Nicole Januszczak

Nicole was born in 1973 in Toronto, Canada. She graduated with a B.Sc. (Honors) from the University of Toronto and she completed Masters and Doctorate degrees in Geology at the University of Toronto. She’s a specialist in sedimentology and how glaciers have transported material over time.

Nicole first became interested in Geology in university. She enjoys the outdoors and was an avid canoe-portage-camper at the time. She enrolled in a field trip to the Canadian Rocky Mountains and discovered the power of hands-on, in-your-face education! Seeing geological processes in action enabled her to appreciate what you can tease out of the geologic record if you know what to look for. The detective-like nature of the work and the amount that she learned outside of a textbook on that two week field trip enticed her into the field of Geology.

Nicole is currently a Senior Geologist with De Beers Canada Inc. She has been working for De Beers Canada since 2005, exploring for new diamond mines within Canada. Nicole has worked on every continent, and has worked both on land and at sea. Most recently, she has spent time in Angola and northern Ontario. Nicole gets the opportunity to visit remote locations and gets to know the local communities, their heritage and their culture. Singing “O Canada” in Inuktitut and participating in the Inukshuk-building competition on Canada Day in Igloolik is an opportunity not to be missed! There is so much to Canada!

Prior to De Beers, Nicole lived in Vancouver, British Columbia and worked with Apex Geoscience Ltd., a consulting company based out of Edmonton, Alberta.

Nicole is registered as a Professional Geoscientist with the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO). She enjoys running, skiing, ice hockey, yoga and mountain biking. She is an enthusiastic geologist who enjoys talking to students about the challenges, rewards and excitement of being a Geoscientist in Exploration.

Q: What is the title of your job and what do you do?

A: My job title is Senior Geologist. I work on various Exploration projects for De Beers Canada and our objective is to find new diamond mines in Canada.

Q: Who do you work for, and where are you based?

A: I work for De Beers Canada Inc. and I am based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I was previously based in Sudbury, Ontario with De Beers Canada and I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia before joining De Beers Canada. De Beers has operations world-wide, so the opportunity to work abroad is always available.

Q: What is your typical routine?

A: Over the course of a year I spend time both in the field and in the office in Toronto. On average I spend about 3 months in the field each year. This is not as a single rotation, but often punctuated with breaks of varying duration. When I’m in the field, I usually work 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week while on site. Field work periods are usually followed by mandatory time off depending on the legislation in a given province or territory. When I’m in the office I typically work an 8 hour day, 5 days a week. .

Q: Where do you work?

A: When in Toronto, I work in an office building that houses our Exploration, Corporate and Mineral Resource divisions. We have individual offices, but collaboration and open communication is facilitated with large communal work areas.

When in the field, our field “office” is a tent constructed from canvas or plywood. Our sleeping quarters, kitchen, laundry (where you can dry your clothes, shower and wash laundry) and toilet facilities are similarly constructed as they are only temporary structures. The remote nature of our work means that safety is paramount as help is often a helicopter or plane trip away.

Most recently we are conducting a lot of Exploration from the Victor Mine Site in northeastern Ontario. The mine site has permanent structures and more of the amenities of home (e.g., phones, internet, gym), but it poses the additional challenge of working around an operating mine, where again, safety is the number one priority.

I’ve also had the opportunity to visit our operations overseas, most recently in Angola. The work environment in Angola is different from Canada in that we are used to working in remote locations where there is no cell phone contact, we have to use helicopters to get where we want to go and there are very few (if any) people around. In Angola, cell phones work, there are people working the fields, and with rare exceptions you can 4WD drive almost anywhere you want to go. It’s hot in Angola, but they don’t have Canadian black flies or winter to contend with!

Q: What equipment/machinery do you use?

A: I use simple equipment like shovels, compasses, screens and pans, GPS and hand tools for sampling and mapping purposes. We also use complex geophysical equipment like magnetometers and gravimeters to measure properties of the rock. Sometimes these tools are carried by foot, snowshoe or skidoo; other times you can mount them onto planes or helicopters for data acquisition. We also use various-sized drills to test targets to see if they are kimberlites (the volcanic rock that carries diamonds from the mantle to surface) or to see if a kimberlite has enough diamonds contained within it (called the “grade” of the kimberlite). In the office we use a variety of software programs to visualize our data so that we can interpret it and determine the significance of our results – does what we’re seeing in the data mean that we can find diamonds nearby?

