The below interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you get to where you are today? What was your training or education?
I earned my bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in Asian humanities. Originally, I thought I wanted to go into law, but after a few courses in constitutional law, I realized it wasn’t for me. I have always loved writing, so I got an internship at a nonprofit in grant writing. I really liked it and so I went with it. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I stayed open-minded.
I was always very focused on the educational side of things and therefore that is where I focused my priorities. I was determined to get the best grades and the best test results. But once I graduated, I started thinking about the work experience side of things. Looking back on my own path, I would have told myself not to forget to focus on real world experiences like internships. Being open enough to try different things can lead you to something you really like and that works out.
Describe your job. What does a typical day look like for you?
While I’m working on different projects week to week, I am regularly doing one (or all three) of the following: reading, research and writing—all of which are related to grant applications, reporting and so forth. I research funding opportunities, apply for funding opportunities, and write and submit grant proposals, scopes of work, narratives and budgets. I create resources that help other teams and departments understand grants and what makes a good grant application.
Outside of grants, I work on the odds and ends of projects as well, like taking pictures of the engines of buses, getting familiar with engineers and becoming compliant with regulations. I work with a variety of team members from other departments like mechanics, bus drivers, staff from finance and the superintendent.
What is something you find challenging about your job?
For me, staying appraised of new legislation and regularly updated technology can be difficult. There’s always something new coming out and I need to be aware of it.
What do you love most about your job?
One of my favorite things about my job is the industry itself; it’s innovative, it’s in the news and it’s fun to talk about! I also love working with people in general, helping them submit applications and helping solve their problems.
What advice do you have for others thinking about working in energy, construction and utilities?
I would stress that work experience is very important. For myself, I was very focused on the educational aspect of my career path, rather than work experience. If someone knows they are interested in this sector and career pathway, look into internships and job opportunities in the field.
For high school students, I want to note that there are a lot of different ways to get into a job or industry and you don’t have to take the traditional path of a four-year degree or a master’s degree. Things are flexible and academics aren’t the only way forward.
In terms of the industry itself, it’s not actually as “techie” or as much of a “start-up culture” as people tend to think. It’s also not as completely male-dominated either. There’s a lot more women in the field than people realize. For example, I have found that my line of work–grant writing–is a woman-dominated industry and I find that really exciting.