Tales from Academia: How Did I Get Here?


Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought to yourself, “How did I get here?” That was the exact question I asked myself the first morning I began my career at BSTI. Up until that point, I had spent the last four years at West Chester University (WCU) studying geology and having the time of my life doing it. Although even at a young age all roads pointed towards a career in geology, it wasn’t as obvious as it is now looking back.

 

West Chester, Freshman Year

First semester of my freshmen year, I had every intention of declaring Physics as my major with a minor in astronomy. I spent all my free time in the physics student lounge and doing astronomy research with one of the physics/astronomy professors. My year was spent taking apart computers and rebuilding them into a computer network used to conduct early investigations of the HR 8799 system. It was also during my first year at WCU that I was asked to be a college mentor and teacher for the Women in Aerospace and Technology Program (WATP) through the American Helicopter Museum; sponsored through Boeing and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (at the time).

 

collage-photo-nora-wcu-ramDiscovering a Love for Geology

My second year at WCU I was nominated to be the Vice President of the Astronomy Club and run Star Parties out on the Quad. It was also the year I took an Introduction to Geology course and my whole plan of being a Physicist was turned upside down. From the very first day in the Introduction to Geology course, I knew I wanted to be a Geologist. I immediately met with the Geology department chair and switched my major. As soon as I was able, I began lining my Spring semester with Field Geology, Minerology, Geomorphology and every other geology related course being offered. My weekends quickly became filled with class field trips and teaching for WATP.

 

Internship Search

By my junior year at WCU, I was still the Vice President of the Astronomy Club, teaching for WATP and joined Sigma Gamma Epsilon (SGE); the national honor society for the earth sciences. I began assisting multiple professors within the Geology department with their research projects and started researching environmental geology company internships. I took the required geology courses as well as extra math and chemistry courses to fill my love for the sciences. I reached out to my contacts at Boeing, which I made through WATP, and completed a day of shadowing at their Ridley Park location. I was able to walk through and see the assembly of a V-22 Ospray and sit in on multiple conference calls with different project managers. By far the highlight of my junior year.

 

During my senior year I started sending my resume around to local environmental companies. I had multiple interviews, but no luck. I continued my courses at WCU, teaching at WATP and staying active with field trips and research days in the field with my professors. I was asked to give a speech during the annual Boeing gala event at the Springfield Country Club regarding WATP and why it is so important to engage young woman to go into the math and science fields.

 

Jumping into the “Real” Working World

By the end of my first semester of my senior year, I began bugging the geology department’s hydrogeologist for any information on companies who were hiring. I was persistent the entire first semester and would visit him during office hours to work on my resume. At the end of my geology seminar course, I was handed a business card: “Tripp Fischer, Hydrogeologist, Brownfield Science & Technology, Inc.,” and told to email him my resume since BSTI was looking to hire an entry-level geologist. I emailed Tripp my resume, had a phone conversation about my courses at WCU and was asked to meet for a lunch interview. Long story short, I was offered an internship for my senior year spring semester.

 

Along with a full course load, teaching at WATP, participating in SGE and performing research with professors, I started working for BSTI one day a week. During that time, I performed system checks (SVE/AS), sampled groundwater, analyzed analytical data, began GIS mapping and helped write groundwater quarterly reports. By graduation in May 2013, I was offered a full-time position at BSTI. Along with my full-time position at BSTI, I am a corporate mentor for WATP, do public outreach as much as possible, am a part of the Society of Women Environmental Professionals (New Jersey and Greater Philadelphia Area) and began volunteering for the Challenger Learning Center.

 

How Did I Get Here?

To answer my question “how did I get here,” I got to where I am now because of my love for the sciences, hard work and people who believed in my abilities to be a geologist.

 

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The Person Who Asks the Best Question Always Gets the Best Answer

We have in our pockets a device that has instant access to nearly every piece of information known to mankind. So why is it so hard for me to cut through the clutter and get a somewhat applicable answer to a basic question? Geez, I just wanted advice on “growing tomatoes” (29,800,000 search engine results).

 

Tomatoes search - Best Question Always Gets the Best Answer

So recently I found myself proclaiming that the information age should be renamed the “too much information” age when my friend Mark chimed in. He reminded me that “the person who asks the best question always gets the best answer.” His simple statement hit me like a tidal wave. My problem was me! When I find myself struggling to find a good enough answer, I most certainly have not asked a good enough question. “What light conditions are optimal for growing indeterminate tomatoes indoors in the winter?” (230,000 results and the first five are really good ones!)

 

This simple concept has fundamentally changed the way I think. Consultants tend to boast that they have the right answers, but a truly valuable consultant should also have the right questions. This reminds me of something that I used to do for clients called “Defining the Bullseye,” but I’ll save that for another day.

 

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