Career Advice from Lilly

Lilly-PictureMy sister and I didn’t always get along growing up, but we both always had a strong interest in protecting the environment.  Now we are both doing environmental work, but in different ways.  You may remember my interview with Nefertiti.  Turns out her sister, Lilly Simmons, works at the EPA as well.  I decided to sit down with Lilly and find out more about her role at the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am an Environmental Scientist in the Underground Injection Branch within the Water Division.  I work with the regulation of shallow and deep injection wells. I help protect drinking water.

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

I started at the EPA as an intern the summer before my senior year of college and have been here since.  During college I worked in my schools Admissions Office and have an appreciation for organized files, which is very helpful at the EPA.

What is a typical day like for you?

I start my day by checking my email and responding to any pressing matters.  I use excel to create spreadsheets for tests and tracking.  Some of my work involves technical review of permit files, mechanical integrity tests to make sure deep injection wells are not leaking, compliance assistance, and public notices. 

What is the best part of your job?

There are times when I almost forget about what I am doing at work because it is so specific, but then realize that I am helping to protect drinking water.  My work does have an impact.  This is my dream job, knowing I am doing my part to help the environment. 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Pretty much!  As a child I grew up in California when literally everyday was Earth Day.  Every day was about saving water, turning off lights, and planting trees.  I remember the first time I saw rain and I was actually frightened by it. 

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

Math classes are obviously helpful.  I also took two engineering classes, where we did a lot of work in spreadsheets.  The environmental policy class I took was helpful for understanding the context of what we do at the EPA.  I have my Masters in Public Administration, which has also helped contextual.  I can understand the budget, policy and planning of the Agency more. 

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

Learn everything you can about the environment.  Tell people that is what you want to do, and it will happen. 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Career Advice from Marco

As an intern for the EPA, I have worked on the reviewing end of grants.  I had no idea how much work went into the grants process, and I have only touched the surface!  I wanted to learn more about the grants process, so I sat down with Marco Santos, Senior Grants Management Specialist for the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a Senior Grants Management Specialist.  Grants award money to different State agencies, nonprofits, universities, and tribes, to carry out environmental priorities.  I manage all these types of grants.

Do you have prior work experience that has helped you here?

I had an internship after college working for the D.C. city government with administrating art grants.  I got to see the entire process of how a government agency gives out money to fund projects.  Coming from a political science major, I have a strong policy background, which helps on the job.

What is a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day at the EPA, and it depends on where we are in the fiscal year.  There is a lot of multi tasking.  I work with all of the EPA divisions to make sure we secure what we need to fund grants.  I work with grantees themselves to answer inquiries they may have.  I review proposals, process paper work, draft agreement, clarify administrative requirements, and track money to make sure it is being spent correctly.

What is the best part of your job?

It is rewarding to know I had a small part in contributing to the agency’s goals and missions.  Programs wouldn’t be able to do the work they are supposed to do without grant funds.  I feel a sense of importance because we implement the mission and safeguard the use of taxpayers’ dollars.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Yes.  In high school I was very politically savvy.  I was always interested in recycling and was very aware of the environment and was mindful to not be wasteful.  After college there was a job opening at the EPA which combined my interest and educational background. 

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

I have a political science degree.  I took classes on policy and environmental issues in addition to writing and communication classes.  Policy provides a foundation for what I do.  I need to know the laws.

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

It is important to be aware of what is going on politically.  Keep up with the news and latest developments in technology. Think outside the box.  Try to expand your experiences and education and be open to new things.  Practice what you preach.  Environmental stewardship starts at home.  Good writing and communication skills are important regardless of where you end up!

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Career Advice from Bob

I have always had an interest in law, especially environmental law.  I am even considering going to law school.  I thought it would be very useful for me to sit down with Bob Peachey, to learn more about his legal career at the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am an Assistant Regional Counsel in Region 5 on a two-year Honors Attorney Fellowship.  I am tasked with advising various regional divisions on what the law is, particularly in compliance and permitting matters, and I represent the EPA in enforcement matters.

What is a typical day like for you?

It depends on what stage of development my cases are in.  I start each day off with a to-do list of all the cases I am working on for that week, and I prioritize the day’s tasks by due dates or meetings.  I call program clients to check in at least once a week.  We are providing them a service, and I want to make sure that I keep them up to date and that our work proceeds efficiently.

What is the best part of your job?

It is most rewarding to work on enforcement matters.  Our work encourages the type of behavior in a community that fulfills duties under environmental law and thereby helps reduce the costs that our modern economy imposes on the public and planet.

Do you have prior work experiences in environmental law that led you to the EPA?

