Career Advice from Ed

By: Kelly Siegel

In college, I majored in Environmental Economics and had a Business minor.  I always enjoyed my math based classes, and wanted to learn how those courses could transfer to a career at the EPA.  I sat down with Ed Pniak to hear more about his role as a Financial Analyst for the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a Financial Analyst, which means I manage grants.  My role is often referred to as a Project Officer. My main responsibilities include overseeing all water grants with Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and projects funded under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

What is a typical day like for you?

Every day I am involved in the grants process, whether that be reviewing, monitoring a current project, or closing out a project. This could involve ensuring a budget for a new grant is fiscally responsible, confirming existing projects are meeting expected milestones, and reviewing final report for deliverables. I’m in constant communication with my state counterparts.

What is the best part of your job?

The balance of being able to manage the EPA’s resources responsibility and to help contribute to EPA’s mission through grant work.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

No, but I did have an interest in the federal government.  I have always wanted to contribute to public service.  My interest in the environment has grown since being here. 

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

I have worked in the private sector and for non-profits.  I also worked on a Presidential campaign team.

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

I was an economic major, so I took a variety of economic classes including public sector economics and environment economics.  Every day type classes, such as basic math, business communication and writing and rhetoric are important for the grants process.

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

Within the EPA there are a lot of skills and rolls people can play.  People with economics and finance knowledge are needed and fuel environmental protection.  Don’t be discouraged if you are not interested in a direct science.  You can still protect the environment!

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.

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