Tom Sahagian is working on new products that could help advance electrification in more buildings.
What is your current work?
These days I mostly work for New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and Columbia University. My NYCHA title is Temporary Employee, which is not particularly revealing; my CU title is Lecturer, Masters of Sustainability program, School of Professional Studies.
It may sound odd to say so, but the work the sustainability group at NYCHA is doing is cutting-edge and very exciting. We’re partway through the testing phase of a window-based heat pump product that exists because NYCHA challenged the industry to develop it. If these new heat pumps perform the way we hope they will, it will not only be a boon to NYCHA and other public housing authorities looking to electrify, but we believe it will also offer a lower-cost alternative to market rate buildings as well.
By Kirstie Dabbs
Jobs in sustainability can be found in all sectors, from corporate to policy to nonprofit. Unlike government and for-profit organizations, nonprofits are specifically structured to serve a public benefit through their core mission, which all their activities are meant to support. This structure gives employees the opportunity to bring their values to work in a variety of professional roles. While some roles, such as customer service, marketing and facilities management are comparable to their private sector counterparts, others, such as development and community engagement, are unique because of the funding and service delivery structures in the nonprofit sector.
Speaker Profile of EnterSolar’s Zaira Akhmedova
By Pamela Berns
Seven seems to be an auspicious number for Zaira Akhmedova. Her professional journey spanned seven years as she made her way from a degree in finance and accounting to her current position as Financial Strategy Manager at EnterSolar, one of the largest commercial solar developers in the U.S. And it was her trip around the world—a seven-month sabbatical from work—that solidified her commitment to a career in renewable energy. (more…)
By Jude Jussim
Tom Sahagian knows there’s no time left to dawdle in controlling the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from New York City’s buildings. The problem: There’s a shortage of people with the right skills to do it. Sahagian is not talking about policy wonks. “The life of the mind is not what’s going to get us to solving the climate crisis. Pontificating doesn’t do it. You need people who can actually physically do what’s required.”
Sahagian, a GreenhomeNYC board member with many years of experience as an energy efficiency consultant, believes that to dramatically decrease building-generated GHGs, the city’s buildings will have to be powered with clean electricity (e.g. wind or solar) rather than fossil fuels.
An Electrifying Challenge
“New York City needs to convert a thousand buildings a year for the next 30 years,” he says, “which will take hard work and coordination and commitment—and contractors and workers with the right skills. And right now, we have a shortage of those people.”
By Jonathan Oriondo
On October 29th, GreenHomeNYC convened a panel discussion on sustainability careers in government, a field that promises change and growth in the new green economy. In New York in particular, breakthrough climate legislation is not just leading the way to a carbon neutral city; as our speakers demonstrated, it is also leading to innovative and meaningful careers.
By Tamanna MohapatraPhoto by Kenton Archer
On July 9th, 2019, GreenHomeNYC hosted a panel discussion on careers in waste management. Our three panelists engaged the audience with inspiring stories about their career paths, and offered insights into this growing and varied field. They also shared great career tips with the diverse group of participants.
Interested in the Sustainability Non-Profit Sector? Join us for a panel on Non-Profits!
When sustainability challenges fall outside the domain of market solutions, who is there to provide redress? Non-profits can satisfy energy and environmental problems of great import that financial interest may ignore. Come learn lessons from professionals experienced in navigating careers in the sustainability non-profit sector.
Date: May 14th, 2019
Time: 6:30pm – 8:00pm with networking afterwards
Location: BrightPower, Flr 21, 11 Hanover Square, New York NY 10005
Danielle Bissett – Billion Oyster Project
Adam Romano – AEE
Irene Nielson – NRDC
Note: To respect the time of our speakers and guests, the event will start promptly at 6:30.
Panelists (from left to right): Kestana Anokye, Michael Roos, Lindsay Robbins, and Tom Sahagian
On October 9, Green Careers hosted a Career Tracks panel on NYC government jobs. Professionals working to advance sustainability causes in various government sectors discussed their educational background, first steps in the sustainability industry, and job roles and responsibilities, while offering advice to those seeking a career in governmental sustainability.
Kestana Anokye is a Project Manager in the NYC Office of Environmental Remediation, the agency that designs and operates municipal programs for cleanup and redevelopment of vacant contaminated lands. Anokye has a background in Geological Sciences and worked with two environmental consulting companies after college. Two years into her second job, she realized her growing passion for sustainability. When a colleague suggested that she attend forums, like those hosted by GreenHomeNYC, to learn about opportunities in the field, it seemed a bit intimidating that almost every speaker had a degree in engineering. But she was determined to find a way to combine her skills and training with her interests to find the right job.
While networking is invaluable, Anokye advised that persistence in your job search is most important, even when things don’t work out immediately. That tenacity and patience led to her current position at the NYC Office of Environmental Remediation.
Michael Roos graduated with a liberal arts degree in economics and geography, and didn’t foresee his current role as a Building Performance Analyst for the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services Division of Energy Management. While pursuing his master’s degree at Columbia University, Roos learned about the role that local governments play in advancing urban sustainability, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC serving as a case study. One of his professors encouraged him to apply for an internship in the Energy Department of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Interning with the largest public housing authority in North America was a valuable introduction to the field of energy management in city government.