No, but I always keep up on environmental issues in the news.  In law school I worked as an extern at Region 5 in my second summer and in spring semester of my third year. I enrolled in a clinic, which allowed us to work at the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.  I also helped reinstate Northwestern’s Environmental Law Society, which invited speakers on environmental issues and lobbied the law school for additional environmental classes.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Yes. I grew up in eastern Oregon, where the culture values being outdoors and hiking, raising animals, and rafting.  My hometown has an enormous hydroelectric dam in it, and it was taken for granted that you thought critically about issues like dwindling salmon runs, invasive species, renewable energy, and Native American fishing and property rights.  I’d like to say I was inspired by a book like Walden or the Sand County Almanac, but instead, that book was 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth by the Earthworks Group.  It had suggestions for fixes around the house to conserve energy. In fact, I put a lot of pressure on my parents to put water jugs in the toilet! It was so empowering to me, at 10-years-old, to have this book show me how I could make a difference.

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

In law school I took seminar classes in environmental law and natural resource law.  My corporate law, tax law, and bankruptcy classes also help on the job, because I am constantly working with corporations and ability-to-pay determinations.  Of course, my on-the-job training as an EPA extern was invaluable.

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

They are stakeholders in the planet – that means they have the same duty as their parents to take care of the planet, and the same rights to speak out when other people make a mess.  Being an environmental activist isn’t something you have to wait for until you turn eighteen, yet it’s just as important as being able to vote. I also think it is important for kids to get exposed to animals and get outside.  I’m starting to sound like my parents here.  But I think they are right – my childhood would have been just as much fun, and maybe more so, if I didn’t sit around watching television, and instead had to go outside and make up my own adventures.  Kids instinctively love nature, and when they are with animals or outside they gain awareness and develop a desire to protect nature.

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Career Advice from Amy

By: Kelly Siegel

I learned so much interviewing Marta about her position at the EPA, I decided to sit down with another EPA employee, Amy Mucha.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am an Environmental scientist and project manager in the Great Lakes National Program Office.  I get to use a variety of skills in my job which is developing, designing and managing projects to clean up the worst areas of the Great Lakes.   

What is a typical day like for you?

My day is usually a combination of reviewing data; meetings/conference calls to coordinate my projects and all the activities related to it; communicating with various stakeholders including members of the public, states, industries and academia; working on funding issues like contracts and interagency agreements.

What is the best part of your job?  

That my work has impact – I help clean up the Great Lakes!  Knowing I’m doing my part to aid in such a great effort is very satisfying.  In addition, there is often field work as well and our program has its own sampling vessel, called the Mudpuppy II, and I usually spend a week or two each year in the field taking samples.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Not always – I’ve always had an interest in science though.  My training was in basic science when I went to a Federal Government job fair and I applied to work at the EPA.  Being at EPA meant that I could apply that training to real world situations which I enjoy and that really developed my interest in the environment.  Now it’s hard to imagine working in another area, environmental work really involves so many disciplines and ‘puzzles’ to solve.

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

Besides my lab training in basic science I also have a PhD in environmental toxicology; so I’ve taken many classes over the years.  The most directly useful classes were my graduate levels statistics classes and organic chemistry – I still use a great deal of those skills now in analyzing data and assessing my sites.  However, the practical work that went into completing my theses – where I learned experimental design and how to address key research questions -was what gave me critical skill of building an analytical framework for problem solving.  That ability still helps me tremendously in how I do my job every day.

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

Get involved in a project you care about, whether it’s recycling, environmental justice, urban gardens, climate change, or saving the Great Lakes.  The key is to grow your passion – from that it will be clear what training you need to take you where you want to go. 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Career Advice from Marta

Marta Fuoco

By: Kelly Siegel

When I was young I always had an interest in the environment.  Every summer, my family would take vacations to Bayfield, Wisconsin, a small town on Lake Superior.  I loved swimming in Lake Superior and being able to see the sand bottom.  Bayfield is also home to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  This is a special place to me, and a place that I hope can be preserved forever. 

Now, that I am interning at the Environmental Protection Agency, I see firsthand what goes into protecting our environment and national treasures like the Apostle Islands.  I wanted to learn more about specific careers at the EPA, so I sat down with Marta Fuoco to learn more about her job.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am a Senior Scientist in the Air and Radiation Division in the Air Monitoring and Analysis Section.

What is a typical day like for you?

Typically, my day includes data analysis of criteria and toxic pollutants – specifically hydrogen sulfide and methane.

What is the best part of your job?

I get to work with a great set of knowledgeable coworkers who share many of the same interests.  In addition, it is a great feeling to see measureable results that positively impact the health and environment of the communities that we work with.

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

I have always had an interest in the environment, but more specifically on the public health side.  My deeper interest came from the classes I took in graduate school.

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

I use skills from the many classes I’ve taken, going as far back as high school, such as chemistry and math, as well as information from graduate school classes, such as industrial hygiene, environmental and occupational health, and statistics.

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

Start small!  Pay attention to what you do on a daily basis in your own life.  Take the necessary steps to recycle or use green products and observe how the environment affects your health.  Look out for Air Quality Action Days and respond accordingly to help 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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.