By Andrew Breiter-Wu October 9, 2018
Last week, the USGBC MA Chapter’s Emerging Professionals of Massachusetts committee (EPMA) and the Boston Architectural College (BAC) came together to co-host the second Careers in Sustainability panel event entitled The Evolution of the Sustainability Professional. The event was well attended with a diverse group of emerging professionals, individuals switching careers, and students.
The panel was moderated by Andrew Breiter-Wu, the President of Breiter Planet Properties, a commercial solar energy consulting firm based in Massachusetts. He worked closely with the EPMA event team to compile a rockstar panel of six speakers: Carrie Havey, Senior Project Manager at The Green Engineer, DiAnn Mroszczak, Project Architect & Sustainability Leader at Prellwitz Chilinski Associates, Ellie Hoyt, Sustainability Consultant at Linnean Solutions, Jennifer Taranto, Director of Sustainability at Structure Tone, Oliver Bautista, Designer III at Turkel Design, and Wendell Joseph, Neighborhood Planner at the City of Cambridge.
The event was structured around four questions that each panelist went down the line to answer. I have summarized some of the highlights from each of the speakers below. If you have any questions for the speakers, definitely attend future USGBC MA events where you may run into them or other members within our network with similar backgrounds.
It was great having Carrie, a USGBC MA board member, bring her experience of being in a similar place that many of our audience members are at and discuss how she landed at The Green Engineer, a sustainable design consulting firm. She discussed a few of her projects, such as a school in Worcester that she is working on. The biggest point she drove to the audience is to be your own advocate. We will all face adversity and challenges throughout our career but it’s crucial to be your own advocate and sell yourself to your future or current employer, to a customer, or even to the world.
DiAnn is also an EPMA alum and she helped emphasize the importance of communication, collaboration, curiosity, and drive. All of them are skills that she developed as she evolved in her career. Communication and collaboration was a common thread emphasized among all of the panelists. You can have an impressive educational background with a resume full of experience, but if you can’t effectively communicate your ideas, present your project, or articulate your value, you will have a difficult time in the business and professional world. On the point about collaboration, it was great to see that DiAnn and Wendell were collaborating on a project together. With the network of the MA USGBC, there is a lot of human capital available to learn from and work on projects throughout the region.
Ellie agreed with the importance of communication but also chimed in on the importance of self-motivation and not being “pigeon-holed” with your career. Go out and try as much as you can while you are young and find your passions and interests. This allows you to set your goals to align yourself with your interests and will keep you self-motivated to direct your life and career in a direction you are excited to live.
Jennifer brought a much-appreciated perspective of a seasoned sustainability professional. She spent the early portion of her career working for a West Coast Developer and was very money driven early on and worked extremely hard. She eventually needed to take some time off in Europe but was able to find her new firm Structure Tone which brought her back to the states. She advocated for sustainability within her firm and was able to get their commitment to invest into sustainability and allowed her to create her own role as Director of Sustainability. Now, every project they work on, they are always looking through a sustainability lens which has been much appreciated and even asked for by their clients.
Oliver discussed how his early interests for architecture came from seeing his father work as an active engineer for his whole life. Oliver also discussed a high-level overview of a few of the projects he is working on at Turkel Design where they create high quality modular prefabricated panels for new homes. He discussed how policy is driving a lot of the projects in California with their new legislation requiring solar and other energy efficient elements of new construction buildings.
Finally, Wendell’s story was a great story that many in the audience could relate to. When he graduated architecture school around the time of the economic recession, he had challenges with finding a career or employment opportunities related to his education. He took the initiative to skill up and went to graduate school. By interning and going to grad school, he was able to make himself attractive to his current employer and landed a career in the public sector. It shows the importance of always being adaptive to your environment and being willing to change courses in your career.
We finished the night off with food, drinks, and networking. For me, it was great to engage directly with a number of people from our audience and give some advice on next steps into their own career. I enjoy helping emerging professionals at every stage of their career because I know how confusing life can be and receiving different perspectives and advice is always helpful when taking your career to the next level. Thank you to everyone that attended our event and we look forward to seeing you at future EPMA and USGBC MA events!