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Spotlight on alumni

Mark Shrimpton

Born in London, England, Mark Shrimpton came to do an assignment for his undergraduate studies and never left. He is a connoisseur of good food and good wine and passionate about Newfoundland and Labrador. As a senior associate for socio-economic services for Stantec Engineering, he keeps his focus on sustainable, long-term benefits that Newfoundland communities can expect from the recent oil and gas bonanza.

BF: Tell me a bit about yourself.
MS: My mother was from Grand Falls, Newfoundland. She was one of nine children so my childhood was filled with aunts and uncles visiting and reminiscing. I was raised in London with the stories of this mythical place. When I grew up to be a geographer I had to explore this place and I never got away.

BF: What was so interesting about the geography?
MS: hmmm... I enjoyed the fact that it was to a degree cross-disciplinary. The fact that it drew on other disciplines and allowed me to synthesize the body of information and I think this continues to be the case. In fact, I do a lot of work with engineers and an expression that comes up very often is “working in silos.” People who have a particular focus for their work and that’s what they think about and that’s all that they think about. And there are people in the next office over who are involved in a related mater, but in their own silo. I think there is a merit in bringing these things together into a more holistic picture. In addition, I do like to travel, I do like being in different places and I am delighted to have a job that allows me to go to different parts of the world and experience those places not as a tourist, but as somebody who is, to a degree anyway, involved in the community.

BF: You decided to stay after your MA in geography?
MS: I was fortunate in that the Institute for Social and Economic Research needed a research associate. This was a place I liked very much and there was an immediate opportunity for employment.

BF: Tell me a bit about what it is that you do today. It’s still connected to economic development?
MS: I did my graduate degree in social geography, urban geography. So there is some relationship with that. What I am mostly doing now is looking at the social and economic impacts of resource development projects – either in terms of what they might be monitoring or what the effects are or, more interestingly for me personally, now looking at managing those impacts. You have decided what you want to get out of this project from a regulatory point of view. The government says we want to deliver economic benefits. Well, okay. How do you deliver economic benefits? What sorts of economic benefits one wants to deliver. So a large part of my work these days is writing these regulatory documents, benefits plans and diversity plans to help, one hopes, to deliver win-win to the proponent of the project and to the province and different social groups.

BF: Can you give me an example?
MS: Yes. I had very good fortune, through Stantec, to be retained by ExxonMobil for their Hebron project and they are required to submit benefits plans and I am assisting ExxonMobil in writing that document. Part of the joy of my life is that one does work for different companies of different sizes and I find it very interesting to experience the culture of those different companies. I also helped develop industrial benefits strategy for the government of Yukon. I had the pleasure of working with the Harris Centre out of the university. Again a different perspective. That all helps to entertain me.

BF: You said you travel a lot and often to North Atlantic islands. How did that come about?
MS: That came about when I was in Scotland talking about, at that time the upcoming, Hibernia project. I was approached by a fellow from Faroe Islands because he thought he could learn from the Newfoundland experience. We have learned a lot here about how to do benefits planning, sometimes we learned by making mistakes, but we learned how to do it. We have learned about the management of the effect on communities much more than it happened anywhere previous. Context is important. People are increasingly realizing that we have world class expertise here. Whether it’s about icebergs or Wade Locke and his economic analysis or the stuff I am doing, we need to promote our capabilities in other areas. That’s part of what I do. We got Greenland up there and it’s going to have am offshore industry – so how are we in Newfoundland and Labrador to use our expertise to make a dollar? We need to build on and export that expertise – it’s all about sustainable economic development. Fortunately, it’s also fun.

BF: When you look at the new generation of geographers and Memorial students, is there a lot of opportunity out there for them?
MS: Absolutely. a) because of the nature of economic growth here, and b) because of the old farts like me [laughs]. Working skills task forces have mostly focused on trades here, but the same applies to engineers, the sort of people who do my sort of work. This is a very good time to be graduating, I must say, because I profoundly believe that one of the strengths of the university is the co-op program. Great experience in terms of understanding the workplace and the work. People putting those co-op programs in place deserve a lot of plaudits.