Jeanette Fooks

Jeanette Fooks, Geological Engineering - Class of 1993

Jeanette Fooks

Graduate program

Master of Science (Earth Science)

Graduation year


Why did you choose your undergraduate program?

I grew up camping and enjoying the outdoors in the Ottawa Valley, hiking in many Provincial Parks, and enjoying learning about the rocks and biology of the natural world, from the ferns and trees to the rocks and geological history of different areas of Ontario. I found math and sciences to be an area of interest through high school, and in order to use my talents in these areas in a practical applied way, an engineering degree in Geology seemed like the perfect combination. Being able to learn more about mining and the helpful information that many geological studies bring to a wide range of civil works seemed like a study area that had real public value.

How did you like your experience at UWaterloo?

My experience at UWaterloo was amazing. As an independent young adult, I learned how to manage the everyday activities of life (including finances, which included a part time job at Ginos pizza!), along with key skills for my working life: balancing sports participation (Badminton and Rowing varsity teams), school work (some courses needed a second shot to pass!), and always, teamwork. Whether the teams were group work in courses, or my rowing group or developing relationships at residence amongst various Department and Year staff; learning how to manage your interactions as a person in this world was started at UWaterloo. Being a part of my Geological Engineering class, I was lucky to have a small class that really was a family during my UWaterloo journey.

What were your favourite classes?

There were several stand-out classes for me. Engineering drawing in 1st year, that honed my sketching skills, that continue to be invaluable for work and home projects. Field courses in 3rd and 4th year to gain hands on experience and learning about Geological Engineering in Ontario and Quebec, as well as making great memories with class mates. In upper years, I started to really enjoy the more specific courses, such as Rock Mechanics (crushing rocks in the lab!) and the challenge of Applied Geophysics which combined math and understanding Geology was the tip of the iceberg to understand acoustic and other non-destructive techniques.

How did the friends you made at UWaterloo inspire you throughout your undergraduate experience?

My friends in Geological Engineering opened my eyes to understanding how different motivations could lead to the same result. Other friends and their choices (for choosing co-op terms, or optional courses, or career paths), made me think more of others, and what drives them, and increase my consideration and awareness of my place in the world.

Co-op work term history

  • AECL - Pinawa, MB - Regional Geological Field Mapper
  • Environment Canada - Water Survey of Canada - Guelph, ON - Hydrometric Assistant tech
  • Hyd-Eng Geophysics - Etobicoke, ON, Geophysics Field Data collection
  • Geopak (Division of Urquhart Dvorak Limited)- Toronto, ON, Geophysics software tester
  • Conestoga Rovers and Associates - Waterloo, ON - Groundwater modelling assistant, junior Hydrogeologist

What is the biggest lesson you learned from co-op?

Be prompt, be present, listen and keep yourself open to learn, and truly commit to being honest and true to being an engineer. Never sacrifice your standards, follow the chain of command, and always report issues, since your superiors may not know about them. Keep positive, others will be there to help, you need to reach out and communicate. Try not to assume things.

What is your occupation now?

District Manager, Hydrometric Operations Ontario (Environment and Climate Change Canada)
I oversee all the budget, human resources and data production for all Hydrometric Data in Ontario (currently about 500 hydrometric stations, 45 staff, large budget). Coordinate with the provincial Ministry who completes flood forecasting province-wide, as well as other federal agencies.
I don't get opportunities in boats or helicopters regularly, but I do make sure that staff can safely and effectively collect and share hydrometric data with all Canadians.

Did your undergraduate program play a role in where you are today? How?

As a graduate, I considered that my co-op job with Water Survey was the best job I had ever had. I was looking for work, and saw the job posting for a junior Hydrometric Tech. That job led me to my role here. As I gained experience with Environment Canada, it became more important to complete my Professional Designation as an engineer. I achieved that goal after a year of hard work, that in retrospect, I could have more easily accomplished immediately after graduation.

List 3 lessons you'd like to share with the current undergraduate students.

  1. Try to get through the first 2 years with as many different courses and electives as you can.
  2. Take time to look at your interests periodically, since it is best to change areas of focus for your degree sooner than later, but do it if you need to, since it is harder to go back!
  3. View your undergraduate time as your time to gather tools for your war-chest of life: gather friends, experiences, opportunities and work contacts that will help you in the 70 years ahead!