As part of our Green MBA Success Series, I am interviewing Green MBA graduates to uncover what steps they took to transition to green careers using their degrees. Meet Emily Reyna, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Emily also recently co-authored, Hybrid Organizations: New Business Models for Environmental Leadership, a book that uncovers best-in-class case studies of organizations that show how their organizational models can achieve both market-and mission-driven goals. Prior to transitioning to a career in sustainability, Emily worked for Ford Motor Company in the field of Human Computer Interaction Design as an analyst in its emerging technologies group. She got a taste for sustainability there when she started a green IT initiative for the automaker. Emily has shared her story of how she transitioned from a career in IT to becoming a sustainability specialist. Don’t forget to check out our entire Green MBA Success Series and our Green MBA Directory.
Q. What are the responsibilities of your job?
A. As a project manager in EDF’s Corporate Partnerships Program, I am helping to grow the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps Program, which embeds trained MBA students in companies to identify energy efficiency improvements that can cut costs and reduce emissions. I work with the host companies to develop scopes of work specific to the company and fellow, then supports the fellows throughout the summer.
I am responsible for recruiting host companies into the program. I mananagw host companies relationships by: reviewing and tracking the workplans with the interns and host company supervisors to ensure alignment with EDF goals. I also troubleshoot any issues at assigned host companies. Another of my responsibilities is to aggregate and report outcomes (kWh, cost and CO2 savings) of engagements. I also contributing to the scale up strategy for the program.
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. Two things….Working at EDF, I get to work with a lot of really smart people who share the same goals. I also enjoy finding market based solutions to environmental problems. The breath of work, impact and those people to tap into is really fun. I like having the ability to impact to many companies intead of just just one. Helping MBAs develop their skills is also very satisfying. I went into sustainability wanting to be a sustainability manager for one company, but instead I am making an impact on many companies.
Q. Green MBA Program Attended/Year Completed:
A. Duel MBA/MS – University of Michigan: A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Sustainability from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business (Ross) and a Master of Science (MS) from the School of Natural Resources & Environment (SNRE). 2009
Q. What, if any additional certifications, training, or degrees do you have that have helped you in your obtaining a position in the sustainability/green section?
A. Seek out work and experience in the space. I started a green IT initiative at Ford before I went to grad schools. Having some type of launching pad was key. While in the MBA program, get involved in clubs and associations. During my third year, I became co-president of Net Impact chapter at my school, which had 300 members.
Note from the editor: While at University of Michigan, Emily also was VP of Ross Net Impact Membership and Alumni Development (2007-2008), VP of Operations Ross M-Trek (2006-2007), and a member of the Community Consulting Club (2006-2007).
Throughout the program, I made sure that any project that I worked one was sustainability related. I would try to approach my projects from a sustainability perspective. So, I did this in subjects like marketing or business strategy. If it was a group project, I worked hard to convince member of my team to work on a project that had something to due with sustainability. This gave me experience to point to when I went on interviews.
A good example is my Master Project for School of Natural Resources was on hybrid organizations. We conducted on-the-ground research to develop an understanding of the differentiating aspects of hybrid organizations to identify the challenges they face, the solutions that they generate, and the unique metrics used to measure diverse impacts. We created a toolkit of best practices and lessons learned from innovative sustainability-driven organizations that can both be useful information for practitioners in industry, as well as provoke discussion among researchers exploring such high-impact organizations.
Note from the editor: Emily recently co-authored the book, Hybrid Organizations: New Business Models for Environmental Leadership, a book that uncovers best-in-class case studies of organizations that show how their organizational models can achieve both market-and mission-driven goals.
I also made sure that I got internships that were sustainability related . This presented great opportunities for me to put into practice what I learn in the program. In addition to giving me that practical application of my newly learned skills, it also gave me a great opportunity for networking.
Note from Editor: As a fellow at Cisco Systems, Emily helped develop plans for a new energy-saving device for equipment in R&D labs that could save the company an estimated $8 million per year (with an 18-month payback) and reduce Cisco’s greenhouse gas emissions by 3%. While she was getting her MBA, she also worked as a sustainable business consultant at Business for Social Responsibility for a few months. While she was there, provided research support for BSR on sustainable supply chains in the apparel industry. Emily also worked as a summer associate at Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties.
Q. What steps did you take that were the most effective in helping you make the transition to a career in sustainability?
A. I educated myself by reading any books I could on sustainability to be better able to talk about it. I also networked. Networking is very important to see what is available out there in the space and how people approached it.
Q. What are your long term career goals?
A. To continue to build my expertise in the space. I would like to be able to innovate in ways that change whole industry sectors. I would also like to lead a company down the path to sustainability.
Q. More companies are taking corporate sustainability and environmental practices seriously, but are they hiring green MBA grads to address these issues?
In my experience at school and with the climate corp fellows, they are getting hired.
Note From Editor: To find out about successful green MBA grads whom Emily knows, read her EDF blog post, The Future Looks Bright Green – Life after EDF Climate Corps. In the post, she discusses her experience as a climate corp fellow and provides profiles of Climate Corps alumni.
Q. What strategies do you feel are most effective in helping green MBA graduates get their careers on track. How can they get the most bang for their buck with their Green MBA.
A. Get as much experience as possible. Take more time to get the experience. Look at three year programs, so you have more time to get more out of the experience. With two year programs, you have to start looking for jobs almost as soon as you land on campus. I think that being enrolled in the dual MBA/MS program gave me some advantages that many in other sustainability MBA graduates did not have. I was in a three year program, while most MBA programs are two year programs. Having three years gave me more time to gain more experience, build up my resume, and more effectively network. You should also network with anyone in the sustainability field. Use the opportunity as a student to reach out to people in the industry. It puts you into a good position to find opportunities to do free internships or do a research papers.
Q. What types of sustainability positions do you see gaining steam in terms of employers having an increasing need to fill? A. It seems like there is an energy managers ,sustainability consultants, renewable energy position, and work at utilities.
Q. What trends in corporate sustainability hiring of green MBA graduates to you see taking shape over the next five years?
A. Should sustainability departments still exist, they are still going to be small sustainability departments. Hopefully green MBA graduates will start to infiltrate over markets bringing their perspectives into mainstream jobs. For instance…. sales selling green, marketing tapping into new markets……
Q. Please share any additional thoughts that you feel might be helpful to someone seeking to make this type of career transition.
A. If you are really interested in sustainability, try it out first. Try to figure out what skills you have that are transferable. Sustainability does not necessarily have to be in your title for you to have a sustainability career. For instance, I could have stayed at Ford and continued to work to help them build the Ford Green IT team.
Join us each week as we introduce to sustainability professionals who used a green MBA to make a green career transition. If you have a green MBA, have successfully transitioned into a career in sustainability, and would like us to spotlight you in the Green MBA Success Series, or if you know someone you think we should spotlight, drop me a line. Don’t forget to check out our entire Green MBA Success Series and our Green MBA Directory.
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