At school, we are constantly given assignments to work in groups. Often it is not the subject matter that makes the projects hard, but it is the coordinating of all the group members. I wanted to get the perspective of an EPA employee who is tasked with coordinating a variety of people, so I sat down with Mary Pat Tyson.
What is your position at the EPA?
I am the Branch Chief of the Air Toxics and Assessment Branch. I manage three different sections: Toxics and Global Atmosphere, Indoor and Voluntary Programs, and Air Monitoring and Analysis Sections.
Do you have prior work experiences that led you to the EPA?
During college I worked in a laboratory analyzing water samples for a drinking water project. During that time I became aware of the EPA and different programs. I started at the EPA in the Superfund Division working on hazardous waste site cleanup. I moved on to a Branch Chief position in the Water Division where I worked on planning and grants along with the tribal programs.
What is a typical day like for you?
On a typical day I come in, check my email, and then meetings start. Around 8, I have people in and out of my office for the rest of the day. I have meetings with my boss, the section chiefs, and different state agencies. I am also the President of the Federal Managers Association for EPA and work on issues that are of interest to federal managers.
What is the best part of your job?
Getting work done! Getting to know the people and the work that excites them. I love hearing about their work and helping out where I can. In my role, I get to help people achieve their highest potential. I enjoy communicating with section chiefs to make sure we have a strong team.
Did you always have an interest in the environment?
I grew up in the city. I enjoyed playing at parks, but never really was a nature person. In high school a teacher suggested I study engineering because I was good at math and science. This eventually led to me focusing in on studying environmental engineering.
What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?
I took some practical classes about project management with teams. Those have been very useful on the job. In addition, math, science, and chemistry classes are always important.
Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?
There are so many clubs and organizations to get involved with and learn about the environment. Every neighborhood has opportunities to do your part. In addition, the web is an info explosion! You can learn how to start a compost pile in your backyard from a website. It is important to stay close to the earth. Take science and math classes. The opportunities are endless!
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.