“Don't be afraid of your vulnerability” – Meet WXN member Erin Crerar
Erin Crerar first fell in love with geology as a university student finding her groove. After earning her Masters, she’s since spent time as a technical geologist, mapping the earth’s subsurface in western Canada in the oil and gas sector, and most recently as a leader in her profession, where she found her groove again developing teams and mentoring the next generation of geologists.
Keep reading to hear how she handled the transition, why geology rocks, how losing a baby helped her build more authentic relationships, and why finding your “yes” matters.
WXN: What was it like moving from a technical role to a leadership role?
Erin: As a professional, sometimes it's hard to transition. Sometimes you don't acknowledge it yourself. Sometimes you don't know definitively what you want to do. I was on the fence for a long time: do I want to be a geologist or do I want to go into a leadership career? I was fortunate to have some great leaders and mentors who supported me as I experimented with both paths, who believed in me and encouraged me to do more of what I was most passionate about. But if you don't take the time to think about what you want, what drives you and what your values are, someone else will make that decision for you.
WXN: How did you fall in love with geology in the first place?
Erin: When I was doing my undergrad in university, I had the advice to take a bunch of different courses. I stumbled across an intro to geology course. I loved learning about the earth and life through time, how life evolved and the earth formed. It was very much a combination of hard science and a history of change. I registered in geology after that, and I never looked back.
WXN: And how did you end up in the energy sector?
Erin: I worked a couple of summers in Drumheller, Alberta at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, digging up dinosaur bones and running science education programs in the gallery. I loved it but also wanted to be able to try different types of jobs while I was still in school.
I got a summer job at an oil and gas company, and I really liked the applied science part of it. I got to solve all these cool technical challenges by applying what I learned in school. I loved that you could put together a geological interpretation based on the rock and seismic data and then when new wells were drilled or new production data collected you could learn if your interpretations still made sense. I saw potential for continuous learning and improvements to your ideas and interpretations. It also had a very economic purpose to responsibly develop natural resources. I wasn't sure if I would like it, and I think testing it out was really great.
WXN: Through that time, what has been your biggest challenge, personally or professionally?
Erin: Three years ago, I lost my baby in the second trimester of pregnancy when the risk is so low that few people speak of it. The grief that I experienced was profound. I was grieving the loss of my daughter but also the potential of growing my family as this pregnancy came after a two-year year struggle to conceive. And I am a pretty private person. I would have liked nothing more than to hide what had happened, but my pregnancy was known to so many people. It made me feel exposed.
The support and compassion I received were unbelievable. I experienced the spectrum of people comfortable and seemed to know exactly what to say to those who were uncomfortable but said something anyway. It takes courage to show that you care when you don’t know what to do or say. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to experience, but it also shows you compassion and that people understand. You see the compassion and support that others give and that comes across in much more authentic relationships afterward. Others share their stories with you, and you get closer to a lot of people. You need those people to help you get through.
WXN: How did you handle that difficult time, and what advice do you have for others going through something similar?
Erin: I became much more comfortable talking about difficult situations, difficult feelings and knowing that it's okay to admit that you're having a tough time. When you're honest about it, other people can be honest too.
Everyone is struggling with different situations in their lives that others don't know about. You don't have to share what you're going through with everyone, but if you say, “Hey, I'm going through something hard and things are tough for me right now,” people can empathize and you open up a place for a much more connected relationship. Don't be afraid of that vulnerability.
WXN: Can you tell us about a moment that made you feel proud?
Erin: Two years ago, I was asked to take on an interim role to lead a large team of reports while my manager was on leave. I jumped on that because, of course, I would help her any way I could. It was also an opportunity to take on significantly more responsibility and show some of my skills. And then the perfect storm happened – our senior manager left the organization, and the business was going through a big organizational change. I went from leading a small team on an area well within my comfort zone to reporting directly to our VP and leading the geoscience function through a major organizational change.
I wanted to do right by the people and make sure that I could support them as best as I could. I wanted to do right by these two leaders that I admired so much that weren't there. I wanted to do a good job. It was terrifying. You feel like you're on this cliff and you're looking around, saying, “Okay, who's going to make that decision?” And then you realize, “Oh, that's me.” I was part of some really tough decisions but found my voice to influence some really positive changes. I am most proud to have been able to be there for the people on my team.
WXN: How would you redefine the “X” in “WXN”?
Erin: When you think of the word “executive,” you think of people on the board and women who are really established. For me, to understand how they got there, you need to understand where they started from because people didn't just magically end up in these positions. I think the X is that enablement and encouragement. It's finding your “yes” when there are so many reasons to say no to opportunities. It’s encouraging people that they can progress in a way that's really meaningful to them.
Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What’s your “X”? Join Erin and the rest of the WXN community!
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Erin Crerar – Professional Geologist
Erin Crerar is a Professional Geologist with over 17 years of experience working in the energy sector. She is highly accomplished in both technical and leadership roles. Most recently, she was passionately invested as a Geoscience Manager for an international company where she successfully led and inspired teams to collaborate and solve complex technical challenges in subsurface reservoirs.
Erin holds a B.Sc. from the University of Alberta and an M.Sc. from the University of Ottawa. She loves to travel, run, and spend time outdoors with her husband, daughter and rescue pup in Calgary.