Cheryl headshot 2Cheryl Evans is Director of the Home Flood Protection Program offered by the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. She is dedicated to helping people across Canada to reduce their flood risk and damage in the event of a flood. GreenLearning recently had a chat with her about how she moved past the conventions of a regular classroom to finding the dream job in flood protection. Evans’ career success story reiterates the importance of building networking relationships and the power of a personal vision.

What type of work does your current job involve?
I oversee the development, training, testing and evaluation of a flood risk reduction education program. It offers free online resources for homeowners and offers an on-site flood risk assessment know as the Home Flood Protection Assessment. We are presently piloting this program in Burlington, Ontario. I have a wide variety of duties in my job including overseeing all project management functions, overseeing a team of employees and working closely with subcontractors. I engage media, the public, and municipal and business leaders on a regular basis.

What inspired you to pursue this career path and how did you get started in this field?
I come from a long line of teachers and engineers. I was interested in a career that involved teaching and engineering that was outside of the conventional classroom. I also have a passion for invention so I wanted to pursue a career where I could build something new to address a gap.

What are some of the challenges you faced in getting to where you are now and how did you overcome them?
When you have a vision of a job that doesn’t even exist yet, you can easily feel lost when you are looking at employment ads. I have always taken pieces of jobs that I have loved and used them to get closer to the ultimate job that I wanted to do. Another big challenge is networking. If people don’t know you and what you are passionate about, they can’t give you a job. Volunteering is a great way to build your networks and test out different types of work to see if you enjoy them. Attending workshops, conferences and continuing your education is a great way to make contacts too. Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to people and you may find that there are great opportunities to work together.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I would like to be at the helm of the research and education branch of a cost-effective, user-friendly, results-based residential flood risk reduction program that is operating successfully across Canada. I am passionate about using the power of education to help people protect themselves. I am excited about bringing user-friendly videos and fact sheets to people across Canada to help reduce flood risk and help reduce damage in the event of a flood. I am also excited about streamlining the training and implementation for the Home Flood Protection Program so that it can be applied in communities across Canada.

What advice do you have for students who would like to pursue a career path that is similar to yours?
If your career aspirations don’t fit into neat categories that are online job search engines don’t worry about it! Countless future career opportunities will be about innovation; adapting successfully to ever-changing climate, economic and political realities. If you are passionate about something, follow your passions, get the education you need, do the networking and work hard. Your path with likely be a winding one, but it’s exciting to get up every day and wonder what’s around the next turn! Enjoy the ride!