Meteorological Technician, Environmental and Climate Change Canada
Bachelor in Geography 2014
My advice to students is to explore the variety of career paths that are available with a geography degree
About Edward Parker
Edward Parker (he/him) is a Meteorological Technician for Environmental and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). As a federal employee, he travels the country installing weather stations both on land and at sea with the help of the Canadian Coast Guard. These weather stations, installed and maintained by Parker and his team, provide the necessary data for nearly all weather services in Canada. So, the next time you check your weather app, you can thank Edward for his hard work!
In addition to installing and maintaining weather stations, Parker works with a national team to help run an apprenticeship program called APTP. This program helps train and inform federal employees in their first few years of employment in order to help them develop their skillset in their respective regions across Canada for the various monitoring networks the ECCC works on. In the next few years, Edward is looking towards career advancement within the Federal Government and outside of work he can often be found tinkering, cycling, or working on his cars.
How would you describe your job?
Whenever Canadians check their weather app, 99.9% of the data are from one of our weather stations. I service marine, surface, and coastal auto stations. I installed and set them up across Southern Ontario, then maintained them. We take the data from the stations, put it through our giant supercomputers in Montreal, then the weather networks decide to take the data which forecasters then use to make their predictions for the weather to share with you.
What led you to choose the geography program at York?
I always loved geography in high school, but the problem was that I did not know what kind of things you could do with the degree. I started off my first year in the political science program but then I realized the career paths did not align with my interests. I switched programs and went back to what I loved: geography. During my time in the geography program, I split my coursework into half physical geography (science stream) and half human geography because at that time, I did not know what my job prospects would be. I loved geomorphology and soils, so I found that my time in the science stream versus the human stream was a night and day difference.
How did York prepare you for a career after graduation?
I feel like it prepared us in terms of the workloads that you could anticipate in a job post university. The problem I found was that we were very limited in like, job streams. I would go to careers in counseling to try and figure out what I could necessarily do, and there were very limited options.
Back then there weren't the same job banks that you could find like on monster.ca or if you wanted to go into LinkedIn and make networks. It was more word of mouth. For instance, the only reason I'm in the job I'm in is because my best friend started working for Environment Canada 15 years ago, and he said, “you would really like this job,” and I happened to get into a job that was in environmental remediation that was somewhat similar, transferable skills, and so I got my experience in one.
But had I not heard about it, I would have had no clue. Which sucks because if more geography students knew about the potential jobs, especially now that I'm in the federal government, how many jobs with a geography degree you can do in federal government, they do it as tier. So, there's different steps of how high you can go and for myself, I'm just a meteorological technician and I've capped out. I'm what's called an engineering level five.
Then there's levels 6, 7, 8 and 9, and each one's supervisor, superintendent, regional manager, and national manager bosses and each one of those currently has a geography degree, and each one of them said that they found out about it from word of mouth. It is frustrating because there's tons of positions that one of us could take, but we have no idea that it exists. Trying to navigate a federal job bank is not easy. I just wish that there was a way to tell people, “Hey, this is a potential job stream that pays well and has great pensions!”
What was most influential to your success as a Student at York?
My success as a student was highly influenced by my professors. They were understanding and accommodating. For example, there were some weeks where I'd be at school until 9:30pm, and if I had an early class the next day and would be late/can’t make it, I was able to communicate with my professor to make accommodations or meet them for their office hours to catch up. I found that the professors were understanding of student needs and circumstances and while they were clear with their expectations, they were often flexible to our needs.
What do you do outside of work?
Beyond work, cycling, working on cars, and tinkering are pretty much my go-to activities. I always loved hands-on activities, whether it is through my soils course, going out into the field, building things etc. If I hadn't done geography, I probably would've gone into engineering.
Describe your post-graduation journey.
My post-graduate journey began when I was exploring the different types of careers you could do with a Geography degree. Back then, although I used career resources, there was limited information about the diversity of streams/pathways. I found my path through word of mouth. My best friend started working for Environment Canada 15 years ago and suggested that I would like this job that was posted. I happened to get into a job that was in environmental remediation that allowed me to learn transferable skills.
What advice would you give to a student interested in your field or in the federal government?
My advice to students is to explore the variety of career paths that are available with a geography degree. Back then, job banks like monster.ca and resources like LinkedIn did not exist for us to explore and network. We learned about opportunities through word of mouth. Now that I am in the federal government, I see many positions that are held by colleagues who also have a geography degree who shared with me that they also learned about their roles through networking and recommendations. I hope students consider exploring federal job banks – they are not easy but can illustrate potential career paths that can be rewarding. A bonus with a government job is that once you are in, there is an opportunity to explore a variety of different positions or branches – whether it is laterally or up.
What are your future plans?
My plan is to advance in my career to a superintendent role. As a meteorological technician, I capped out at what is called engineering level five (EG 5). The next level above me would be a supervisor in EG 6. Just four months ago, I successfully applied to a pool, got past all the interview stages and now I am in a pool. So, if an EG 6 position opens, anywhere in Canada, I can act in those positions across Canada (if selected). I'm slowly working my way up to EG 8. Though it is not easy getting into a federal government role, once you are in once you're in, then the world's your oyster if you have the drive and you have the know-how and you can qualify on these pools, you can, you can do a lot.