VALERIE SKINNER - Alumna Spotlight
LEAD SURVEYOR (SURVEY TECHNOLOGIST)
H. WILSON INDUSTRIES, ALBERTA
Q: When did you realize you had a talent for pipefitting?
I started surveying in February 2008. I didn’t even really know all of what surveying entailed. At first I wasn’t sure if this was going to be something that I wanted to pursue, it was hard work. It was a cold winter living in northern Canada. But it was so intriguing and I wanted to see where it would lead me. Soon after awhile I realized how much I loved it and how much I could learn. And how significant my job was in every aspect of construction and development. I caught on quick and had some amazing people behind me that allowed me to build on my skills
Q: As a kid, were there any formative experiences that helped to shape your path?
I grew up in a small and rural area in Nova Scotia. Exploring the woods and nature was always a huge part of my childhood. As well as hunting and fishing with my father. I would always be the “navigator” on our excursions. Little did i know then that the time spent exploring the trails, and unknown parts, as well as orienteering would be something so prominent later in life. My dad taught me how to use a compass, and how to navigate and ultimately a love and respect for the outdoors.
Q: At what point did you realize your chosen career path was for you?
I loved what I was doing and decided to continue my education while working to make sure that I could expand my knowledge and relate it to work I was doing every day. It didn’t take very long that I realized that this is not just a job, but a career I could see myself doing for a long time. Its been over 12 years now, I’m still learning and growing. I love my job. And I will continue to do so up until I cant anymore
Q: Was your experience at Techsploration what you expected it to be? How did it impact your career choice or chosen career path?
I did the Techsploration program in its first year of operations. At the time I dont think anyone in our school (or other participating schools) knew exactly how prominent and beneficial this program was going to be. I recall it being one of best learning experiences I had. The impact of the program was certainly important as it showed us that women can do anything a man can do. Sometimes even better! It made sure we knew that we weren’t limited to certain types of careers that are mostly male dominated. At that point in my life, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I always knew it would be a position based in science and nature. I think I have been pretty lucky to have found a job that I love. And thankful to have been part of the Techsploration program.
Q: Do you have any role models within your career field?
Even today in my field, its still mostly male dominated. However I had been privileged enough to have been trained by one of the best (in my opinion) female surveyors within the company I had started my journey on. She is highly educated, extremely detail oriented and a hard worker. I felt she was able to show me not only the specifics I would need to know how to complete my work, but also was able to show me that even though it was difficult at times, a crew of women can do the job better than any man. I always considered her a mentor and still have a personal relationship with her to this day. We had lots of great days and of course some bad ones too. But we never let it interfere with our work. I can contact her with any questions I may have or just to chat. I will always appreciate her taking the time to train me.
Q: What would you say to people – especially women – who might be considering a career in your field?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cant do something. I still to this day have people that may try and discourage me, but I have built a reputation for myself and never let anyone get in the way of my success. It is an extremely rewarding career. You don’t realize it, but nothing gets done without having surveyors and engineers behind the projects. The work can be difficult some days, but that is like any other job. That being said, its crucial to the integrity of projects to have an excellent surveyor providing the correct information to have to work completed. I feel so lucky to be able to wake up and do what I love.
Q: What is the best/most interesting part about your job?
I have worked on many major projects. Buildings, bridges, roads, and undergrounds to name a few. One of the most interesting things about surveying is finding monuments that were placed by surveyors over 100 years ago. And knowing the how difficult at that time that it would have been to correctly establish them. We rely so much today on technology. navigating to certain parts are sometimes difficult even with our current advantages. These men and women endured conditions that I could never imagine. And to find placements and how accurate their data is, is beyond amazing! Ive been to places no one has been to in years. Traversing in the forested areas is not for the faint of heart, but that is only one aspect of surveying and what you can do. There are many different types of aspects to the field, its not limited. Being such a necessary part of the industry today, I can take my experience and go anywhere in the world. The need for trained surveyors is something that wont be going away anytime soon
Q: What’s one fun fact about you (i.e. your favourite hobby, a significant achievement, etc.)?
Ohh fun fact! I have a green thumb and love to get my hands dirty!