• Heather Ingraham - SPF Americas

Best Advice From My EHS Journey

May 10, 2018 By
When I was starting out in the EHS compliance field, I really wish that I had experienced professionals available who I could lean on for support. Today, I really enjoy volunteering in many different professional organizations, and sharing the knowledge and experience I have gained in EHS compliance.

For example, for many years, I have been volunteering with ASSE (to be renamed ASSP as of June 1st, 2018) on the board of the Environmental Practice Specialty, providing presentations to ASSE at conferences and webinars on topics that are near and dear to my heart (such as ISO 14001 EMS). I joined the ASSE Environmental Practice Specialty due to my many years onsite at a chemical manufacturing company performing an EHS management role (where I felt I could really help new EHS professionals get their arms around the intricacies of environmental compliance). There is something truly fun about joining and getting in front of a group of EHS peers and sharing what you enjoy within your profession.

Also, every year the ASSE hosts a Future Safety Leaders Conference where I have the opportunity to collaborate with college students in the safety arena. As a volunteer, I lead scheduled Roundtable meetings to share my personal experiences as an EHS compliance professional in two sessions: 1) as an on-site EHS professional in Industry, and 2) as a professional in EHS consulting. During these Roundtable meetings, I share my knowledge and real-life experience, and students can ask me questions. I truthfully share about my trials, tribulations, stumblings and successes. Then I provide personal tips about resumes and interviewing, and I also offer to review their resumes while I’m onsite.

The best advice I share with everyone just starting out in the EHS field is to:

  • Get as many internships as possible in college (boosts up your resume, but even better, helps you to understand what you do and don’t enjoy or want to pursue).
  • Talk to professionals about what it is like during a normal working day in your field of interest.
  • Try out many different domain areas (think broadly) even though you may not end up loving or long-term doing some of the items. Sometimes certain things open doors for you and help you stretch your wings and talents in other areas (as well as telling you what you particularly do not enjoy nor want to pursue). I always tried to make sure that I stayed broad (environment, health and safety, and management systems) so that I could gain experience in all these fields along the way – which also helps to make you more marketable.
  • Never stop learning and growing in the field. Get certifications that are recognized (i.e. important enough for others in the field to recognize) and in some cases consider additional degrees.
  • Try out different professions. I started in consulting, went to industry, back to consulting and now I’m thoroughly enjoying EHS software development, but I learned so much and grew from each day in each position. I would not be as happy as I am now if I hadn’t continued to learn and grow in my field.
  • Surround yourself with great professionals and people. There have been many mentors throughout my career who I greatly relied upon and who were extremely supportive. I would not be where I am now without them (thank you all!)
  • Learn as much as you can from those amazing managers and people you get the opportunity to work with. There was one manager I had at my previous consulting firm who I (and everyone within the organization) so greatly admired. I learned and soaked knowledge as much as possible from him, which has helped me excel in my personnel management skills.

Life is too short to not do what you enjoy. I find it difficult to subdue my enthusiasm and passion when I’m sharing my knowledge and experience to help others, and when I can see the positive impact it can make to a process or project. I find great joy in being able to help others in the EHS compliance field, as it makes all my work and diligence over the years worthwhile.

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Categories: EHS

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