In 2010, I was a few years into my career as a residential interior designer. It was a job I thought I’d always wanted, but it had started to feel a great lack of… something. The projects were challenging and helped to build skills, but they were not my personal style. However, the aforementioned “something” ended up being the realization that my own values for sustainable design were never going to be implemented in this particular firm. My tree-hugging attempts to “green” the office by recycling and introducing sustainable products were fruitless. Our vendors weren’t even interested in selling “green” products and therefore rarely offered sustainable options or education. I needed to find an outlet or someone to share my views with, which is when I decided to try the DVGBC. I called the committees coordinator, described my interests and goals, and she helped my zero in on a few committees to try out: Residential Circle (now defunct) and Emerging Professionals. Though I did not feel as much of a connection to the RC agenda, I became enthusiastic about the EP’s mission and goals.
With the EPs, I was with others feeling the same frustrations in their careers, each motivated to do something about it. I began to volunteer for things I didn’t know much about, like inviting speakers to the group for lectures, fundraising for events, and being in a pilot mentor program. Something strange began to happen – I was networking without even knowing it. The speakers I was asked to invite were big architects in the city, giving me a straight connection to the top of some of the city’s most prestigious firms. The Earth Day of Service event I helped with (i.e. called and begged vendors for free food) ended up involving Mayor Nutter and the Murals Arts Program for a community mural and garden. The mentor program hooked me up with some amazing and strong female professionals in the region who took great interest in my career and ambitions. I should also mention that, as a result of one of the many green happy hours (best way fellow greenies like to network), I went back to school and began my own firm. There was even a time where I led a panel at a local Best of Greenbuild event, partnering with the IES‘s EP group, and ended up being a speaker myself in front of an audience – what? Me? I sometimes think, Did I really do all of this? I just jumped in with both feet, ready and willing.
Fast forward three years, and I have a Masters of Science in Sustainable Design and am still growing my sustainable design network and portfolio with my own firm. I’m not sure where I would be professionally had I not taken the initiative to join the DVGBC’s EP committee. Perhaps Philadelphia’s sustainable network of professionals is extra friendly, because most people I’ve met in this circle are eager to have others who care about their work with a triple bottom line. Though I’m less active these days in the committee (another kid on the way, ya know?), I still am glad to share my EP story and help others find their way.
Photos via my instagram.