The Life of an Environmental Professional Abroad

Ashley Tkachyk | November-21-11

How to work abroad as an environmental professional

For many, the idea of travelling the world working with the earth's resources is a dream job.

For Allison Brown, Environmental Professional in Training (EPt), it has become a reality. Growing up in a small mining town in North-Western Ontario, Brown feels that the resource sector has always been a part of her life. 

Inspired by the idea of Sustainable Development, she pursued her Environmental Science undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph and was fortunate to have landed a position as a summer student with Hemlo Gold Mines in her hometown. Her work experience and connections made at Hemlo eventually lead to full-time employment and a new career abroad in Australia with Barrick Gold Corporation, who had jointly owned Hemlo with Teck Cominco.

In this week's blog, Brown enlightens us with the life of a Canadian environmental professional working abroad. 

1. What is your current job title? In your current role, what do your responsibilities include?
As the Environmental Systems and Development Manager, I am responsible for providing support to nine operating gold and copper mines as well as a number of exploration and pre-operational projects throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea, Zambia and Saudi Arabia. 
My primary focus is on development and implementation of the Barrick Gold Environmental Management System and associated Environmental Standards, as well as coordination of emissions reporting and compliance with legal and other requirements at the State, National and global level (International Cyanide Management Code, International Council for Mining and Metals, Global Reporting Initiative etc.)  I also coordinate people development and talent management activities for Environmental Professionals working within Barrick's Australia Pacific Region.

2. What is the role of environmental professionals working internationally?
If I have learned anything from working abroad it is that geographic boundaries mean very little in the context of environmental management. No matter what industry or country we work in, environmental professionals are responsible for identifying, implementing and in some cases developing environmental best practice. Although Canada is a leader in some elements of sustainable development, we have a great many things to learn from other countries. We are much more likely to make a positive impact if we work collectively with others, share ideas and pursue common outcomes.   

3. How does your EP certification impact your work abroad? How has it impacted your career?
Although EP certification is not recognized in Australia, it has allowed me to better understand and promote my skills and career ambitions with prospective employers. This has lead to a seemingly endless number of job opportunities and recognition. As a new University graduate, EP certification provided access to much-needed professional networks and job opportunities. In more recent years, certification has allowed me to maintain a current understanding of the profession and structure my ongoing learning and skills development to ensure I am a marketable employee for years to come.
The field of environmental management is changing rapidly. As a result it is important for Environmental Professionals to stay up-to-date on current issues and maintain a relevant skill set. EP certification provides a structured approach to personal development and helps Environmental Professionals find rewarding careers that make use of their talents and fulfil their passions.

4. What do you like most about working abroad?
Living and working abroad can be a scary prospect, but the experience is truly life changing. Working internationally has not only allowed me to be challenged in new and exciting ways, it has also helped me gain an all-important global perspective. I particularly enjoy working with people from all over the world to develop solutions to major environmental challenges through sharing of ideas and experiences. 

5. What has been the most exciting part of being located internationally?
I never cease to be amazed by the people and places I get to see as part of my job. My travels in Africa and Papua New Guinea have given me a unique perspective and helped me understand the important role that mining plays in developing countries. It is incredibly exciting and empowering to know that no matter where I go in the world, the work I do will help ensure resources are developed in a responsible and sustainable way.

6. What important professional bodies or resources do you look to for information or resources on your career?
The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) is a particularly influential professional association, although it is primarily focused on the traditional mining disciplines (Engineering, Metallurgy etc.) The AusIMM is an institution in Australia and provides great professional development and networking opportunities. In spite of this, I believe there is a real need for an internationally recognized professional association for Environmental Professionals.

7. If you could offer one piece of advice to someone looking for a career where they can work internationally what would it be?
Just go for it! If you are interested in working abroad, tell someone. Opportunities are more likely to present themselves if you express an interest.  Don't limit yourself to a specific city or country; the place you least want or expect to go could change your life.