Evolving Industries of Seattle

By: Michelle Coutu

Prior to be settled by European settlers, the area now known as Seattle, Washington was inhabited by Native Americans. The modern city was incorporated in 1869 and experienced its first economic success supplying lumber to the rapidly growing city of San Francisco. After a severe era of economic depression in connection with the panic of 1893, which hit Seattle hard, it rebounded and redefined itself as the main supply point for the Klondike Gold Rush. The American Messenger Company (to become UPS), Nordstrom, and Eddie Bauer were all founded during this economic boom in support of prospecting expeditions and propelled Seattle’s economic success into the early 20thcentry.

World War I saw the beginning of Seattle’s reputation as a transportation innovator. Seattle shipbuilders produced over 20 percent of the United States wartime ship tonnage. It also sparked the growth of Boeing, a once local airplane manufacture, which continued to excel with the advent of World War II. However, the 1960s and 1970s saw another down turn for airplane manufacturing in Seattle due to the loss of government contracts, the oil crisis, and manufacturing delays regarding the Boeing 747 aircraft.

Nevertheless, Seattle continued to reinvent itself. Moving into the 1980s saw the arrival of Microsoft, which had been having difficulties with recruitment at their original headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Once Microsoft was established, other tech and web based companies, such as Amazon, began to develop in the city. Today Seattle continues to prosper based on the growth of the tech industry.

To Diversify or Specialize

By Elizabeth Handler

Many educational and career options can make it difficult for students and early career professionals to choose a specific path.  There are academic programs that offer very specialized education in specific occupational safety topics, such as Industrial Hygiene or Fire Safety, while others may offer the ability to study multiple disciplines in safety. With so many options to choose from, how does one narrow down the option to diversify or become specialized in one discipline?

Studying the current career market may provide some information of what employers are currently looking for.  Depending on the size of the company, their needs for employees may differ. Large multimillion dollar companies may be able to employ larger numbers of safety professionals and can afford employees to specialize in one or two specific disciplines, where smaller or medium size companies cannot afford an industrial hygienist, safety engineer, or other specialized employees. Companies in these situations will focus on finding an employee that is well rounded and able to address different aspects of a safety program yet still be effective. This also can be difficult because it can lead to an employee that is a “jack of all trades, but master of none” and may lead to outsourcing for assistance on projects or situations that are more specialized and require an in depth knowledge on a specific topic.

When I started to look at programs for my Master degree, I decided to go with a program that provided me a broad spectrum of safety fields. My undergraduate degree was in journalism and I did not learn about careers in health and safety for a number of years until after finishing my degree program. I worked a variety of odd jobs and started volunteering with a local fire department. Through that work, I started to learn about safety as a career option and eventually was hired as a fire safety specialist. It was at this time that I decided to reinvest in a new career and attend school.  I did look at a few different programs that offered both a broad spectrum of safety related course work and programs that were more specialized in specific disciplines. I finally decided that, because of my lack of safety background, a program that provided more diversity was a good fit for me, and ultimately would make me a stronger candidate to prospective employers in my area. This may not be true for all prospective safety specialists and it is important for each individual to weigh their options before choosing a program.

Elizabeth Handler is currently a Master student at IUP majoring in Safety Sciences.

CIH Prep Webinar Series!

Just a quick update for the SECP.  We will be holding our first in a series of 6 webinars for CIH Prep during our August 31, 2016 conference call.  The meeting will be presented by the Hazard Prevention and Engineering Controls Committee and they will be giving potential test-takers a high-level overview of the ABIH rubric – Engineering Controls and Ventilation!  So, a giant thank you to the HPECC for helping to make this happen!! I encourage all of you to attend the call, but you should especially attend the call if you are considering taking the CIH exam this year or next, or even just want to brush up on your engineering control and ventilation knowledge for everyday use.

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Mentoring Corner Discussion Topic: Professional Objectives

By Tim Paz

The mentoring pair should discuss what the professional objectives are for the mentee in the next 3, 5 or 10 years.  In which professional sector do they currently practice?  Do they want to move to another sector, such as federal government, academia, etc.?  The mentor should discuss their career journey to get the dialogue moving.  How did they find out about the field of industrial hygiene and how did they make the move into IH as a career field?  What organizations have they worked for and in what business sectors?  Have they been EHS generalists or strictly practitioners of IH?  Help the mentee map out a plan of action to get to the desired end point.  If they want to get into the federal government, consider reaching out to someone working at a federal agency such as NIOSH, OSHA, NIH, CDC, etc.  What were the career choices that person made to get to their position within the federal government.  A career coach once had me list everything I liked and disliked about every job I’ve ever had.  This is a valuable exercise and was very eye opening for me.  What skills do you use when you’re doing the things you enjoy?  Have you considered expanding your practice to other EHS disciplines such as environmental, safety or fire protection?  Again, find the people who work in the field you are interested in or working at the places you are hoping to get hired on at, and speak to them about their career journey.

