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Doing the unexpected

My current role is a Transportation Coordinator with Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries Inc. (Al-Pac). My main focus is the Retention and Recruitment of professional truck drivers. This role comes at a critical time as there is a national shortage of drivers and log haul is not immune from the shortage. This role is rewarding and challenging; developing strategies to action the barriers related to the image, capacity and sustainability of professional truck driving. So how did I get to where I am today? It has been a fantastic journey that has taken me coast to coast in Canada and has provided me with experience in a wide range of forestry disciplines.

My career in forestry started in a forestry program in a local high school. After seeing an ad in the local newspaper I spoke to the teacher that ran the forestry program and decided it was worth a try. Going into the forestry program required me to change high schools and that required approval from the high school I was leaving. I met with the vice principal, he advised against changing schools and going into the forestry program because it was for “delinquents”. I am still disappointed to this day that is what he told me but obviously I did not take it to heart.

The forestry program was the start of my career. In grade eleven we learned many practical skills: timber cruising, running a chainsaw, running a portable sawmill, we even wrote a forest management plan! Grade twelve included three job placements; I chose two in Woodlands departments of local mills and one in a provincial park. Each placement was approximately three weeks long and was a mixture of job shadowing and on-the-job training. I learned a phenomenal amount during my placements and worked with some inspiring people. My placement with one of the mills was also the start of my summer experience. A couple other boosts to my confidence were sharing a Top Forestry 11 award with a classmate, receiving Top Forestry 12 (first girl ever) and sharing a Top Forestry award for students in British Columbia.

After I completed my high school forestry program and my first summer position, I went to Selkirk College, enrolled in the Forestry Technology program. I loved it, it was great learning more practical skills and knowledge. During college I always planned to go on to do my degree to become a Registered Professional Forester (RPF). The guys I worked with during the summer were quite adamant of the importance of having a degree too. In my second year the harvesting instructor said “you can go to a school in New Brunswick become an Engineer and a Forester and make $800 a day!” At that time the Forest Practices Code was the way of the world in BC so being an Engineer and a Forester was a good way to make a pile of cash in consulting.

I am grateful I got to go to school in the Maritimes. I had the opportunity to see a beautiful part of our country, I was exposed to operations and forestry that were different than the interior of BC and I met a pile of great people. Once I started going to university in the Maritimes, I did not return back to the Okanagan for summer experience. Although it was great experience, it was time to see more. I did a summer in Saskatchewan, based out of Prince Albert, as well as two summers in Northwestern Ontario, one in Ear Falls and one in Kenora. All three summers were excellent experiences, with progressively more responsibility each summer. The majority of the summer experience I obtained was in Silviculture; however, I did some Planning and Engineering as well.

My summers of experience set me up well for my first contract position when I finished school. I returned to Kenora to a multi-faceted role with a focus on silviculture but also lots of opportunity in planning and harvesting. My contract was extended a couple of months, then I had a couple months off early in 2004. During my time off I took the opportunity to travel a good chunk of Canada on the train; started in Moncton, ended up in Prince Rupert and had a side trip up to Churchill. By spring I was excited to get back to work and in the fall of 2004 I accepted a fulltime job as a Silviculture Forester in Ear Falls.

Ear Falls ended up being my home for the next five years, although I did not stay with the company, I ended up in a role I had my heart set on. Since college and maybe even before, harvesting and road construction was where I wanted to be. I craved the experience, getting into the field every day and learning about logging first hand. Late in the summer of 2006, I was hired as a foreman with a local logging contractor. There were a couple people who openly questioned why I was there, but I loved it. In 2009 when we shut down, I was most amazed by how much I learned about working with people. I also learned a substantial amount about equipment and harvesting. I am grateful to the crews I worked with and the owners for the opportunity I was given.

From 2009 to 2018 I continued to work in Northwestern Ontario in a combination of roles in logging and silviculture for contractors and for companies. In 2017 it became apparent I was ready for a change. Although I needed a change, it was a bit daunting. I had worked in Northwestern Ontario for the past 15 years, I was pretty comfortable with the industry, the people and the legislation. After some thought, I decided I wanted to go west of Ontario, stay in the boreal forest and stay in industry; otherwise I was open to whatever opportunity came my way. In May of 2018 I moved to Alberta. I have not looked back and do not have any regrets. The change is exactly what I needed to recharge my career and move forward.

I can probably count on one hand how many people openly said that I should not be doing what I was for my career. I never paid much attention, I would just put my head down and go back to work. I always loved what I was doing and no one could take that from me. I am very grateful for all the opportunities everyone gave me and the experienced I gained, that is what has brought me to today. I am excited to see what new challenges and experiences are to come.

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