Program Manager at United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Program studied
- Current Location
Q&A WITH REBECCA
What three words would you use to describe IE Alumni.
Outgoing, Engaged, Focused
Could you tell us about the application process and your role at Environmental Protection Agency?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is apart of the federal government, and the application process/hiring process takes a long time. I went to a career fair and passed out my resume. My current boss saw my resume and noticed my capstone project from my masters, focusing on Sustainability, and reached out for an interview. It took four months from the initial offer to my first day of work.
Tell us about the day in the life of a Program Manager.
Every day is a bit different, which is one of the things I like best about my job! Sometimes I start the day in a meeting with one of our corporate partners to collaborate and promote their Renewable Energy use. My afternoon will focus on crafting messaging, writing speeches, press releases, or social media. Sustainability and Energy are both fast-moving industries, so I spend a portion of my day reading the news and reports relevant to my work. Also, I head up a lot of our project management to help keep our team on track and make sure projects get out the door.
Many people don’t know that you used to be part of the Peace Corps, can you tell us about your experience and share your story?
I always say the Peace Corps was one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s a program run by the U.S. government that sends Americans to emerging economies to partner with them in whatever capacity the host nation needs. I spent two years in rural China as a professor at a medical university, and one year in Liberia, helping to run an NGO focused on women’s empowerment. These two experiences were extremely humbling and eye-opening. Most importantly, it taught me how to be resourceful and work with the resources you have to get the job done.
How did your experience at IE prepare you for your professional career?
IE is a practice-based university, which gave me the ability to jump right in at work. I came to my first day prepared to lead meetings, do strategic thinking, and work in a team. Additionally, the focus on CSR in my program prepared me well for the technical aspects of my job.
What is the competitive advantage that studying at IE provided you?
IE provided me a competitive advantage of having a strong emphasis on Sustainability throughout its curriculum. My boss has said the reason he reached out to interview me is he saw my capstone project at Coca-Cola European Partners on Sustainability and knew I had experiences that would be useful in my current role.
Do you have any advice for IE students and alumni who are looking to pursue a career in Sustainability?
There is no traditional background for people working in Sustainability. Some of the sustainability professionals I work with are engineers, communicators, and some don’t have a background in business or science. But every person I have met in the sustainability field is passionate. Find out what area you are most passionate about, ESG investing, GHG accounting, Circular Economy, or Energy and learn as much as you can about it.
What skills do you consider are needed to succeed in your field?
To work in Sustainability, it is important to understand the science behind climate change. I would suggest understanding some about GHG accounting or carbon accounting. No matter the area of Sustainability that you work in, it will eventually link back to environmental science and the human impact on the earth.
Tell us about the IE alumni community and the impact they have had in your life and/or career.
I have only been an alumnus for a year, but have enjoyed getting to know the alumni community in Washington DC. All of the IE alumni I have met have been happy to have an informational interview, offer career advice, and enjoy a happy hour drink with! When I was debating job offers between the private and public sector, it was an IE Alumni who helped me decide to enter the public sector – and haven’t regretted it since!
Why do you think it’s important to engage with the IE alumni community?
For me it has been amazing to see all the different industries IE alumni work in. This allows you to understand all the other jobs out there. It’s also great that the IE community is so diverse, and you meet people from around the world, even in Washington DC.
What skills would you recommend job seekers develop in order to make them more competitive in today’s workforce?
There is not a job in the world that doesn’t require some administrative work. Being able to project manage a team or yourself, stay organized, run an efficient meeting is something that bosses highly value. By having these skills, you will have more time to focus on areas you want to grow and naturally set you up for leadership opportunities.
What’s the best career advice you have ever been given?
Everyone has 20 minutes a day to do a favor for someone. Try to spend twenty minutes a day helping someone. Your network is not the people you know, but the people willing to help you.
If someone was considering going to IE what would you tell them?
I would encourage them to apply, especially if they are interested in a career in Sustainability. It’s a great program to prepare you to add value to your organization right out of graduation and also a chance to learn from some top professionals in Europe.
Why did you choose the MCMC program at IE University?
I choose the program for the focus on CSR and the practical over theory approach to learning. I was also intrigued to live in Europe and experience an international environment that is unique to IE.
What is one thing you wished you knew, when you were a student?
I came to IE knowing I wanted to work in a career that helped others, but I wish I had been more focused on a specific career path. Having an open mind is good, but looking back, it would have been more productive to be focused on a few areas.
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