Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability ‘19
Master of Science in Energy Systems, UC Davis
Manager of Innovation and Sustainability, US Grains Council
Imby completed her undergraduate degree in SENR in 2019 after majoring in Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability (EEDS) and specializing in International Development. During her time in SENR, she was involved in the African Youth League and studied abroad in Brazil and Tanzania. After graduation, Imby received a Master of Science in Energy Systems at UC Davis and is now the Manager of Innovation and Sustainability for the US Grains Council in Washington, D.C.
Read the full interview with Imby:
A Glance at Imby’s Current Work
I am the Manager of Innovation and Sustainability for the US Grains Council. The US Grains Council works with corn, sorghum, and barley, and they export it to different markets around the world. With sustainability becoming a trend and more consumers demanding sustainability, a lot of companies have sustainability goals and need to make sure the ingredients they use are sustainable. As a result, I’m currently working on a sustainability certificate for corn so that once it is exported to these markets, companies can see that the corn was produced sustainably. For this position, I work in the headquarters office in Washington, D.C.
What does a typical day at your job look like?
It varies. Right now my main goal is finishing the certificate. When I entered this position, they already had the certificate written out, so now I have to wrap it up and add the finishing touches and next steps by the end of the year. My typical day usually involves checking emails, meeting with our consultants who are helping with the certificate, and reading about other certificates that exist for other commodities and comparing those to ours. I’m also building our sustainability sector from the ground up, which includes talking to international directors about what they’re hearing on their end related to sustainability. Every day is different, but overall, everything I do is related to the certificate and keeping up on what other countries are doing for sustainability.
What is the most rewarding part of your current job?
Recently, we had a conference with all the international directors, members, and stakeholders, and we presented our sustainability certificate, as well as where we’re at and what the next steps are. During this conference, I got to meet the farmers the certificate would be affecting. I’m a really visual person, so actually being able to meet the farmers and hear why it’s important to them was really rewarding.
What were you involved in during college?
For my entire undergraduate experience, I worked at the Hale Black Cultural Center. I was also highly involved in the African Youth League (AYL), and held various executive board positions. During my sophomore year, I was the Treasurer, and then I was the Historian my junior year. With AYL, we held weekly meetings and the yearly African Night, where we would showcase African culture. When I was a sophomore, I remember that we held it in the US Bank Theater, but the following year, it got so big that we held it in the Archie Griffin Ballroom. It was really cool to experience this growth and see how students came from out-of-state to join. Additionally, we planned a lot of cookouts and social events. Aside from AYL, I was the Co-Chair for Ohio State Thanksgiving Dinner for two years. Plus, I was an Ohio State Welcome Leader (OWL), which involved welcoming people to the dorms and interviewing people to be OWL volunteers.
As for internships, I worked at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. I also participated in several study abroad trips. For one of them, I traveled to Tanzania with Dr. Joe Campbell through a program in SENR. Then, I traveled to Brazil with Dr. Robert Bennett III through a different program at OSU. Dr. Bennett was actually the advisor for AYL and was really supportive in making sure all of us in AYL had the opportunity to study abroad.
What advice would you give to someone who is still in college and hoping to do what you do?
If you’re an undergraduate student, take on experiences outside of academics. Try to find groups to get involved with, internships, study abroad opportunities, etc. My GPA wasn’t great but since I had so much experience and involvement, it didn’t really matter. Try to make yourself stand out in other ways.
I recommend getting a master’s degree. I’ve noticed that in the sustainability and climate field, most people have masters degrees, and so having one makes you more competitive when you’re applying to a job. Plus, you’ll get paid more.
Network and ask questions! In whatever stage or place you’re at, try to make connections with people. The worst thing someone could tell you is “No.” Especially if you’re trying to go to graduate school, ask people around you what they did to get to their position and what advice they have. Also, make sure the people who are surrounding you are helping you and giving you good advice.
What was a challenge you faced in your professional development and how did you overcome it?
Before I came into my current job, the US Grains Council didn’t have any positions related to sustainability, which makes my position new in the organization. I came into this role right after graduating with my master’s degree, and felt really intimidated because the work environment was very different from the school environment. I was able to adapt with the support of my director, who was very encouraging and made sure I understood everything. Plus, most of the people in my job are under 30, so it’s been helpful to talk with them and realize that we have similar experiences.
What experience do you feel was most valuable in your professional development?
Both of the study abroad programs I participated in were really valuable in my professional development. They helped me be able to do hands-on work and learn about my specialization. In addition, being on AYL’s e-board was really helpful because I learned how to create a project and work on a team composed of different backgrounds and majors. Lastly, graduate school also helped me a lot. The EEDS program was very development-focused so I really appreciated learning more about the technical standpoint in my master’s program at UC Davis.
"Network and ask questions! In whatever stage or place you’re at, try to make connections with people. The worst thing someone could tell you is “No.” Especially if you’re trying to go to graduate school, ask people around you what they did to get to their position and what advice they have. Also, make sure the people who are surrounding you are helping you and giving you good advice."
What did you do immediately post-graduation?
After graduation, I went straight to graduate school simply because I wasn’t ready to get a job and really wanted to learn more about energy. Therefore, I looked for a program that would provide that for me and worked toward a Master of Science in Energy Systems at UC Davis.
What was most important to you in your job search?
My most important factor right now is finding a job in my field and in the DC/DMV region. Honestly, I’m really focused on just getting experience since I don’t have any at the moment. I think that once I have more experience, I’ll be looking for jobs that offer chances to work from home, care about mental health, have some sort of professional development, but still related to my field and in the realm of energy and sustainability. I also want my higher-ups to be able to provide guidance but not micromanage, and so they should have good leadership skills.
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Post created March 2022