NJSWEP invites leaders and role models in the environmental industry to share their experiences and help us pay it forward to the next generation of women in the environmental field by answering a short 6-question survey. The idea for this survey came from Jerry English, when she won NJSWEP’s 2011 “Growing Great Women in the Garden State Award." She challenged us to pay it forward to the next generation of women and said, “Don’t let them get trapped in amber.” Below are survey responses from Elizabeth Limbrick. Elizabeth has over 23 years of experience in the environmental industry. Elizabeth is currently Project Manager of Strategic Initiatives at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
What challenges have you faced in reaching your current position/title/occupation, and how did you overcome them?
Over the course of my career, I have worked in places that have supported advancing my career, but I have also worked in places where it seemed that management was more interested in having me continue in my current role, and was not very supportive of helping me advance my career. To overcome that, I took it upon myself to expand my professional growth, seeking out seminars and training events and developing relationships, so I could advance myself.
Did you have formal/informal mentor?
Yes. I have many mentors, ranging from teachers who taught me to think creatively and think critically, to mentors like Jeanne Mroczko, who showed me the ropes for leading an organization (NJSWEP). I have mentors that I continue to learn from today, like my colleague, Colette Santasieri, and Sue Boyle, also a former NJSWEP Chair. I hope I can be as good of a mentor to the next generation of professionals as my mentors have been to me.
What 3 life experiences have influenced you?
It is really hard to pin it down to 3 life experiences. Every experience in life shapes us in one way or another.
I think I would have to say my education has been a really important influence. I attended a liberal arts college, and was required to take many core classes that were outside of my major. At the time, I dismissed these classes as being unimportant, but these classes turned out to be some on the most important influences of my life. It was through the core curriculum classes that I was exposed to art, the role of religion in American life, and women’s studies. It was in these women’s studies classes that I learned that, Yes, in fact, I am feminist, and No, being a feminist is not a dirty word.
Another a major life experience was becoming active in professional organizations. I can still recall how, about 15 years ago, Linda Taylor, who was my former colleague at NJDEP and very active in NJSWEP at that time, took me by the arm and said to me “We are going to a SWEP meeting” and then asked me (or, more likely, told me) to join the scholarships committee. I am so thankful for that. I met so many great and talented professionals, and eventually, I even became chair of the scholarships committee and went on to lead the organization for three years as Co-Chair.
Around the same time, I also heard of another organization, the Interstate Technology Regulatory Council (ITRC). I expressed interest to a colleague, and he immediately set up a meeting for me with the chair of one of the committees. I was delighted to join the ITRC and I had the opportunity to contribute to writing guidance documents and develop training sessions. In addition, it was through my involvement with the ITRC that I was given the opportunity to testify before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Through those positions, I learned many new skills ranging from how to plan an event, to writing guidance documents, to developing training sessions and even to how to run an organization.
Finally, I would also say that having the opportunity to work in both the public sector and in the private sector, has given me well-rounded experience, which has allowed me to understand issues from all sides. As a result, I am able to understand issues, navigate through challenges, and find solutions that work for all parties.
What is the relationship between your success and luck?
“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca
I have been lucky to have met and worked with so many great, talented, and supportive people throughout my career. I have taken the opportunity to learn from them and have used it to build the foundation of knowledge from which I operate now.
I always describe myself as lucky to have the position that I have now at NJIT, because I love what I do at NJIT and I truly enjoy working in collaboration with my colleagues. But I would also say my success is also about being prepared. I wouldn’t be here without having the knowledge, skills, experience, relationships, and the courage to pursue my current position.
What is your short, 3 priority personal mission statement?
- Help your talented colleagues make connections with each other.
- Everyone has a story to tell, you just have to listen.
- Do the right thing, even when the right thing isn’t the easy thing to do.
And a bonus…
4. Don’t let little setbacks break you. When setbacks happen, fix them and move on. I like to think of it this way, if you are making breakfast, and you accidently drop an egg on the floor, you wouldn’t just stop making breakfast. You would clean up the mess, get a new egg, and continue on making breakfast. You should have the same philosophy with other setbacks, don’t just throw in the towel because you have had a setback.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Find ways to collaborate, innovate, and develop partnerships with other professionals.
My advice to all professionals is to join a professional organization and spend time working on and/or leading committees where you will have the opportunity to develop deep relationships by working with your fellow committee members. Celebrate your successes along the way. As you work on projects and reach milestones, take a few moments to document the success of the project and your contributions, and before you know it you will have developed an impressive portfolio of success stories.
Strive to have a “can do” attitude, and pay it forward to the next generation of women in the environmental field by sharing your wisdom and experience.