Operating Green: National Capital Region emerging professionals co-chairs
Operating Green is an interview series with some of the top leaders in sustainability in the National Capital Region. These interviews give a glimpse into how these top influencers operate successfully in the green space. Each interview is also recorded in a podcast format.
USGBC National Capital Region spoke recently with the co-chairs of its Emerging Professionals (EP) committee. This dynamic duo was honored with USGBC-NCR’s Member of the Year Award in 2015, after successfully growing the EP committee from three members two years ago to well over 20 today. Be sure to listen to the whole recorded interview for more in-depth answers.
Co-chairs: Beth Giltner (BG), Sustainability Coordinator, Rand Construction Corporation, and Marissa Mitzner (MM), Director of Conference Programs, BOMA International:
Tell me about how you two started out as the co-chairs of the EP Committee.
MM: At the beginning, there were three of us, and we said to ourselves, “Let’s do something about this.” We started talking about how we would redo the group the way we wanted it and what changes we wanted to make. We eventually met with the NCR to go over our ideas.
BG: We had been there for about a year by this point, and were under the impression the EP group was removed from the NCR as a separate entity, until we sat with the executive director of NCR at the time, Emily English. We definitely wanted to integrate the EPs with the rest of the chapter.
What are your backgrounds?
BG: My background is in interior design. I graduated when the market was down, but I was open to several opportunities and avenues. I was lucky enough to stumble upon Rand Construction, a general contracting firm based in Alexandria. They were looking for a sustainability associate to help their sustainability coordinator. A year later, I transitioned into having more responsibilities, and [after] two years, I became the sustainability coordinator, managing our projects and education in both the D.C. metro area and nationwide.
MM: My job is not sustainability-based, but I bring sustainability into my organization. When I first graduated, I was the first sustainability coordinator at my college, even though I had a business management degree. I helped to push the program forward and then made my way to D.C. A job or two later, I found my way to BOMA International because I knew I wanted to work with green buildings. Once I started with BOMA full time, I got involved with USGBC-NCR and used them to help leverage me into green buildings and to learn what I couldn’t necessarily learn at work. From engineers to architects, there’s a lot of expertise that I didn’t have access to before.
What has been the most memorable piece of advice you received?
MM: The best advice came from my father, when we were talking about my career and where I wanted it to go. He said, "Let whatever you’re doing now pull you into your next position or experience instead of push you there." I think NCR really helps to pull you into that next position and leverage you up to give you those opportunities. Being able to network and connect with people gives you those extra steps and what you need to help leverage you up.
Has anyone been a mentor to you?
BG: I’ve been really lucky with Rand in that it's almost set up to be a mentorship. The company is really entrepreneurial; there are a lot of people to build you up and support your ideas and guide them. I was fortunate enough to have an excellent manager and fantastic mentor. She was really a role model for not only working in business, but also sustainability. Not everyone always wants to hear about sustainability and she helped me work through that. Find the people that will support you and be on your team.
From the time you walk in to the time you walk out, what do you do?
BG: It changes day by day. Often, I open my schedule the night before, because I could be on site at 7:00 a.m., or be in Bethesda for a meeting. Outside of knowing what my first appointment of the day is, I open my calendar. The calendar is my lifeline. It's color-coded by project and event also.
MM: As soon as I get to the office, I have to have a small transition into my day. I catch up on my news, email newsletters and going through any updates to wake my mind up. Once I’m caught up, I go through my calendar, which is color-coded as well. I try to prioritize stuff by setting aside time and even though I get emails throughout the day, I know it's OK because I’ve designated a certain time for it and will get to it later.
Would you say that’s how you Operate Green?
MM: Beth and I really work well off each other. Since I’m often at my computer the entire time and Beth is moving, I’m able to respond to emails when need be, but I know Beth is also going to get to them when they’re directed to her. Some are so detail-specific that I can’t even answer, when it comes to LEED or whatever, since it’s not my field. Also, by my work experience, I do a lot of event planning and it's second nature at this point. When we plan events for the EPs, I know who we need to contact and what to ask. But when we’ve worked on other events, like the panel discussion, Beth was on top of it, since it was her thing and her experience.
BG: It's one of the benefits of having two co-chairs instead of having a dedicated President or Vice President.
MM: We play to our strengths. There’s no need to build up my weaknesses when she can take those tasks on instead. And that’s how you create a team, based on everyone’s strengths, so that they complement each other.
Are there any tools you use on a daily basis?
BG: I have two big glass samples from a contractor that I use with a Sharpie to write my notes every day. All I need is rubbing alcohol and it comes off, so I can keep my to-do lists tidy. It’s a great tool for not wasting paper.
MM: I can’t say I have anything as high-tech as that, but I have a ton of Post-it notes, and color coding is key for me. I also take all the scrap paper that would be recycled and make note pads out of that. Doodle surveys help a lot when organizing events. I’d say one of the best tools is Google Docs, since you can share one document, five people can edit it at the same time and all the edits are uploaded and saved.
Play the podcast below for a full version of the discussion: