry with new rules to follow can make employees frustrated, so keeping employee morale up can be challenging sometimes, but I’m very fortunate to have a cooperative team of highly experienced individuals who make my job easy. Keeping up with technical changes can be challenging also, but in a good way – it pushes us and makes us stronger. We thrive when there’s a new challenge to conquer, keeping us on the cutting edge of technology and helping employees to advance in their careers.
What’s my advice to students?
The geology field is very interesting and rewarding, but be prepared to work long, hard days in conditions that can be challenging including thunderstorms and rain, extreme heat and cold, remote areas, downtown cities with high traffic, as well as with numerous critters including snakes, spiders, ants, etc. of all different varieties. In addition, you could spend numerous days traveling throughout the month. If you’re adventurous, though, this job will be right up your alley! Depending on the industry, you could end up seeing numerous states and countries, as well as all different types of geologic settings.
A good technical understanding will be key for a new job, but just as important are communication skills. Many times, when it comes down to two candidates for a job, the one with the better interpersonal skills will come out on top. Show your passion for your work in interviews and always be open to change in your upcoming positions. It comes with the territory!
Lots of luck on your future endeavors, and stay tuned for posts like this from other geology-related professionals in various industries. If you’d like to hear from a particular type of geologist, just let me know in the comments below, and I’ll see what I can do. If you are a professional, educator or student intern in the geology industry and would like to participate in this blog series, please fill out the contact form below.
Spread the word! –Sandie