Perspective on 42 Years in the Environmental Consulting Business
February 12, 2020
By Rob Reid
Retiring Environmental Division Manager
This article was originally published in Currents, POWER’s quarterly Environmental newsletter.
As I head into retirement, I would like to pass along some thoughts about my career in the environmental consulting business. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran yourself or just starting off in the business, perhaps an idea or two can help you in your own career.
42 years is a very long time, yet it seems to have flown by as I’ve enjoyed a variety of projects and worked with great clients and co-workers over the years. It’s hard to believe I started my career with a master’s degree making $6/hour as a Staff Biologist.
In this business, change is a given. Administrations will come and go and regulations will ebb and flow. While understanding the technical aspects of the job are important, success as an environmental consultant depends on putting in the work and building relationships inside and outside your company.
Keys to a Rewarding Career
Upon reflection, I’ve identified some attributes that helped me build a rewarding career. It takes hard work, paying attention to detail, doing the right thing when no one is looking, being a team player, mentoring younger/less experienced staff, staying abreast of regulations, and personally knowing agency regulatory staff.
Above all, help your clients have successful projects. Find out what keeps them awake at night. Help solve their problems, become their trusted advisor and exceed their expectations. This can lead to decades long, mutually beneficial business relationships—and sometimes even lifetime friendships.
When it comes to leadership styles, some work better than others. I would describe my leadership as trying to see the forest, not just the trees, instilling common sense into decision making, anticipating problems before they occur and building a trusted team.
I also found it helps to have a good sense of humor, be a good listener, give your team free reign but watch to keep things out of the ditch, and gather appropriate input to make the hard decisions when needed.
This has been a great career for me, but it’s not for everyone. You need to have more than one operating gear to endure the stress of the job, including the long nights and weekends getting proposals and reports completed and out the door. Client expectations can be killers if you don’t know what they are, so again nurture those relationships to build a win-win solution.
I have been with POWER nearly nine years and I do not think there is a better place I could have chosen to end my career. My only regret is that I wish I would have joined POWER earlier in my career—it is a special company.
In retirement, I plan to hunt and fish, enjoy the outdoors, travel with my wife (still have a few more Caribbean Islands to check off the list) and who knows—maybe work a little if the opportunity arises.
And finally, I would like to offer words of encouragement to my successor as Environmental Division Manager, Maria Gou. As former President of Zephyr Environmental, serving as our Business Unit Director for Air Quality since the 2018 acquisition, I know she will do a great job and I wish her and everyone my best.
About the Author:
Rob has a broad range of experience managing and participating in environmental studies and assessments for the power delivery, generation, transportation, industrial and commercial sectors. With a background in environmental and biological sciences, his emphasis is on the assessment of environmental impacts associated with industrial and urban development. He has a long, successful record of permitting projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including the preparation of environmental impact statements (EIS) and environmental assessments (EA). He is familiar with federal and state agency permitting requirements and many individual agency personnel, and repeatedly coordinates with the regulatory agencies on a wide variety of issues including wetlands, endangered species, cultural resources, and others. Got a question for Rob? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.