Ecologic Meeting February 19, 2009

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Career Speakers

This week we had two guest speakers from the Air & Waste Management Association(AWMA), Peter Desrochers and Georgeanna Lynch. They discussed careers in environmental engineering and related fields.

Backgrounds

Peter Desrochers

  • MS Environmental Engineer RPI class of ‘82
  • currently works at NYS Dormitory Authority
  • Has worked in consulting as well as government

Georgeanna Lynch

  • Has been a consultant since graduation in 1999
  • Spent 3 years mapping wetlands in the Adirondacks

Areas of Employment

Consulting

  • Good for those new to the field; they look for motivated students to hire
  • Exciting
  • Great opportunities, travel opportunities
  • More jobs available in consulting (there are about 150 different companies that hire consultants in the capital district)
  • Paid to solve other people’s problems
  • Clients can be public or private businesses
    • Salaries are typically higher with private businesses, however there is less job security
  • Average salary directly out of school is around $35,000-$45,000, and grows from there
  • Does not follow a typical 9-5 schedule


Industry

  • Working for big companies

Government

  • More stable than consulting
  • Job security, good benefits
  • Less diverse than consulting, have to be willing to deal with bureaucracy
  • Typically takes at least a few years of experience to be hired in government; usually takes younger people awhile to get there
  • Traveling is usually required
  • Implement regulations that are created by the legislature and congress
  • Regulate waste water discharges, air emissions, solid waste, waste energy
  • DEC, Green Energy Council, NYS Dormitory Authority, etc

Advice

Internships are very important, especially from an employer’s perspective

  • They provide opportunities to gain experience, and they also let you create a relationship with possible employers

Professors can be your best resource

  • Get to know them, and take their advice

Keep up your GPA

  • GPA is important especially if you are applying to grad school. Also, a higher GPA is another thing that will set you above those you are competing with for a job

Get involved with professional organizations(such as the AWMA)

  • Don’t just join them to put on your resume, get to know the people involved
  • It isn’t always just what you know, it’s who you know as well. Professional organizations give you the opportunity to network.

Take environmental law classes if available

  • Though most state and federal regulations are learned on the job, having knowledge of environmental laws is advantageous, and allows you to effectively keep companies within regulation.

Integrity is key; hold true to your morals and ethics

  • Beware of dishonest companies when looking for a job
  • It is important to follow your code of ethics, and not to partake in the dishonest practices of some companies

Don’t get caught up in the belief that certain things are “villains,” such as big companies, coal, etc. Don’t think a situation is hopeless.

  • Coal could be clean
    • Anything can be done, if done right
      • Example: Regulations have effectively reduced the amount of acid rain in the U.S. (National Atmospheric Deposition Program, SO4 Deposition)
      • It is possible to do the same with carbon dioxide, once competitive disadvantages are removed (by making regulations the same nationwide)


Q&A (paraphrased)

Q: Is it better to go to grad school first, or to work for awhile beforehand?

A: This is a personal decision. In some cases, it is good to get work experience so you have a better idea of what your focus will be, however this is not necessary. If you want to get a Ph.D., it would be better to do this earlier, because if you wait you may be trying to start a family at the same time you are in school. If you are going for a Masters degree, it is a bit easier to handle school and family.


Q: Can non-environmental science or engineering majors still be involved in this field without additional schooling?

A: Yes, there are many aspects to the field. Example: mechanical engineering can be hired by companies that are involved with environmental issues, can design things such as windturbines.


Q: Your goal in starting down this career path was to save the world, do you feel you are doing so?

A: Any difference you can make makes you feel like you’ve done your job. You have to work for the right company (an ethical company). It is encouraging when you see that programs are working.

Upcoming Events with the AWMA

A full list of Upcoming Events can be found at theAWMA website.

Coming up:

Green Energy in New York, March 11, 2009

Waste to Energy & Climate Change on April 8, 2009