Tuesday, November 27, 2012

In Search of Place

Where do you like to be creative?  What does one do to find a spark?  Even though I just starting blogging, and recently took a little hiatus, I have been really happy to talk about getting back into writing!  As I stated in my first post, there are so many topics that I want to explore.  Some experiences were jaw dropping.   And so far I haven’t needed to find a place to inspire my writing.  I have written in my kitchen, at the airline gate, once was at my desk at work over a conference call that I didn’t need to be on (sh, don’t say anything), and now I find myself at one of the coffee shops in my neighborhood I’ve been wanting to visit.  (The peppermint tea here is really impressive!)

“Place” isn’t just a spot where I rip a blog, of course.  In my professional life, I like to be surrounded by a bit of familiarly, creativity, and like-minded folks—as I am sure many of you do.  Working at EP was enriching for some of that for me.  But, like I said, I found myself needing to push the industry forward and advocacy alone was not going to fulfill my goal. 

I found myself on Amtrak heading from NYC to Baltimore for an interview with a roofing company.  I was answering an ad for a horticultural professional who had some experience with green roofs.  That sounded cool, I seemed qualified.   A guy who looked a bit like Wilford Brimley was standing near a silver truck with a ladder in the parking lot once I arrived.  This must be the guy.  Actually, he wasn’t the guy I was interviewing with, he was just “doing his boss a favor” by picking me up.  

When I walked into the Magco building for the first time, I thought, “Well, so this is what a roofing company looks like, huh.”  I noticed steel partitioned cubicles, large drafting tables with large plans stacked on top, bulky computer monitors and wires openly exposed.  The floors were cool- it was painted concrete and the duct work was exposed in the ceiling.  I didn’t see people- and I saw that as a good sign- they must be out roofing, estimating, and managing some very important projects.  My future boss’s office was huge, with large windows.  File cabinets lined the walls, and there was actually a jade plant in the window.  (Hey, I notice these things.)

This is where I met Mark Gaulin, with a serious and commanding personality, yet easy to talk to.  The interview seemed fairly standard and I thought it was going well until he asked how many green roofs I had installed.  I said, “A few. Maybe 5-7 that I had an active hand in, but that seems to be about as much experience anyone has in this emerging field.”  Come to find out, Magco had only put down 2 or 3, so I was on point.

This was a good fit for me and Magco.  They had some green jobs booked for the spring and had maintenance planned in the DC area. Magco had equipment, crews, and insurance – and knew how to get jobs done safely on the roof.  That meant more green roof acres for me!  And, they were part of some larger organization beyond the Mid-Atlantic.  Mark didn’t promise me a national scope, but suggested there may be some travel from time to time.  That was very enticing!  

In search of a new professional place, I may have to give up my beloved NYC personal place.  But, it was the decision I had to make. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This is a good one about EP!

Non-profits do not always provide the “good” we search for.  I may have busted your bubble.  Sorry. 

I finished grad school with an intense desire to continue to advocate for green roofing, I wanted to be the catalyst for getting as many acres installed as I could.  I was seeking out large roofing companies who had the overhead to employ someone with my specific background; many of them offered back a product sales-type role that I wasn’t really interested in.  The green roof industry was still in its infancy and there were not a lot of options.  I was also looking into this particular non-profit in NYC who claimed they were doing real research, design, and building green roofs across New York City.  The NFP: Earth Pledge (EP).

I was scared out of my mind to move to NYC- plus I didn’t have an intense desire to “make it in NY” like some kids.  EP did not offer a good salary or any relocation package.  Forget benefits.  I flew in for the interview and they didn’t reimburse me.  The only place I could afford to live was in Harlem or renting a room with random strangers, somewhere in Chinatown.  I would probably have to sell my car.

BUT I still took the job.  And, moved to Harlem.

Within two weeks, I fell in love with the City and all its opportunity and cultural diversity.  I enjoyed my co-workers.  We always said the best thing about EP was its ability to bring together good people.  To this day, I still trust most of the people I met there- we had formed this secret clan of suppressed individuals.  And there were many!  HaHa.  That place (EP) had the highest employee turnover I’ve ever seen.  The payroll accountants were on speed dial for all the hires and terminations.   We worked hard- despite the reluctance of management to let us do anything of any significance.  We couldn’t even make phone calls to the outside world without permission.  And, when we did, the person on the other side of the line would be so mad at EP that it was usually a stupid conversation.  

I was involved in some cool projects including setting up a research station on the large green roof at Silver Cup Studios in Long Island City.  This is where they taped Sopranos. So, I’d see the actors every once and a while.  I met Edie Falco in the bathroom, yes I did!  

Unlike many ideas of where a non-profit may office in a dingy cold cramped space, this place was sweet!  We worked in a brownstone in the Murray Hill district.  Probably worth about $7M and the non-profit “owned” it.  (Explain that, hm?)  The top level was a master suite, and lead out to a green roof with a patio and spectacular view.  We couldn’t go up there unless we snuck out after management left.  The main floors were in really great shape with new renovations and historical charm. The kitchen was in the basement – and was high end and decked out with All-Clad gadgets.  The house keeper(s) were great.  The first time I tried ceviche was made by a Latin American woman who explained how seafood cooks in its own marinade.  Yummy.  She treated us like we were her kids, and listened to the wrath we were always under.

It's Hillary!  One of my EP coworkers rigged up this photo, just for me
The Executive Director, residing in a condo facing Central Park, was chauffeured by a driver every day.  Let me reiterate that this was an environmental non-profit operating in a city that has the most public transportation options in the entire US!! There were last minute meetings in Punta Cana, DR.  There was the necessary Fashion Week in Milan, and trips to prepare. Give me a break.  Countless luxuries too absurd to fath

om.  But, they had a nice roll-a-deck of contacts, high rollers like the Clintons, and actors such as Edward Norton (I emailed him just to say Hi.  I’m such a fan!)

But, with all its glory that I’ve chosen to remember about this time in my life, I was really miserable in my career.  I lasted 8 months there.  This was not the job I wanted, nor was the environment set by management something my blood pressure could handle any more.  I quit right to their faces and walked out.  With clouded judgment, I walked into a church down the street and stayed for almost an hour contemplating and releasing it all.  I was glad the rumor was true that churches in NYC keep their doors unlocked.

We all had bets on how EP would eventually fail. Trust me, my depiction of EP is very nice considering some others who had a more aggressive approach to bringing the organization down.  The rich lawyer who had dumped his cash into EP as a tax right off finally died, leaving EP nothing.  And, now there is barely a trace of a website.

Career aside, I loved living in NYC.  But, I didn’t get a Masters just to wait tables in the City. 
USPS Morgan on 9th Ave, one of my signature jobs