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Interview with an Environmental Operations Manager
In this career interview, this self described "tree-hugger" shares his experience working as an environmental operations manager in the green industry. His work helps reduce negative human impact on the globe, which has been a passion of his since childhood. Unlike many professionals, he got his foot in the door of this industry before he even graduated high school, when a local company showed an interest in his school science fair project.

Q: What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?

A: I am an Environmental Operations Manager at a medium sized company called Clearity, working in the government and large contracts sector. I am definitely in the Green Economy, or the environmental industry. I have a total of 8 years in that industry and 5 at this company. Three adjectives that describe me are "happy," "energetic," and "discerning."

Q: What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best?

A: I am a white male. Being a white male has definitely given me some opportunities that I have heard that many minorities and women have a harder time getting. Sometimes I do experience discrimination in the field. I work with many Indians - actually I am in the minority in my division. I am sometimes not included in social events outside of work, which definitely affects my attitude. Sometimes I find it more difficult to work with people because I do not feel like I know them.

Q: How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

A: I manage a team of environmental scientists and businessmen to find environmentally positive solutions for government defense contract projects. We are hired by large companies who fulfill the contracts (companies like Boeing and Raytheon) and we work with them to stay within governmental regulations and find green solutions which are also cost effective. My work entails putting the final stamp on the plans we present to these companies. I don't really know that there are any conceptions about what I do, so it would be hard to have misconceptions.

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?

A: I rate my job satisfaction at a 9. If I could get along better with the people that I work with, I would definitely change that rating to a 10 in a heartbeat.

Q: If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?

A: I definitely think that I have found my calling. I have always been a tree-hugger. Since childhood, I always had a pet peeve about littering. I actually broke up with a girlfriend who littered.

Q: Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

A: There is not anything especially unique about me - I was just lucky to find a job that I absolutely love to do.

Q: How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

A: I got started in this line of work in high school, where I volunteered for many green projects, just kind of handing out flyers. I was one of those annoying people in front of grocery stores. An environmental company took an early interest in me because of my high school science project, which found a way to power a small generator using wind tunnels. I received an internship at that company in their geology department before I even enrolled in college. I fell in love with the field since then. I would definitely not change anything about how I got into this field.

Q: What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?

A: I learned the hard way that sometimes the most environmentally sound thing is not necessarily the thing that works financially. Because we are dealing with government and large corporations, it is sometimes sad to see them choose the more fiscally appropriate solution without even considering the other, more green solution. The one project in particular that led to this discovery was actually a project for tankers. We developed a way for cleaner explosions. The government said that they wanted the explosions to cause as much environmental damage as possible.

Q: What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?

A: There are many cliques in the working world, like a high school. I find it sometimes sad. However, it is absolutely essential that you learn to separate your personal and business life if you are to succeed in any industry.

Q: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

A: We were testing some wind coils that just were not working, so I stick my head in and get jumped on by a family of frogs who had gotten caught up in the inner mechanisms!

Q: Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?

A: I get up and go to work everyday to find a better solution for our world. It makes me feel really good whenever one of our proposals is accepted. One proposal for Boeing regarding the air circulation in their planes was especially good because they might implement it in their commercial flights as well. It's up in the air right now, but it is a definite maybe!

Q: What kind of challenges do you handle and what makes you want to just quit?

A: The main challenge that I face is balancing the budget with the innovations. Most of the time the innovation wins out. When we spend all of that time and effort trying to make something better and then the accounting department of the other company says, "No go," sometimes it is really frustrating.

Q: How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?

A: My job has stress, but I guess that is why they call it "work." However, I make sure to keep a healthy life / work balance by using all of my vacation time and keeping a set of friends outside of work with varied interests.

Q: What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?

A: A rough salary range for someone in my position, managing 15 people at a mid sized company would be anywhere between US $95K to US $125K per year.

Q: How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

A: I take 3 weeks paid vacation. Sometimes it is more than enough; sometimes I can't wait to get back to work.

Q: What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

A: To succeed in this field, you need engineering skills, an interest in geology, and an imagination for making things work. Physics is also a good discipline to practice.

Q: What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

A: Be ready for disappointment if your innovations do not meet the budgets of corporations, but do not give up on ideas. An idea that someone scraps could help the earth tomorrow.

Q: If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

A: If I could do whatever I wanted in 5 years, I would be CEO of this company.