EurGeol of the month: Koen Verbruggen

“European Geologist of the month” is a new category of EFG’s monthly newsletter GeoNews. Each month we ask one of the European Geologist title holders to tell us about his professional experiences and which role the title has played for his career.
This month we interview Koen Verbruggen, director of the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) and current President of EuroGeoSurveys who shares with us his views on the importance of professional titles.

Name: Koen Verbruggen
EurGeol title number: 1101
Country: Ireland
In which country do you currently work? Ireland
In which field of geology do you work? As Director of the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), I work across a wide range of fields in which we are active, and our largest projects are in marine geology (INFOMAR), geophysical and geochemical mapping (Tellus) and groundwater, although we also have programmes in land mapping, minerals, geohazards, geoheritage and information management. I also currently have the honour of being the President of EuroGeoSurvey (EGS) for 2015 & 16. EGS is the representative body of the Geological Surveys of Europe, which gives me a great oversight of the activities of geologists across Europe, via the EGS Thematic Expert Groups and the activities of the 37 National Geological Surveys we represent.

Could you give us your opinion on the advisability of being member of a professional association? – I think it should be self-evident that if working as a professional you should be professionally accredited and this should act as a quality assurance to potential clients or employer. Within our own organisations this is actively encouraged and recommended at the recruitment stage.

Could you explain why you applied for the European Geologist title? – I originally applied for it, along with the Irish title Professional Geologist (P.Geo), not long after the titles had been established, when I was working in mineral exploration internationally. I felt the title would be an additional reassurance for the companies and governments we were dealing with at the time, that in addition to my qualifications, I had a professional title.

Do you consider that these titles represent an added value for finding a job? – I think so, and it certainly can’t hurt! Now that I am often “on the other side of the desk” regarding award of contracts and procurement of services, it would be unusual for consultants not to have additional professional accreditation in addition to their university qualifications.

What does this title allow you to do? – An example in Ireland, specifically, it is one of the recognised titles that allow a suitably qualified and experienced geologist to submit Licence Renewal Reports to the Exploration and Mining Division of our Department. Now, in my current roles, the EurGeol title is included on my business card and formal email address and often commented on, particularly by those from outside Europe.

Currently a demand of geologists exists abroad. Would you advise unemployed geologists to look for a job outside (your country)? – Always. I often use the phrase “rocks don’t talk” as a means of explaining that, unlike a doctor, it is often easier for a geologist to work overseas in a foreign country despite not having much of the local language. Working abroad can be really valuable in getting a first professional job, or valuable experience and exposure to different geological settings, work practices and career paths that may not be available at home.

Did you already work abroad? If yes, could you tell us more about your international experiences? – I spent the first 15 years of my career working in exploration, and approximately 50% of that was overseas. Initially as a petroleum geologist in the North Sea but mainly in mineral exploration with Irish junior companies where I lived and worked in Canada and Australia and then carried out field programmes and property examinations in Mexico, Cuba, and both West and East Africa, mainly Tanzania. While I am now, coincidentally, 15 years working for the Geological Survey of Ireland, my overseas experiences not only helped to get me to my current position, but the knowledge gained has informed me professionally and no doubt shaped my opinions and world view.

Are professional titles useful abroad? – Yes I think so. Specific examples from the mining industry are the mutual accreditation agreements allowing for technical reports to be accepted by governments, when they are signed off by holders of professional titles. However there is also a broader impact when working abroad, as it is a further validation of your credentials as a working geologist.

More information on the EurGeol title: