By Ellie Hoyt, Linnean Solutions
I am relatively new to this whole world. I got my undergraduate degree in geology with a minor in math from Colby College in Maine. When I graduated, like a lot of people, I had no idea what I wanted to do.
I ended up getting a job as a staff geologist for a company in Framingham and stayed there for about three years. I was working in their environmental remediation group, which was really just a fancy way of saying cleaning up other people's messes. Most of our clients were oil and gas companies with contaminated properties, and I spent my time traveling around to various sites sampling soil and groundwater and eventually overseeing drilling and excavation projects. While I learned a ton in that position, I ultimately started to feel that I was just helping to clean up a mess rather than actually trying to prevent the mess in the first place.
While I was there, especially towards the last year, I started spending more and more time on active construction sites. The sites had contaminated soil, and I had to be the annoying person telling the construction crew where they could and couldn't dig. In a way, that was my first introduction to the built environment. Before then, I had never seen a building go up, I had no idea how that worked. I realized I was more interested in watching those processes than actually dealing with the contaminated soil that I was supposed to be watching. That spurred me to make a change.
This is the weird part – after that job I went to western Kenya for 6 months. It was completely unrelated, but I had this really incredible opportunity to volunteer at a community hospital through Massachusetts General Hospital’s Division of Global Health and Human Rights… which is a mouthful. I was not working on projects directly related to the built environment, I was doing more coordination and support of MGH’s teaching and research efforts at the hospital. But my work in Kenya exposed me to a different type of sustainability, in terms of understanding how different cultures use their resources and how any type of change or plan, as well-intentioned as it may be, won’t be successful without real community input.
While I was over there I started thinking about graduate school and how I could pivot myself into the world of sustainability. I ended up finding a masters program at Northeastern and applied before I got home. The faculty actually didn’t want to let me in at first… with reason, because I’m not an architect and I’m not an engineer. They felt that I was qualified for the program, but they weren’t sure what I would be able to do with it afterwards. But I was motivated enough, and I convinced them I would figure it out by the time I was done. I graduated in May, and while I was there I met Jim Newman, who I work for now. He encouraged me that it was an asset to be able to speak the languages of both architects and engineers without being on either side. He showed me there could be a different path through the consulting lens, and he has since given me a really fantastic opportunity to work with him at Linnean Solutions.