Roos returned to the Energy Department in a permanent capacity as an Energy Analyst, deploying his data analysis skills to work extensively with the Utility Management Information System (UMIS), NYCHA’s utility bill database. He working with technical consultants to conduct energy analyses of NYCHA’s 2,500 residential buildings and facilitate energy benchmarking in compliance with New York City’s local laws. After a few years, he transitioned to his current role at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which serves as the hub of energy management activities for over 4,000 municipal buildings across the five boroughs. His role involves managing energy and performance in alignment with Mayor DeBlasio’s goal of a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings by 2025.
Roos advised job seekers to set up a keyword search on the city’s job website and DCAS Energy Management to stay abreast of new opportunities in city government. He noted that networking is an effective way to connect with the tightly-knit community of energy and sustainability professionals in New York. He added that the DCAS-administered Energy Management Institute offers continuing education classes for city workers to enhance their technical knowledge.
As Director of Strategic Alignment & Implementation for NRDC’s Healthy People & Thriving Communities (HP&TC) Program, Lindsay Robbins works to foster the development of healthy, sustainable communities for all. While studying film and TV production at NYU, she discovered a love for urban studies and decided to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning. During this period, she became involved with several environmental groups at NYU that banded together to advocate for an environmental program at the university and the adoption of sustainable practices. Leading the effort with a few fellow students, Robbins successfully advocated to set up the program and bring other sustainability initiatives to the campus. After graduation, she was hired by NYU to assist in the planning, design, and renovation of university buildings.
Robbins moved into government work when she was hired to work on multifamily efficiency programs at NYSERDA. Working in NYSERDA’s then-small NYC office was a great advantage, as it helped her take on a lot of responsibility quickly. Subsequently she worked for the state of Maryland, managing an energy assistance program for low income households, where she worked to weave energy efficiency into the mix. Now at NRDC, Robbins works on energy efficiency for the affordable housing sector, helping the HP&TC program achieve its broader goals.
She advised job seekers not to be discouraged by the lack of a technical degree; this is a field that requires a variety of skill sets and there are ample opportunities to learn, if you remain curious and keep asking questions.
Tom Sahagian has had extensive experience working in private, non-profit, and governmental jobs, including the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development. He obtained a degree in journalism, later deciding to make the move into energy efficiency. But he noted that his ability to write well has been a huge advantage over his entire career.
Although there are pros and cons to working in government, he felt one compelling advantage is that government organizations are not driven by profit. The tendency to care more about the work, rather than gains or paybacks, can be a rewarding experience.
Sahagian’s advice is to be willing to start at the bottom, work hard, and learn new things every day to steadily climb up the ladder. He recommended pursuing continuing education for technical topics, and reading magazines on energy efficiency to stay abreast of the latest tools, technologies, and concepts. A few other important qualities for success: Be smart and committed. Be ready to do a lot of reading, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
The panelists noted there’s often a long period between applying for a government job and getting an interview, so it’s important to be patient and persistent. And they agreed that regardless of your educational background, keep learning, keep reading, and keep applying until you find your dream job in sustainability.
It’s been a year marked by extreme weather events, with hurricanes, fires, droughts, and flooding all across the globe. In the United States we saw Houston drown and Santa Rosa burn just a few months after Trump’s pullout from the Paris agreement in June. Climate advocacy groups, local policy makers, corporations, entrepreneurs, individuals, and nonprofits all stepped up their game in defense of the planet, and GreenHomeNYC was no exception.
Thanks to the dedication of our volunteers, we were able to deepen our commitment to providing education and calls to action. Our speakers and our blog writers shared critical information on local policy, business actions, and academic initiatives. Record numbers of event attendees turned up to hear from innovators in energy, food waste, recycling, and sustainable building. Green careerists came out to find out where to point their compasses in the new paradigm.
We’re proud of the hard work that went into this challenging year, and hope that our contributions made a difference. Here are just a few GreenHomeNYC highlights for 2017:
By Pamela Berns
Green careerists and sustainability students have been wondering just how the changes in our government policies will affect their career choices. While Dr. Eban Goodstein is the first to admit he doesn’t have a crystal ball, his longtime experience as a career advisor and current role as Director, Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard College do afford him insights that can help jobseekers gain some sense of direction. We asked him to share those insights, along with strategies for education and job searching in a webinar hosted by GreenHomeNYC on February 16, 2017. Here’s what he had to say.
“We are really at the end of an era, a forty-five year period of policy stability and bi-partisan consensus,” says Dr. Goodstein. “There is new leadership now, and we have to think about how to negotiate that.” With indisputable scientific data indicating that the planet has become a half a degree warmer in just the last three years alone, “you guys are signing up to figure out how we’re going to rewire the world…That remains our mission in spite of the politics of the day.” It sounds daunting, yet Dr. Goodstein balances the challenge with a dose of hope. “We’re still living in an extraordinary moment in the human project.” Sure, we are ” in a race,” he added, “but we haven’t lost yet.” (more…)