A career in environmental consulting brings opportunity to help businesses and organizations in about any industry comply with environmental regulations and manage their impact on the environment. The staff at Hargis + Associates have agreed to share their personal experiences to inspire others to explore this rewarding profession. In this installment, Ruben Sanchez shares his path from student to intern to environmental remediation engineer.
What is the typical role of an environmental remediation engineer?
An environmental remediation engineer oversees the cleanup of pollutants and helps organization prevent negative impacts on the environment. They remove contaminants to protect and restore natural resources like water, soil, and air.
In my primary role, I’m the lead project engineer for some of our soil and groundwater remediation sites. I manage the day-to-day tasks of the sites to make sure all compliance metrics are satisfied, and the sites are kept in good working condition.
What career did you imagine for yourself as a child?
I don’t recall having a specific career in mind as a kid. All I knew was that I would probably be doing something related to science because that was the subject in school that drew my attention the most.
What drew you to a career in environmental consulting?
When I started college at San Diego State, I was a Mechanical Engineering major. That’s a pretty broad field and I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to focus on. A couple years into college I realized I wasn’t entirely passionate about mechanical engineering. I knew then that I wanted to do something to benefit people’s lives and the environment more. That’s when I switched my major to Environmental Engineering and became more interested in things like alternative energy and water treatment.
What was your first job out of school?
I started as an intern with Hargis + Associates during my last semester of college and was offered the opportunity to continue as a full-time employee after graduating.
How did you end up in your current role?
Starting as an intern, I’ve been able to work my way up to my current role as the project engineer for the sites that I work on. With the guidance and help of others, I was able to learn the technical and managerial skills that have helped me succeed in this role.
What are some typical activities you perform?
I stay on top of the project metrics and site performance of the remediation systems to make sure the client is compliant with the regulatory permits and the systems are operating smoothly. I also coordinate routine and non-routine maintenance tasks with other Hargis staff and outside contractors.
Reporting is also a significant portion of what I do. Compiling and analyzing data helps us optimize and evaluate system performance which we document in our monthly, quarterly, and annual reports. Evaluating site data helps us understand how effective the remediation system has been in achieving the cleanup goal at the site, which gets reported to the clients routinely.
What is your favorite part of this job? How about the environmental services industry?
My favorite part remediation engineering has been the hands-on learning and experience I received in the field. Getting to see how things actually work helps put together some of the concepts you learn in school. In the beginning, I found this to be the most valuable aspect of the job and the environmental industry itself.
What degrees, training, or certifications were required for your career path?
Aside from my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering, I have been working towards obtaining my Civil Engineering license with a focus in Water Resources/Environmental. This requires the Engineer-In-Training (EIT) Certification to start. Then I will apply for the Professional Engineer (PE) license after passing the required exams. California requires that you pass three exams before obtaining your PE license in Civil Engineering.
Another useful certification is the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response or OSHA HAZWOPER training. It’s required for most environmental service jobs. The initial certification includes 40 hours of training and an exam. An 8-hour annual refresher class is required to maintain certification.
What traits or habits have helped make you successful?
One thing I’ve kept in mind is that there is always something to learn. Being inquisitive has always led to learning something new either about the sites that I work on or the environmental industry itself.
Were you provided with advice or mentorship along the way? If so, can you share how it helped?
I was able to learn a lot from the more senior engineers and technicians at Hargis who helped me get to where I am today. Even to this day, I can ask for advice that will help me do my job better.
What would you tell other people considering a career in environmental services?
If you’re curious about a career in environmental services and have already done some research, I’d say go for it! Looking at the bigger picture, most if not all the projects you work on will be rewarding. You’ll get to solve problems and contribute to a project that will directly benefit the environment and the people who depend on its resources.
What resources would you recommend to get started?
I would recommend browsing LinkedIn to get a better idea of what types of jobs are available in the environmental services industry. Organizations such as American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and American Water Works Association (AWWA) also contain valuable resources within themselves and will give you a great idea of the type of work done by the professionals in this field.
A career in environmental consulting can be rewarding for those who are passionate about protecting natural resources and helping businesses and organizations make a positive impact on the environment. With the right education and training, and a desire to learn and grow, individuals can find success in this field.
To hear more about environmental engineering or the benefits of an internship, you can connect with Ruben on LinkedIn or email at email@example.com. If you’re looking to launch your career or find a home with small environmental consulting firm, check out our current job openings at https://www.hargis.com/careers/.