Archaeologist Martin Wright initially thought that digging deeper into his passion for history would be at the expense of job and financial security. “I wish I had ignored the doubts I had about career safety and income and studied a Bachelor of Arts straight out of school,” he reveals.
A series of desk jobs, backed by his first undergraduate degree in economics, were Martin’s collective impetus to pursue archaeological studies at a leading institution in the field. “I saw archaeology as the perfect synthesis of my love of history, my desire to escape from a desk job, and the various life skills I had obtained during my previous working experiences,” he says with regrets aside. “I chose to study at the University of Sydney as it was the best ranked university for archaeology in Sydney and one of the best in Australia.”
Studying archaeology can prepare you for a range of jobs, from field archaeology and museology to academia and conservation. For Martin, it led him to a career in heritage consultancy, where he is currently a Senior Archaeologist for Virtus Heritage, an Australian company that specialises in the investigation, assessment and management of archaeological sites and cultural landscapes.
I am now in an industry where I enjoy the work and the communities I engage with, and where there is currently a huge demand for archaeological services.
Although drafting reports and spreadsheets are inescapable in documenting heritage finds, a special yet essential part of an archaeologist’s work is fieldwork. Escaping paperwork for Martin now means “walking through national parks, scrambling under historic bridges, or undertaking test or salvage excavations.”
Whether its checking trails for Aboriginal objects or taking photos for archival recording, his work enables him to integrate history and technology to help preserve the material culture of various communities for future generations.
Because archaeologists interact with people from diverse backgrounds across their projects, having good interpersonal communication and stakeholder management skills are just as important as critical thinking, writing and historical expertise. Through the years, Martin has learned that: “Archaeology is a practical and physical career in a lot of respects, however, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely, and to make compelling arguments is still a big part of what we do.”
It seems one way Martin keeps his “two-speed existence” in the world of archaeology exciting is by touching base with his own history. “I still want to be an All Black,” he said when asked what his actual childhood dream was. Beyond coffee and project prospects, he definitely has more shiny things to accomplish and looks forward to in a profession that constantly fuels his interests.
I’ve learnt that if you work hard and love what you do then it’s easy to succeed.