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Rising Stars: Educating Young People About Energy

By Erdin Beshimov

Bekki had her first job well before college. As a high school student she got involved with an energy education nonprofit. After college, she joined up full-time. Explaining her choice to stay with the same employer for so long, she says that rushing out to find something different is not always the best move.

Name: Bekki Lamb
School: BSC - Rutgers University; MA - University of St. Andrews
Major: Environmental Policies, Institutions, and Behaviors
Years Out of College: 2-5
Title: Program Associate
Company: National Energy Education Development Project?
First Steps

"When I first started learning about the importance of energy, it was not the hot topic it is today. Despite that, the more I learned about energy, the more I realized what an integral role it plays in so many different sectors. From the economy to the environment, energy is a key player."

From Then to Now

"When I was younger, I occasionally worked with the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED), where I now work for full time. My first exposure to NEED was from an elementary school teacher I had. Since the organization is focused on a 'kids teaching kids' approach, I was given many opportunities over the years to build my skills as a leader, a teacher and a presenter. When I first started learning about the importance of energy, it was not the hot topic it is today. Despite that, the more I learned about energy, the more I realized what an integral role it plays in so many different sectors. From the economy to the environment, energy is a key player."

All through college, Bekki continued to do projects and work summers at NEED. But she always assumed she would work somewhere else after college. However, after school, she realized going back to NEED was a natural choice. "Not only did my work tie into what I was interested in at school but also because I was really familiar with the organization due to my years of involvement with it."

Speaking about the role of education in her career she says that although her job is not really typical for someone with her major, her undergraduate and graduate studies have helped her in her work today." Both of my courses showed me how energy affects and is in turn affected by various factors. My school work also encouraged me to think about issues more dynamically. A lot of the issues that are brought up in both environmental and international relations discussions are ones that I have been able to relate to the energy world. Overall, the biggest contribution my studies have made is the depth and breadth of material that I have been exposed to through different classes. I find myself drawing on these things every day."

Challenges Faced

"Lucky for me, working with a small, supportive staff has made it feel like I have very few challenges. One challenge that I faced when I first started, and I think many other young people face, is earning due respect for the position you have. I spent a number of years answering the statement "Young lady, can I talk to the person in charge?" with "Here I am, what can I do for you?" Facing these kinds of challenges, I found it is always important to not only handle the situation in a professional manner, but also the importance of looking and acting professional from the start. When you look young (or some people think you look young) it may mean taking a few more steps than your colleagues to be taken seriously. Wearing slacks when others can get away with jeans is one example of how you can give off a more professional image for a young person."

My Experience

"Every day is different here. At a small organization, you are able to take on projects in a wide range of areas. In my position, I travel around the country to meet with members of both the energy and education world. Some of these meetings are ones that my organization has planned to train teachers while others give me a chance to talk to people who work in the energy industry. When I am in the office, much of my time is spent supporting our programs, helping teachers get materials into their classrooms and planning future events. Mixed in with these things is the occasional curriculum research work, graphic work, and science experiment!

One of the projects I have worked on recently with teachers and industry representatives was to create curriculum materials about how we process petroleum. One of the best parts of this project was learning about the topic. It is always fun to take the material as an adult and figure out how to explain it to a kid. Another project that I enjoyed recently was planning a short conference for teachers in Alaska. I have worked on conferences all over the country, but Alaska provided its own set of challenges. Between bush planes and bitterly cold temperatures, gathering teachers from throughout the state was a great chance to learn.

Like every job, some parts of my job can be tedious and at times, boring. Since we work with teachers, it tends to be pretty quiet around the holidays here. This slowdown gives me a chance to do all the regular maintenance. More often though, things are far from boring. Long hours and looming deadlines are more typical.

Being with different groups all the times, I get to meet a lot of interesting people. I really value these people I meet. Everyone has a different way of looking at the world, and it's nice to be exposed to lots of different ways of thinking. Getting a chance to talk to people is one of my favorite parts of my job."

Advice for Others

"After graduate school, when you don't know exactly what you want to do, everyone gives you advice, especially people you sit next to on airplanes. By far, the best advice I heard came at a time that I was working at my organization but looking for a new job because I wanted to do something "different." One person pointed out that finding a job that you enjoy doing, where you like the people you work with, feel good about what you do, and know the field well is a rare occasion. It made me realize that rushing out to find a job that is different just to work somewhere different is not always the most logical career move.

Once I thought about it, the advice did make a lot of sense. You meet a lot of people who don't like their job or don't like the people they work with. I didn't want to be one of them. I got lucky in that I had a great place to work right there for me. When you think about it, most people probably spend about a quarter of their time at work (many of us more). With that much time invested into anything, it should be something you enjoy."

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