The Sustainability Campus Conversations will be next week, March 24th, at 4PM, in the Career Resource Room, Student Services 1200.
Tom Abram will be one of the panelists and agreed to answer some questions. He works for the Facilities Services of San Diego State University as the Assistant Director – Campus Sustainability.
SDSU Career Services: As an employer of SDSU interns and/or alumni,tell us: what are the strengths of SDSU interns/graduates?
Pride in the campus and a vested interest in improving campus from a sustainability perspective.
What benefit do you get from employing them?
It helps me stay connected to young ideas and energy and motivates me in my own work.
What keeps you hiring SDSU interns/graduates?
SDSU students are bright and motivated. They often see campus sustainability opportunities from a different perspective.
SDSU CS: What is your academic background?
I hold a BS Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois, as well as an MS in Sustainable Design and Construction from Stanford University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department.
SDSU CS: Did you complete an internship during college?
Yes, I had an internship doing quality control and testing for Motorola one summer. I was able to develop automated testing spreadsheets to assist them in their process. It was empowering to be able to start and finish a project that provided value to my co-workers. I wish I had done additional internships, especially around sustainability.
SDSU CS: Please give us a brief explanation of your personal work journey.
I started my college career as a Computer Science major. I became passionate about renewable energy and sustainability and switched my major to Electrical Engineering, with a focus on Power, to help me achieve my goals. Out of school, I ended up staying at the University of Illinois to do energy audits and analysis for small businesses. I learned a lot on the job and got to see a lot of interesting places; a great balance between field and office work. I then moved on to be Sustainability Coordinator at the University. I had a wide variety of responsibilities including reviewing building designs for sustainability, securing energy efficiency grants, working with students, and co-authoring our Climate Action Plan.
I always wanted to go to grad school, so I left my position to fulfill this need. I’m glad I took a break between undergraduate and graduate school; there were many questions that came up during my work experience that I wanted to explore, but didn’t have time to do in the regular working day. I was able to explore some of these in grad school.
Afterwards, I worked for a sustainable Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing engineering firm designing mechanical systems for net zero and other deep green buildings. I left this role to come to San Diego State University, first as Energy Manager and now as Assistant Director of Facilities Services, responsible for Campus Sustainability. While I took my turns in my career, it’s always been centered around sustainability. Working in different areas of the field gave me an appreciation for a wide array of people.
SDSU CS: What is one piece of advice you would want current SDSU students to know about being an intern?
Ask questions. Ask them often, ask them to different people. Most of your new co-workers will be glad to help further your understanding.
SDSU CS: What is one piece of advice would you want current students to know about being in the Sustainability industry?
It’s a very diverse field with no clear career path. There are many options, but it can be overwhelming. People passionate about sustainability often want to do the job that makes the most impact. Pursue a career that makes you feel valued, that makes some tangible impact, and that fulfills you.
SDSU CS: What is one thing you wish you knew about the Sustainability industry before you entered it?
I wish I had known about all the various flavors of sustainability jobs and tested some out as an intern.