Goal 3 of NESEA’s recently adopted Strategic Plan reads: “With an initial focus on Emerging Professionals, broaden the demographic diversity of NESEA membership to better reflect the constituency NESEA serves.” I interviewed Saheel Chandrani, the board member who is championing this goal, to learn more.
JM: Why did the board prioritize this particular strategic goal? Why did you opt to be the board liaison?
SC: Attracting Emerging Professionals (EPs) is the fastest way for us to build our membership base, not just to diversify, but also to broaden opportunities for our whole community to share, connect and learn from one another, which is an important part of NESEA's mission. EPs represent an underserved population that NESEA can engage as we cultivate the next generation of practitioners.
Personally, although I’m not quite an EP anymore, I have always looked for opportunities to get to know new people and learn from them. This particular strategic goal has the potential to offer members the most insight into what’s unfolding in the marketplace and where to take their career.
JM: Why start with EPs? Aren’t there other groups that NESEA should be cultivating - like veterans, immigrant communities, diverse communities in terms of race, sexual orientation, ability?
SC: EPs are a pretty diverse group to begin with. Many of the people just graduating college or entering the workforce are inherently more diverse than generations that preceded them. By focusing on EPs, we are likely to increase the level of diversity in these other areas as well, without having to launch multiple campaigns.
Another important point is that our definition of EPs is not based on age, but rather on experience. We define emerging professionals broadly, as individuals who have entered their profession or practice within the past five years. Focusing on EPs seemed like the most inclusive approach to bringing people working in sustainable energy and building together under one umbrella.
JM: What is NESEA currently doing on the EP front? What steps will the board and staff take to build upon that work?
SC: Recently we launched a new membership level for self-identified EPs. This level of membership comes with a suite of resources and tools specifically designed to leverage the most benefit from the NESEA community, including a more comprehensive Jobs Board than ever before, and plans for some sort of resume bank. This new membership level will also help us connect EPs with each other, which is something they’ve requested.
We will also continue to build on the events we’ve geared toward EPs - events like the career forums and scholarship lunches at our conferences. We’ve learned that EPs value opportunities to network, so I would like to see us foster new ways to connect EPs with experienced practitioners - maybe through volunteer programs that allow them to become more involved within the NESEA community or within the industry as a whole.
Scholarships will remain an important strategy for introducing EPs into the NESEA community. So will providing them with one-year memberships so they can come on board and see the value. Within the last year we’ve offered over 60 scholarships so that students and EPs could attend one of our conferences or a Pro Tour and enjoy a one-year NESEA membership.
JM: Anything else I should have asked?
SC: EPs have the potential to bring new energy and enthusiasm into NESEA, which will invigorate those who’ve been around for awhile. It will be important to facilitate their entry into the community, and to create a platform to make it easier for them to participate.
Lastly, if you are interested in supporting our EP efforts, one great way to do so is through a donation to NESEA. We offer NESEA programming at discounted rates so that EPs can afford to join in. We couldn’t do so without the support of long timers who want to see the NESEA community grow and thrive. If that resonates with you, please donate to our emerging professionals fund to help us sustain these important efforts.
NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.