On a quest for improvement: Q&A with Sarah Stockley, environmental specialist at Mercer
By Sukanya Ray Ghosh
Who: Sarah Stockley
Role: Environmental specialist
Employer: Mercer Peace River
Lives in: Peace River, Alta.
Years in the industry: 8
As an environmental specialist, Sarah Stockley’s focus is on keeping up with industry standards and requirements. She is on a quest to continuously improve environment and sustainability practices at Mercer Peace River Pulp.
Pulp & Paper Canada: When, how and why did you come to join the pulp and paper industry?
Sarah Stockley: It was honestly by chance. I moved to the Peace River area for my family. I have a B.Sc. with a double major in Chemistry and Environmental Studies so the mill was one of the few places where I could make use of my education and experience. It was very lucky for me. I’ve been with Mercer Peace River for over seven years now.
Before working at Mercer, I had worked in the pharmaceutical industry and as a lab instructor at a college.
P&PC: What has your learning curve been like in this industry?
SS: The learning curve has definitely been a steep one. The scope of the mill and what we do here is quite large. The pulp industry, of course, is very heavily regulated. There were so many standards, codes, manuals and guidelines to read and understand. The government is constantly modifying the documentation so it’s just important to stay on top of it all to maintain compliance. But I really do love my job!
I’ve met many people throughout my career that have supported me in some way. There are so many people with differing backgrounds and various levels of expertise, so you can always find someone who can help. Every department has helped me to be better in my role.
P&PC: What is your current role and what is your day-to-day like in this role?
SS: I have spent just over two years in my current role as an environmental specialist. My day normally starts by reviewing trends and reports to confirm compliance and identify any potential concerns. Then we move on to multiple meetings where we discuss area specific targets and aspects which may require addressing. We work closely with a lot of other departments at the mill so it’s important to keep those lines of communication open. I also work with a lot of spreadsheets and am responsible for submitting multiple government reports.
When I started working at the mill, I was hired as a process technician with the technical department, which is basically a supporting role for day-to-day operations. We do a lot of routine testing, and provide extra support if there’s an issue. Also, since Mercer Peace River produces hardwood and softwood pulp, we do a lot of extra checks during transition between species. I was in that role for over a year.
After that, I moved into the quality assurance and lab coordinator role with the technical department. I oversaw the process technicians and coordinated between departments in that capacity.
P&PC: What are some major projects that you have worked on? Any particular favourites?
SS: We recently completed upgrades to our continuous emission monitoring systems on our stacks. We still have some work that needs to be done on this project. However, it’s been very informative and has vastly improved my understanding of those systems.
I also really enjoy working on greenhouse gas reporting. It requires input from so many different departments. It’s truly an eye-opener for areas for improvement, the numbers don’t lie.
P&PC: Throughout your time in this industry, are there any particular challenges that you have faced?
SS: I love that the industry is founded on using a renewable resource to make great products. I work at a Kraft pulp mill, so recycling, reusing and reducing waste are built into the process. At Mercer, we’re always looking for ways to minimize our footprint so it feels great to be a part of that.
P&PC: What do you love the most about being a part of the pulp and paper sector?
SS: I love that the industry is founded on using a renewable resource to make great products. I work at a kraft pulp mill, so recycling, reusing and reducing waste are built into the process. At Mercer, we’re always looking for ways to minimize our footprint. So it feels great to be a part of that.
P&PC: What has it been like as a woman in this industry?
SS: I didn’t come into the industry viewing employees solely based on gender but it’s obvious that we are underrepresented. I’ve always been focused on what an individual brings to the table and how competent they are. I am aware of all the statistics and literature that state there’s work to be done and I’m in agreement with that. Mercer is focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and I believe this will serve us well into the future.
P&PC: Any anecdotes you would like to share about any moments in your career that have stayed with you?
SS: I just think it’s important to keep it light when possible. I’ve learned that lesson from the Operations group. They have so much on their shoulders. They work shifts and long hours and have to spend time away from loved ones on the holidays but they always do it with a smile on their faces and maintain a family vibe. Some of the most enjoyable moments I’ve had at the mill have been with that group. They’re truly a joy to be around. I’ve learned so much from them over the years.
P&PC: What do you see in your future in this industry?
SS: I do find my current role to be quite rewarding, but I’ve never been one to shy away from change. So whether I continue to grow with my current department or another one, as long as it’s with Mercer I know I’ll be content.
P&PC: What advice do you have for women who want to build careers in this industry?
SS: Just a few things. If you make mistakes, take ownership and address the error; many people are great at identifying problems so be the one who develops the solutions. And, there can be no change without communication, so make sure to be heard. I think that advice holds true for any industry.
This article is part of Pulp & Paper Canada, CFI and Canadian Biomass’ Women in Forestry series, an annual celebration of women in the industry. Find more content here and follow us on social media with the hashtag: #WomeninForestry.
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