I graduated from Wells College about a year ago. I studied sustainability—such a broad field—for the first few years, I really did not know what I wanted to do. But as I looked at the economy and the immense use of fossil fuels, I began to think that the economic disparities around us can be brought back to fossil fuel use and environmental degradation, which are the basis for so much economic activity and capital inequality. So I focused my last three semesters on delving into the fossil fuel industry and how to replace it with efficiency and renewables. Coming into my senior year, I was talking with my advisor, who brought up the idea of working with a HeatSmart program. These are feisty, state-funded campaigns to get home and business owners excited about shifting to efficient electric heat pumps to get off fossil fuels. I decided to apply for an internship with HeatSmart Tompkins—a creative program in Tompkins County working to eliminate fossil fuel use in the home—and worked with them for about a year. That was game changing. I learned a lot about how building infrastructure is generally designed to depend on fossil fuels. I wanted to find a way to retrofit existing buildings to be more comfortable and affordable while eliminating fossil fuel use. That set in motion the next steps as I met a lot of wonderful people who talked me through the facets of the industry. I considered taking classes to become a heat pump technician, but then I learned that ICF International was taking over the management of NYSERDA’s statewide Clean Heat program, and hiring. I was able to apply and get an entry-level analyst position that offers a lot of exposure to Clean Heat campaigns. My work is tracking progress of campaigns and contractors, which lets me see how all the elements work together.
Aiming high for an internship with an innovative, well connected organization was the key.