The EcoFellowship Experience: Olivia Horwitz
The last semester of college was a very nerve-wracking, yet exciting time for me. I was overwhelmed with what I would do after college and how I was going to make it as a young professional in the environmental field. I was studying Environmental and Urban Studies with a focus in food systems and agriculture at Bard College. I knew I wanted to go into the environmental field, but I had no idea what I wanted to focus on. Prior to the EcoFellowship, I worked on farms, greenhouses, and waste reduction initiatives on campus, yet I was fearful I didn’t have enough work experience or wasn’t qualified enough to work in a professional environment. I originally thought I would go into food waste prevention. However, during my time here at CET I have been able to explore different sectors in the environmental field, causing me to shift my focus from food waste to building material waste. CET has a retail store, EcoBuilding Bargains, which is the biggest reuse store in Western New England, and being able to work at the store combines my passion for the environment and sustainable building practices while also including my strong interest in interior design.
My role as an EcoFellow
I am the Communications and Community Outreach/Education EcoFellow, so I attend outreach events and manage the social media platforms for CET. Outreach events can range from tabling at a farmer’s market to presenting to a high school class on environmental careers. These outreach events have been a great way to become integrated into the Western Massachusetts community. Being a Communications EcoFellow also means I am involved with marketing strategies, video production, graphic design, and content developing. Sometimes the marketing team will have case study projects, where we will interview and film people and/or businesses that have used CET’s services. Since becoming more involved with EcoBuilding Bargains I have helped in developing a naming formula for the cabinet sets, creating a vintage and antique section and a cabinet set showroom in the store, responding to customer questions, creating a building materials guide, and connecting EcoBuilding Bargains with other businesses they can work with.
What skills have you learned during your fellowship that will help you in future professional endeavors?
The most valuable skill I have learned so far that will help me in future professional endeavors is the ability to confidently share my ideas and opinions without the fear of judgement and unpopular opinion. This may sound obvious, and I thought it was too, however I realized in the first month of my Fellowship I was quieter in meetings and discussions than I expected I would be. Learning how to navigate and adapt in a professional environment is a lot easier said than done. Personally, to be in a meeting with people who have had years of work experience and are experts in their fields can be intimidating and result in keeping my ideas or opinions to myself out of fear of them being rejected. As a young female professional, it is oftentimes hard to establish a voice that is heard, respected, and taken seriously. The reason I have been able to improve on my ability to speak my mind, is because of the supportive work environment CET provides. CET is an organization that uplifts and supports their employees’ ideas, rather than diminish and disregard them. In the short time I have been at CET, I have not only learned this invaluable skill, but I have also gained hard skills such as, InDesign, Photoshop, FinalCut Pro, Salesforce, WordPress, Mailchimp, Canva and Microsoft Office.
What is your favorite project you have worked on so far?
I took the lead on creating and producing the 2019-2020 EcoFellowship Recruitment video, which was a very rewarding experience. I was involved with the storyline, style, content, and editing of the video, something I had never done before. Through this project I was able to learn FinalCut Pro, a software that was intimidating to me before working at CET, to edit the content of the video. I was grateful my supervisors took me seriously, had confidence in my ability to manage this project, and were respectful with feedback and ways to improve. It was a great learning experience in how to produce a video from start to finish.
What has been your favorite professional development opportunity so far?
As my interest in sustainable design increased, I wanted to find some wood samples so I could learn about wood species for the classification of kitchen cabinets and my own personal interest. In early November, I scheduled a time to meet with the owner of Design House 413 to pick up wood samples. Design House 413 is a forward thinking interior design business located in Easthampton. I was expecting a short visit, some small talk, and I would be on my way. However, I ended up staying an extra two hours after my allotted time with her. She showed me the software she uses, took me on a tour around her showroom, and talked about her experience as an interior designer and how she got to where she is now. It was so inspiring and enriching to see this strong and smart woman create a successful business from the ground up. We spoke about how creating spaces for people is more than just about the materials, but a form of therapy; to design a space where someone can feel their best self, and confident and happy in a space they can call home, is the process of making these feelings into something tangible through design. Through this interaction I was able to network professionally, but also connect with her on a personal level which is more than I could have asked for and was expecting. She provided me with advice and tips on what to do and what not to do in regards to the interior design industry. It was one of those moments where I felt really lucky to have met her, and that wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t introduced to sustainable design through CET.
Why is this fellowship a unique experience?
This Fellowship has set a standard for me on how work environments should operate; everyone is kind, helpful, supportive and non-judgmental, while at the same time producing work efficiently and professionally. To be trusted with so much responsibility in an entry-level job is rare, so to have that privilege at CET has helped me grow both personally and professionally. It has shown me I am capable of much more than I thought I was. I hope by the end of this Fellowship I am able to be a confident young female professional who is not afraid to speak her mind!