In summary, what are your ideal plans and goals?  My advice is to set personal and professional goals annually.  Review them at mid-year and at the end or beginning of each and every year.

Taking Control of Your Career

By Justin Klavan

“I am not responsible for your career”.  That phrase came from my manager at my first job fresh out of Graduate School.  Looking back on those days I remember feeling overwhelmed and lost, lacking a clear direction and unsure what to do.  I wanted so badly to be given some type of guidance.  Try as I might though, it never came.  I spoke with my coworkers and learned as much as I could from them but I still had a hard time finding my path.

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Finally, I decided I needed to take one step at a time and hope the picture would become clearer as time went on.  In graduate school, we were taught that becoming a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) should be something we strive for.  So, I made my first career decision; become a CIH. It had some elements of a good five year plan:

  • Learn and grow technically,
  • Gain the necessary real world experience,
  • Increase my value to the company.

So that’s what I did.  I focused on my goal of becoming a CIH and tried to make sure every aspect of my work contribute in some way to meeting that objective.  My hope was once I obtained my CIH, I would be able to figure out my next step and it would open a wider aperture of opportunities.

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I took the exam in the fall, around the time for end of the year assessments, and was fortunate enough to pass.  After four years of focusing on the exam I was looking forward to having a meaningful discussion of “what comes next” with my manager.   When we met I still had not thought much beyond becoming a CIH.   I was expecting my manager to give me the next step but again was disappointed.  I had no aspirations and he had no advice to give.  Again, he reminded me that “he was not respon
sible for my career”.  Once again I was no longer on a path and I felt lost professionally. I tell this story because I have seen it played out over and over again as an AIHA Mentor and as I moved through organizations.  Young EHS professionals tend to have trouble figuring out what direction to go and are unable to pull out the desired guidance from their leaders.

So what is the solution?  How do you find your path?  Unfortunately there is not a single solution for every situation, but there is a wealth of experience from other Professionals to help you make decisions.  For this article, I will simply give my perspective.

Try as I may to forget the phrase “I am not responsible for your career,” I cannot.  It haunts me and is a constant reminder of an undeniable truth.  In the end no one is responsible for your career but you.  But there is hope.  Just because you are responsible does not mean you are alone.  If you have a boss, you have a resource.

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As a leader with direct reports, I can most certainly say that leaders are responsible for their team’s professional successes and failures.  In other words, if you make a mistake, your leader is accountable for allowing it happen and responsible for righting the ship.  On the other hand, if you succeed, so does your leader.   What does this have to do with your career?  Your manager is invested in your career whether they realize it or not.  By helping you be successful, they help their team be successful.  I am by no means condoning taking a back seat to your career and letting your manager drive, but I am saying they are a wealth of information that can benefit you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Another resource I will shamelessly plug is a mentor from the AIHA Mentoring and Professional Development Committee (MPDC).  The committee and subsequent mentoring program is an amazing resource with dedicated EHS professionals available to give help.  I am lucky enough to have been associated with that group for the last 4 years and I can honestly say it helps.  Having and external resource to help work through problems and offer a different perspective can help you find your path. If you are unfamiliar with this Committee or the Mentoring program, then check out the “Mentoring Corner” of this newsletter has more information.

Having resources is one thing, but using them effectively is entirely different.  Remember that quote that haunts me?   I would submit my slightly altered version of it:

“I am not responsible for your career, but I am available to help you.”

The key word there is “available”.  Available does not mean it automatically comes to yo
u, it means it is there to use.  You must be proactive and use your resources as you would a tool!  You have to get their undivided attention and to do that requires effort on your part.  Find a time and set up a meeting when you are both available.  Be sure to find a place you both can go where distractions are minimal.  Think of specific questions prior to your meeting and have something with you to take notes.  When you speak with them about your thoughts, try and avoid lamenting or complaining. Ask probing questions such as “I want to lead a team in the future.  What types of skills do I need to develop?”  Ask them about their experiences and what decisions they made a difference in their careers.

One topic I believe to be a “must” is a discussion around identifying your weaknesses.  Knowing your weaknesses is powerful.  You cannot get better if you do not know what to improve.  Use that conversation to establish goals to help improve.  Having the ability to confront those weak points is an essential skill for any professional.

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In the end taking control of your career is all about being proactive and finding those leaders, peers, friends, and family that can help you. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not sitting back and letting things happen.  If you want to excel, if you want to grow, and if you want to one day look back and admire where you are, you have to take the steps yourself.   Use your resources wisely and take advantage of their knowledge.  I would not be where I am today if I did not finally realize that I am the one responsible for my career.

Justin Klavan is Senior Manager of EHS and Facilities at Textron Systems located in Hunt Valley Maryland.   He is currently a member of both the Mentoring and Professional Development Committee and the Student and Early Career Professional Committee.