EP Success Story: How to Build a Career in Environmental Project Management

Laura Sykes | July-31-14


Lora Amos-Terpstra, B.Sc., B.A., EPt
Junior Professional
Parsons Canada Ltd.
What does it take to build your career in Environmental Project Management? EPt Lora Amos-Terpstra shares her story as a Junior Professional at Parsons Canada Ltd. Lora manages her own small-scale projects and assists project managers on large-scale projects. She’s also one of the first Environmental Project Management graduates from our new ECO Academy. Check out Lora’s insights on how to start out in the industry and then move up!


How has your career changed over the years?

I was hired out of University as a Professional Assistant and quickly progressed into a Technical Assistant position. After about two years I became a Project Coordinator and was responsible for training junior staff on how to fulfill the Technical Assistant duties. I began helping project managers coordinate various jobs, ranging from simple groundwater monitoring and sampling to well repairs and drilling programs. 
Gradually, I began taking over small projects completely, finding myself with more independence and control over all aspects of a project. I went from completing very simple, specific tasks to handling everything related to a job.

What does a typical day for you include?

My day-to-day responsibilities include:
  • Scheduling field work, including selecting appropriate staff for the job
  • Tracking the project budget, checking invoices for accuracy, and preparing purchase orders for subcontractors
  • Ensuring quality assurance and quality control for laboratory work, such as checking samples, laboratory arrangements, and submissions
  • Maintaining effective stakeholder relations with both staff and clients. This involves discussing the project scope, budget, and safety requirements
  • Writing and editing project reports

What factors contribute to your career development and success?

My willingness to work hard, help others, and take on challenges has helped me progress in my career. I am actively engaged in the success of the company and help to continuously improve the way we do things. 
I also actively attend seminars and other professional development related activities, even when not necessarily required of me.

Why did you choose to become a designated EPt? 

I chose to get the Environmental Professional in-training (EPt) designation because it reflects my degrees and experience in the environmental industry. It offers me a way to convey to employers that I too have the skills to work effectively in the environmental industry.

What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve encountered in your work?

The biggest challenge is completing projects on time and on budget, especially when deadlines and budgets are tighter than what you need to complete the scope in the first place.

Can you provide some tips for someone considering a career in your industry? 

  1. Take a few accounting and technical writing courses in addition to all the regular science and technical courses you’d take anyways. So much of project management involves accounting and writing. So having a good understanding of those in addition to everything else will make your life easier. 
  2. Get a degree in Science, Geology, Engineering, Geography, or the Environment. I think these areas of study are best for getting your foot in the door. 
  3. Apply for a professional designation to help progress your career. 
  4. Ensure you have a strong work ethic, willingness to learn, and teamwork skills.
  5. Connect with environmental employers through the ECO Job Board and networking events.