NAME: Matt Hall
CURRENT TITLE: Geoscientist
AREA OF EXPERTISE: Exploration Geoscience
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 17
EDUCATION: Finished PhD in sedimentology in 1997, University of Manchester, UK. Registered Professional Geoscientist in Nova Scotia, Canada.
What’s my job like?
I co-own a small geoscience consulting company, so I have a lot of freedom. We have 3 employees (including me), and are working with a sub-contractor too at the moment. We all work from home or from coworking spaces (I am also a part-owner of The HUB South Shore coworking space). We do 4 things: geological and geophysical interpretation (especially of reflection seismic data), knowledge sharing consulting (helping geologists communicate), technical software development, and scientific publishing.
What’s a typical day like?
I am either at my coworking space, working on a computer with data interpretation, writing, or coding… or I’m on the road at a client’s office (usually in Houston), or at a conference. I just got back from a Semantic MediaWiki conference in Montreal, because we use wikis a lot for holding geological knowledge and data.
It’s all fun. I love working with data and code best of all, because I like solving problems and making pretty pictures. But I also spend hours interpreting data, blogging, writing presentations, and so on — because it’s all fun.
I miss fieldwork a bit, but I was never a great field geologist. When I worked for a big oil company, I found the corporate stuff increasingly aggravating — process, meetings, HR, and so on. Running a company has different challenges — finding work, accounting, marketing, and such — but it feels different when it’s contributing more directly to your own company. I work harder than ever, but it’s my work.
What’s my advice to students?
I think the main thing is to maintain a strong sense of your own purpose in life. I see people leave university with the idea that they have to conform to some model of the professional in order to get a job. Cue the boring template resumé, the cheap suit, and the stock answers to interview questions. Maybe that’s how you get a job at some companies, but trust me — you don’t want those jobs.
The thing is, the world (even the corporate world) wants new, creative people doing new, creative things. It’s just that boring stuff seems safe (it isn’t, it’s deadly). So they go for boring every time.
So it’s up to you to figure out what really matters to you, what sort of contribution you can make, and look for a place, and a boss, that can help you make it. That place might be in a small company. It might even be your own company.