Annie Washington didn’t grow up dreaming of a career as a project manager, but after hearing someone from the Department of Health & Environmental Control speak to her college class she knew she wanted a career where she made life safer and better for other people. In this blog post, Annie shares her background, how she ended up in this industry, and a typical day in the life of an environmental services project manager.
What career did you envision for yourself as a child? Why did it appeal to you?
As a child, I always envisioned myself living either in California or New York working in corporate America as a successful businesswoman. I grew up in a small town and had a very meager beginning. I felt that if I were in business, I could make a lot of money and escape the small-town atmosphere which I linked to poverty.
What got you interested in a career in environmental services?
When I was in college, I wanted to major in business, but one day while taking a general education class in Environmental Health Science, I heard a professional from the Department of Health & Environmental Control speak. That was the day I decided to change my major to Environmental Health Science because I wanted to work in the industry. My initial aspiration was to be a Food Health Inspector.
How did you get the education and training you needed?
I earned my degree in Environmental Health Science, but that didn’t prepare me specifically for my role as a project manager at a drilling company. I actually learned a lot from taking minutes for the weekly managers call. I recall asking a few gentlemen after the call, what does this or that mean, and they would explain it to me. I spent a lot of time reviewing those minutes before I sent them out. But in the process, I was learning about project successes and failures, contributing factors, safety concerns and little by little, I began connecting the paperwork with the actual process. In a nutshell, I learned some of what I needed by listening and taking notes. After I was promoted, there were also people who took the time to teach me and direct me to relevant books and resources.
How did you hear about Cascade, and why did you decide you wanted to work here?
I joined Cascade through its acquisition of Boart Longyear’s Environmental & Infrastructure division several years ago. I began that job as an administrative assistant—they needed someone with Oracle skills and Department of Transportation knowledge, and I fit the bill. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hopeful that as I proved myself other opportunities would become available. I secretly hoped my environmental degree would open up other opportunities.
What were you doing professionally before you joined Cascade and/or this industry?
I was working for a University in the Accounting Department and I also worked as a Budget Manager, managing and monitoring the budget of over a half-million dollars and overseeing the accounting of 31 departments and working with other units to ensure departmental compliance.
Since joining the company, have you had opportunities for mentorship, to further your training, or to earn certifications? If so, please explain what they were and if you’ve found them helpful.
Yes, when I began I was provided with a lot of connections, and my managers took the time to teach me the parts that I did not know. Those doors are still open. Each year the 8 Hour OSHA HAZWOPER Refresher is available to me. For the previous two years, I have also been attending the annual continuing education training provided for drillers in the Southeast. The South Atlantic Jubilee has been extremely helpful, as it covers everything from common causes of well failure to legal issues and national legislation. It keeps me in the loop with both local and national issues. It is also a great way to make connections with others in the industry.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
My typical workday consist of managing up to seven projects from a financial standpoint. This includes making sure the projects are generating the revenue that they should while analyzing cost and providing information to the client, as necessary.
I handle contractual matters from start to finish, and prepare and make sure everything is in place for upcoming projects, so there is a lot of interaction between myself and the clients. And, sprinkled in is the hiring. I take care of the hiring process once a decision has been made to hire. I still perform quite a few administrative tasks as well.
What is it like to be a woman working in a male-dominated industry?
At first, it was a little strange, but I quickly became accustomed to it. The defining factor for me is we all want the same thing: a successful project. I can truly say that I have been treated with the utmost respect and everyone has been forthcoming in sharing their knowledge.
What do friends or family say when you tell them about your career?
Most of them are fascinated after I explain what we do. Although, I have to admit, most of the fascination is with the traveling that comes with this job from time to time. A few of them think it is cool and something that they would consider.
What advice would you give other people who might be considering a career in environmental services? What would you tell women specifically?
The advice I would give someone who wanted to work in the environmental industry is start where you can. Most of the knowledge in the environmental industry is not common, and you will need a foundation best learned from the ground up. It can be a very rewarding field if you are concerned about making a difference, but it can also be challenging because you have to operate within the confines of a tremendous number of rules and regulations. However, they are in place for a reason.
I would advise any woman considering a career in this industry to be prepared to be in a male dominated industry. It is what it is, but there is a place for you if you are willing to work hard—your skillset will make room for you. I would also advise them to start where they can, and take advantage of new opportunities because success can be found in the most unlikely places. I had no idea when I walked through the door as an Administrative Assistant that I would be in this position one day. I believe part of the reason may be that I never turned down any opportunity that was presented to me. With dedication and an open mind, you can achieve anything in any industry.
Interested in learning more about becoming a Project Manager? Check out our current openings for more information.