Finding Her Career Direction Inspired by Dad, Mentors and now, USGBC-LA Internship

Having an environmentally conscious father had a huge impact on my life. I remember him teaching me everything – like picking up trash while we hiked up mountains, seeing him ride his bike to work no matter if it were 5 or 10 miles away, and turning off lights as we walked out of rooms. He made it a point to teach me about sustainability and how to be responsible for how I treat the environment. Now, he works for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) working on solar farms or wind turbines when the opportunities arise. I want to be like my Dad, so I decided to go to Santa Monica College for their Sustainable Technologies Program to find my own niche in the field of sustainability.

I enrolled in the Photovoltaic Installation and Energy Efficiency certifications program as a first step en route to a career. Professor Stuart Cooley taught the classes and encouraged me and my classmates to go out and participate in green-related organizations like the USGBC-LA. These connections helped me to meet many distinguished professionals in the field and I’ve made friends along the way. While everyone I met seemed to know their skills and what their goals were, I had no idea. As I contemplated my interests and compared them with potential career titles, I got lost in the possibilities scattered in front of me. Then, as I sat in my energy efficiency class an epiphany came to me asking, “how can I make existing buildings more sustainable?” With a single question, I realized I needed to dive deeper into my classes. I could learn more, go out and reach higher goals to implement change in our infamous “Smog City” with efficiency.

Delia asking a question a GRID Alternatives’ LEEPS IV Our Shared Solar Future Events, Feb. 2019 (Credit: GRID Alternatives Flickr)

This year I was able to get an internship with the USGBC-LA because of my degree in Communication Studies and attending USGBC-LA events. I walked during tours, learning what my classes didn’t teach; I made myself noticeable by asking questions in panel discussions; and I threw myself into the sea of professional networking mixers, talking to anyone I could. People’s willingness to help each other succeed (instead of passive competitiveness) has given me hope I am doing something right. Then, while attending the 18th Annual Municipal Green Building Conference & Expo, my friend Maya told me that internships were opening at USGBC-LA. I went online, applied for the Green Building Analyst Internship, and was lucky enough to be chosen.
The Green Building Analyst internship is about helping those in Los Angeles comply with the Existing Building Energy and Water Efficiency Ordinance (EBEWE). I help owners benchmark their buildings in terms of energy and water consumption as well as their greenhouse gas emissions online through Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Through this opportunity, I’ve learned that the dream of being an all-star representative for energy efficiency means handling emails, undergoing trial and error in learning new programs and software, and prioritizing what is expected to do while managing little projects I want to do on the side. A bonus of this internship has been recognizing I want an office job. Working at Trader Joe’s the past two years and other retail positions prior, I’ve always worked sporadic shifts interacting with hundreds of different people a day. Now, dedicating two days a week to be at LACI from 9:30am to ~ 4pm while having set groups of people to spend time with is a whole new world. I love my temporary office job and without this internship I would have never known that!

Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist” says “and, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” If I didn’t have my father influencing me to be environmentally friendly, if I didn’t notice that SMC offered green related classes, or if I didn’t have the support and backing of friends in this field I wouldn’t have had this amazing chance to succeed. My next step to building my green career will be taking the LEED Green Associate exam. Soon, I’ll get a job that’ll teach me more about efficiency toward my goal to be a LEED AP O+M.

In parting, I’d like to ask anyone who’s been in my position for some advice on how to proceed down the ever-changing trail I’m blazing. Advice on groups to be a part of, other organizations to intern for, companies to apply to, what to expect learning energy efficiency etc. All guidance would be appreciated, and I’m looking forward to chatting soon.

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