web

Career Advice from Yvette

yvette-panda

I am always very happy when I come across an easy to use, pleasantly appealing website.  I never really think about all that goes into creating this website.  I sat down with Yvette Pina to learn more about her work for the EPA’s web pages.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a Visual Information Specialist.  I work on the web team to create and maintain web pages.

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

I have a degree in Chemistry, with an emphasis on computational chemistry, which is chemistry combined with computer science.  I started at the EPA as a Field Chemist Intern.  I always had a knack for computers, so after my internship I applied to be a Computer Technician.

What is a typical day like for you?

Every day I check the news and events page to make sure everything is up-to-date.  Region 5 has a web support email which we manage as best as we can.  We handle cases of high priority first and then respond to requests as they come in.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is when people are satisfied with their web pages.  It is great to know people are content and like the way the web pages look.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

None what so ever.  I didn’t even know what the EPA was!  I applied with a job through the Department of Justice and they connected me with the EPA.  However, since coming to the EPA my interest has grown and I have learned so much.  It’s hard not to.

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

I took lots of computer programming classes.  I have always had an interest and knack for computers, even in high school when computers were new.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

Pursue your interests.  Figure out what motivates you.  What piques your curiosity?  Follow that!

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Surprising "Other" Website Demographics

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

It’s considered an especially helpful Web practice to know who our audience is as we design and write Web pages. After all, a page about climate change intended for kids should be quite different from one prepared for the general public, and even more so for web content aimed at research scientists. Learning about the demographics of our readers isn’t easy: surveys are the only way to ask about age, occupation, education, location, technological savvy and the like, and even survey results can be dogged by sample bias and low response.

Somewhat related, if a bit less important, is a profile of the people who work on our website. As web content coordinator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional office, I host monthly meetings of our Web staff and work with these earnest, talented people on a variety of projects and processes. So, I’m in a position to know, at no cost to the taxpayers-just using eyes and ears-quite a bit about the group’s demographics. And if you’re guessing that our group is a bunch of geeky twenty-somethings, please guess again.

Here’s a sketch of our surprisingly (pardon the euphemism) “mature” Web committee members, the 15 people who develop and maintain our Web pages (but not the people who, much more occasionally, provide the content):

  • Nine are in their 40s and 50s, four are no longer that old, with one each still in his 20s and 30s.
  • Only five work almost entirely on the Web.
  • Eleven are EPA employees, two work for our IT support contractor, and two are members of EPA’s wonderful Senior Environmental Employment program.
  • Only one, or possibly two, learned about Web work in college; most made mid-career changes after many years of more traditional (EPA or non-government) jobs. (EPA is good about allowing and sometimes encouraging this change.)

Demographics don’t reveal all that counts, and I’m feeling confident that our “experienced” Web committee’s work will continue to excel as we focus on (a) refining and coordinating our content (Web 1.0) as we (b) improve our work processes (via a new Web content management system) and (c) bring the public more fully into EPA’s data and decisions (Web 2.0). More on these challenges in future Greenversations posts.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Podcasting: Teamwork Makes It Less Difficult Than We Thought It Would Be

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications. His 28 years with the U.S. Air Force, most as a reservist, give him a different look at government service.

With decades of EPA service under my belt, I’ve been a part of, and sometimes led, dozens of workgroups aimed at improving how EPA does business. Almost all bore fruit—some with longer shelf-life than others—and it’s easy for me to say that EPA is a good place to raise and lend a hand.

Our initial experience this summer producing the Mid-Atlantic region’s series of podcasts shows what a talented group can do, from scratch and on a shoestring budget. We carefully chose the name “Environment Matters” for our podcast series, knowing that “matters” is both a noun and a verb: we’re providing diverse information about the environment and, we hope in an interesting way, convincing people that what they do everyday makes a difference.

What’s a podcast? Webcontent.gov says it’s “a way of publishing MP3 audio files on the web so they can be downloaded onto computers or portable listening devices, such as iPods …. ” (Please note that they can be video, too.) A best practice to grow an audience is to publish the podcasts regularly. We started on July 25 about saving gasoline, followed on successive Fridays with a unique environmental program for students, water quality monitoring at beaches, a baseball stadium built on a brownfields site, and back-to-school advice for the green-minded. We expect to post two or three a month, and so far there’s been no shortage of topic ideas (and if there’s a little healthy competition among our environmental programs to feature their topics, good).

