Ralph was a state forester. He’s retired now, but he’s been a friend throughout my career. He gave me my first ride along.
When I met Ralph, I was a firefighter in the summer and attending community college. I declared my Forestry Major and was preparing to transfer to Humboldt State University. I had not taken any forestry classes yet. That would start the next year. I didn’t have much forestry work experience. I knew Ralph from my job at the fire station. I asked if I could ride along with him for a day. He gladly took me up on it. I learned a lot from Ralph.
The other day I took a young woman, named Jaime, for a ride along. She’s contemplating her next career move. She is a cousin of a close friend.
The night before, Mary and I visited with our friends, Jaime, and her father. We had a wonderful conversation. Jaime recently completed her Bachelor degree at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. Now she was considering going for an environmental law degree. Mary and I were both thinking, She needs to go for a ride along. When offered, she leaped at the chance.
The next day we started out with an introduction to our company’s head research scientist, CJ. These two women hit it off famously. After an insightful conversation about environmental science, careers and education, we headed out to the mill.
We toured the mill complex where Jaime started out watching the pole plant processing logs. Next, we went through the sawmill. She asked a ton of questions about the process and took a few pictures to send to her friends back in North Carolina. After the mill tour it was back to the truck.
We headed out to look at the timberlands. Our conversation centered on forestry practices, land management and environmental issues. We started near Shingletown, looking at forestry practices, and ended the day at the Ponderosa Burn, talking about fire restoration.
Now, if I sound like the wise professional bestowing my vast knowledge from on high, let me correct that right now. This education process is a two way street. Our conversations weren’t all about forestry. I learned about all manner of issues important to her generation. We both had a fun and instructive day.
Making time for young people to go for a ride along or job shadow for a day is time well spent. A day job shadowing does something for them that a semester of school doesn’t do. It gives them a big picture of the profession. As professionals we benefit from this time too. We’re never too old to learn and they too have a lot to share.