My work centres on environmental issues related to land use and planning. That covers a number of areas, but primarily I work on the city's green building policies and green building tools that are used through the planning process, as well as the Green Cities green roof program, including the green roof bylaw.
I did my undergrad work at the University of Guelph in international development, with a focus on the biophysical environment and a minor in environmental studies. I did my master's in planning at the University of Toronto, with a focus on environmental policy.
I've always felt connected to nature, and I like to be outside. I became aware of climate change as the defining issue we're going to face in the future during my undergrad studies. Learning about the science of it triggered my desire to understand the connections between development and climate change. Being able to see connections is a very important part of being an environmental planner.
Don't expect to get your ideal job right out of grad school. You may never be able to map out how you're going to get where you eventually wind up. Experience you can get from smaller pieces of work may lead you to your end goal.
I had several jobs after graduation that put me on a very odd path. When I was doing grad work at U of T, I worked with an environmental non-profit in Washington, DC. Then I worked for a planning publication, Novae Res Urbis, for a year, which brought me back into the planning field. I started doing research contracts again, and they all gave me pieces of experience that led to my job at the city of Toronto.
A good planner is persistent. Be open to acquiring knowledge in an array of areas and be able to make connections between those fields. Being aware of issues in many areas and bringing them together is our primary role - connecting the people who have expertise in water with the people who have expertise in climate change adaptation or urban design.
There's a steep learning curve moving from the academic and non-profit world to a career in government. One of the challenges is accepting that as a new planner your work exists within a political context. You work for an elected body that makes the decisions.
Sometimes the decision-makers go beyond what you could possibly hope for and push you further than expected and you're pleasantly surprised. Other times they may make decisions you don't endorse. It is all part of the learning process.