By Chandler Precht
Mason Benyair is an alumnus of the Undergraduate Sustainable Development Program. Earth Institute Intern Chandler Precht asked him for thoughts about the program; he also spoke about how he found his current job and offered advice for current students.
I really enjoyed the Sustainable Development Program at Columbia. Looking back, I can see now that the broad exposure to multiple issues well equipped me to work at my current job at a start-up. The small size of start-ups typically offer the greatest potential for mobility, but require their employees to think out-of-the-box and wear multiple hats.
I am currently working for a company called Sealed, which is focused on energy efficiency and works in the residential sector. My official job title is Home Energy Advisor (HEA). I evaluate homes for energy loss and poor allocation of energy saving measures and resources, then recommend how to get the most out of a homeowner’s system. I have been with Sealed for three months now.
I found Sealed at the All-Ivy career fair put on by the Earth Institute. After a long day of speaking with various consulting firms and interesting start-ups, I was wiped out. On my way out of the door, I noticed a large model of a house and went over to take one last look. What I found was a couple of super smart and really engaging people who drew me in and made a great impression on me right from the start. Their business model impressed me, so I decided to apply.
The environmental engineering classes that I took as part of the sustainable development program have been the most useful to me thus far. Those classes were the most difficult for me, however I definitely feel that the pain was worth it. If anything in particular is still resonating within, it is the problem-solving nature of engineering in general.
As for post-graduation advice? Twitter is a fantastic resource for sustainability, and I would suggest that students, pre- and post-graduation, [who] want to work in the sustainability field, create a business Twitter account and focus primarily on building a network of sustainability professionals within Twitter. Engage the community and make sure to disseminate good information that you are learning or learned in your program at Columbia. This way you will have a concept of what the field currently looks like and who the major players are. If you work it right, you will have access to industry leaders, which translates to opportunities for success. (BTW, definitely connect with me to get started @masonbenyair.)
Additionally, there are tons of meet-up opportunities for young graduates and current students. Meetup.com is a fantastic resource for sustainability entrepreneurs and future sustainability professionals. There is a group called the Columbia Venture Community on meetup.com that regularly post jobs and is a great resource for Columbians to ask for any type of advice. Beyond meet-up, the networking opportunities are endless, you just have to get your body there.
All in all, the SusDev program at Columbia was fantastic and one of the best experiences of my life. I would be happy to talk with any young alum or current students about the program or any job related questions they may have.
Columbia’s Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is an interdisciplinary program that addresses sustainable development through an understanding in the interaction between natural and social systems, offered through The Earth Institute in partnership with Columbia College and the School of General Studies. Participating departments and schools of the sustainable development major and special concentration include the Department of Earth and Environmental Biology; the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering; the School of International and Public Affairs and the Mailman School of Public Health.
Chandler Precht is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute. She is an undergraduate student at Barnard College.