Back to the collaboration that’s made our quick learning possible. I know, there’s an element of show biz that must be at work here. But “Star Wars” this ain’t, so that intriguing factor can’t explain the enthusiasm and creativity that a dozen people have brought to this environmental education project. The jobs and roles of our podcast team reveal the skills needed to launch “Environment Matters”: senior management for the go-ahead and (surprisingly modest) budget; managers in public affairs and IT to energize and select people for each podcast; communications experts to write scripts, host the podcasts, and coach subject expert speakers; web developers to design and feed our multimedia website; transcribers who make the content accessible to deaf people; and one aspiring movie director with an IT day job; he and his boss are audio editing mavens. (You don’t know your colleagues’ hidden talents until you ask.) And help from our headquarters gave us some needed encouragement. Most of us have known each other for years, but our podcasting has quickly boosted our teamness. Do I sound a bit gushy, after all these years?

Two requests of you: ideas for making better podcasts, and topics you’d like us to cover.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Get It Done

still shot of EPA home page header

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993 to help protect the ozone layer. He is now the National Web Content Manager.

Today, we launched a new design for our Web site’s home page and a bunch of pages that support it. (This is where I was going to thank everyone who contributed, but I ran out of space.) I’m pretty excited about it, but why should you care?

The #1 reason is that it’s easier to do whatever it is you wanted to do. We know your idea of fun isn’t cruising EPA’s Web site. So how have we learned what you want? We looked at our search logs, conducted focus groups, and did surveys. And we talked about what each of our many audiences would want to do on our site.

Now, we haven’t yet converted the entire site. That’s because we’re working to clean up the rest of the site (which is more than 500,000 pages), getting rid of old stuff, rewriting material that looks like it was pulled from a legal textbook, etc. As that gets done, we’ll see about using the new design.

Enough theory. Here are some things I think are especially cool, most of which we’ve never done before:

I hope you enjoy the new look; it’s just one of many projects we’ve got in the works, like creating a site for mobile phones and exploring social media like YouTube. And let us know how we can use the Web even better to help you get things done, either in a comment here or using the form on our sneak preview page.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

About the author: Larry Teller joined EPA’s Philadelphia office in its early months and has worked in environmental assessment, state and congressional liaison, enforcement, and communications.

My favorite anthropology professor at the University of Pennsylvania years ago, David B. Stout (famously, in his playful words, “not a Leakey lover,” but that’s another story), insisted that scientists are culture bound by their own culture—unable to fluently interact with, or even fully understand, other cultures. This teaching came to mind yesterday during a meeting in EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office to begin defining a new website about “green infrastructure;” make that “natural infrastructure;” no, perhaps it’s “limited impact development?” or was it “green communities,” or “green buildings.”

My sincere motto at such meetings, of course, is “I’m from the public affairs office and I’m here to help.” Indeed, as the regional web content coordinator, my job is to help make our websites useful, targeted communications tools that follow EPA’s web standards and best practices. One of these best practices is content coordination, to minimize repetition, confusion and gaps among related agency web content.

I tried not to show how much the conversation made my head hurt, among a group of earnest, cooperative colleagues who are eager to help developers, planners, elected officials, public works managers, environmentalists and the public guide sustainable development. With such a diverse audience, and so many EPA programs individually focused on different slices of the green development pie, it unfortunately wasn’t my first experience where web communications considerations (the tail) forced us to confront the overlap or gaps between policies and programs (the dog).  Shouldn’t it work the other way? Wouldn’t it better serve EPA, our stakeholders and the environment if related programs were more clearly defined, or combined before turning our attention to public outreach? (These questions aren’t rhetorical; please answer them.)

Our group yesterday didn’t know enough about policy integration our agency may be doing to bring the principles and virtues of these green initiatives together to better serve the many concerned external people. As a result–and this is more intriguing challenge than complaint—we’re seeking some manner of content integration as we conceive and write a new website.

Professor Stout wouldn’t be surprised by what we face, but may I ask, dear reader, do you, too, see what we face as the tail wagging the dog?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.