GreenLight Solutions Foundation intern Eddie Portillo interviewed recent alumni Miguel Ortega, to learn about his journey from college to the professional world.

 

What was your major/minor and graduation year?

I graduated in May of 2019 with a BA in Earth and Environmental Studies from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, with a Minor in Sustainability and a certificate in energy both from the School of Sustainability at ASU.

What GreenLight projects were you apart of and what positions did you hold?

I started off on a project called Humanity, which was like Linkedin except revolved around the SDGs that workers wanted to move towards. The second project I was a part of was Build Us H.O.P.E., where we built a community garden for a tiny home community. I also held the VP of Operations position, where I was in charge of the student organization’s budget.

What was your favorite/most impactful thing you did with GreenLight?

My favorite/most impactful thing was being a part of the Build Us H.O.P.E. project. Working directly with an individual makes the impact feel more personal, especially since at the time of the project there was only one person who had moved into the community so far.

So you got to know, and shake hands with, the person whose life you were directly impacting with the GreenLight project?

Yeah, exactly. We got to see them move in and everything.

What kind of work are you doing right now, and is it related to sustainability?

It’s related to what my graduation boiled down to – my certificate in energy. Currently, I work as a home auditor at FOR Energy, where I’m inspecting homes to see how the build of the home affects air leaks/energy consumption. Financially, it makes a big difference in people’s energy budget. 

I’m looking forward to this career I just started, because I feel like I’ll be making a direct impact with people’s finances and educating them on ways they can be sustainable without having to step out of their comfort zones.

So, you get to improve people’s lives without them sacrificing their own quality of life?

Yeah, without making them sacrifice their hobbies. We also give them some tips for good habits to pick up on. For example, did you know that fans don’t actually cool rooms? So, don’t leave a fan on when you’re not in the room because the wind blowing is only cooling you at the moment, not the room.

Are you serious? I left the fan on before leaving to do this interview thinking my room would be cooler when I got back.

Yeah, no. You’re really just wasting power right now.

When interviewing for jobs, did GreenLight come up as a talking point in any of them?

Yeah, it was the main talking point. My first job was as an environmental consultant with Trileaf; when I got a call from them I was immediately asked if I was still looking for a job. Then, he said he noticed GreenLight on my Linkedin profile and called it a “unique organization I don’t really see often.” I was also asked about my position as VP of Operations. I feel like that was a really big leverage point that got me that position.

What skills do you think GreenLight helped build in you?

GreenLight definitely helped strengthen my team building skills more than classes did. When you work with a real company the way you do in GreenLight, it gives you more of an incentive to get things done.

How satisfied are you at your current job?

I find satisfaction in the tangible impact that I’m making. With all the different possible roles I can work myself into, I see this as a first step into this entire industry.

What do you feel has been your biggest or proudest moment so far?

Getting a job at FOR Energy after just over a month of being let go at Trileaf. That also includes a 2 week break from applying to jobs.

So, you got one job right out of college, then got another one soon after the first one?

Yeah, I got both faster than I expected.

Where, in the sustainability field, do you want to end up?

I’m not sure, I’m a huge procrastinator so I’m trying out different work environments to see what I like and what works out for me.

Are there any other sustainability projects you’re working on, or plan to work on in the near future?

Right now, I’m auditing my own home to see how I can make my own house more sustainable.

Is there anything about the workforce that you feel you weren’t prepared for?

Something I didn’t feel prepared for was the strict chain of command. GreenLight has an open-door policy that I got used to, and the corporate world is very different. You can’t just walk into someone’s office and talk about a new idea that you came up with the way you can in GreenLight. That took some getting used to.

Is there any advice that you have for any sustainability students getting ready to graduate soon?

Hone down at least one concept that you’re interested in, then search for job opportunities related to that. What you want to do is have an idea of what you’re looking out for, in terms of making a sustainability impact. Googling “sustainability jobs” isn’t going to give you many results.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing, and I’ve found nothing. I guess I know why now.

Exactly, focus on the various aspects of sustainability that interest you most.