Q: What education or training is required for your job?

A: I have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science specializing in Geology and two graduate degrees in Geology; an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. It is a requirement that we register as Professional Geoscientists in the province(s) in which we work. In my case I am registered as a Professional Geoscientist with the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO). I had to ensure that my education and experience met the requirements for APGO certification.

Q: What kind of personal traits do you recommend for this profession?

A: You have to be adventurous, optimistic, and inquisitive. You should enjoy travelling and working in unique working/living conditions. Above all else, you have to be a team player.

Q: What is the salary range of your job?

$80,000 to $120,000

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: There are two things: the people that I get to work with, including my peers at De Beers, local community members, people at universities and geological surveys and external consultants; and the diversity of the job. You are continuously challenged to adjust your skills to meet ever-changing conditions, the environment and the geologic setting.

What are the advantages?

A: I have a permanent position with De Beers Canada and this entitles me to health benefits and pension. You are also rewarded for your success with bonus pay. The intense nature of field work (7 days a week while on site) usually means that a period of time off is required by law. This often enables personal time for travel or a well-deserved break.

Field work provides the unique opportunity to travel and see a lot of the country. Northern Ontario does not end in cottage country! There is so much to see and learn with so many unique cultures living outside of our usual realm of existence.

Being involved in field work also provides the opportunity to work with a diverse suite of people; from academics to drillers, engineers and pilots. It’s fascinating to work closely with people with such a diverse suite of skills.

Q: What are the advancement opportunities for this career?

A: I currently work at the very start of what we call the “diamond pipeline”. We have to find the kimberlites that contain diamonds before the diamonds can be mined, priced, cut, marketed and sold. There are advancement opportunities within Exploration, but also within the entire pipeline. Advancement sometimes involves a new job environment (e.g., a change from Exploration to a mine) and relocation to a new geographic location.

Q: How physically demanding is your job?

A: My job can be physically demanding although safety is paramount and all field personnel are required to complete medical tests to ensure that their job requirements meet their physical capabilities. We often walk long distances, carry samples and operate equipment. We are usually out in the field all day and we have to be trained to ensure safety for our mode of transport, be it a helicopter or a skidoo. We work in all weather (and bug) conditions and we have to ensure that we are adequately dressed and supplied. We have to be prepared to stay in the field overnight in case of emergency and we must be prepared to deal with hazards of the job like encounters with wildlife.

Q: Why did you choose this career?

A: I chose this career initially because of my experience on a Geology field trip to the Canadian Rockies – I loved the outdoors and I realized that I could learn and apply so much in the “natural laboratory” outside of a textbook.

I get to work with a terrific and very diverse suite of people that I learn from everyday. I get to travel and see parts of the world that very few people get to appreciate. I am continuously challenged and as I result I am encouraged to learn more every day. I also enjoy the opportunity to help others learn by sharing my experience about the challenges, excitement and rewards associated with my job.

What is your most memorable moment/event/place related to your experience as an Earth scientist?

A: There are so many! That first field trip to the Canadian Rockies enabled me to appreciate a small portion of what geology had to offer. Another key moment is when I’ve been given the opportunity to work with a local community member and have helped them learn and develop a marketable skill set. Key for me too, are those moments that I’ve seen the look of excitement on kids (and their teachers too!) when they realize the fun and breadth of disciplines involved in Exploration and Geology.

Q: What is your advice to newcomers?

A: Be passionate! Choose to shape the future and show you care in whatever career you follow. Better yet, why wait? Incorporate these values in what you are doing today. These are three of De Beers’ Values and I am proud that they reflect what I strive to do everyday.

If you are interested in Exploration, be sure that being in the field is something that you are interested in. If you hate hiking boots and outhouses are “out of the question” then field work may not be for you!

Be aware of professional certification requirements. These may seem a long way down the road for some of you, but organizations like the APGO have certification requirements that come into play when choosing university courses. Be sure that your current education will enable you to meet the necessary requirements.

Q: Any other comments to share?

A: I have a fascinating and challenging career! Geoscience leads to so many diverse opportunities; I’ve touched on only a tiny subset here speaking about Exploration so I hope that you explore the many others that are available to you!

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