My Co-op at ALL4
Posted: December 10th, 2012Author: All4 Staff
I first came to ALL4 as a co-op in the summer of 2011. Since then I have spent three (3) semesters at ALL4 working on various projects. A co-op is a partnership between a school and an employer to provide an opportunity for students to learn hands-on. It is very similar to an internship. I am currently majoring in Chemical Engineering (ChemE) at Auburn University and had little idea of what environmental consulting consisted of when I applied for this job, but I knew I wanted to interview with a variety of companies to see what type of co-op positions were available. Most ChemE’s go into the pulp and paper or oil industry so these were the fields in which I was most familiar. I remember one question that I was asked during my initial interview was “What do you know about ALL4?” I knew this question was coming; it is the one question the Auburn Co-op Office told students to prepare for when it came to interviewing. “Research the companies!” My response to this question was “ALL4 is an environmental consulting company that specializes in air quality. They have a corporate office in Kimberton, Pennsylvania and a regional office in Columbus, Georgia. But can you please tell me what a career in environmental consulting entails?”
At the time, I had no idea how much work went into regulating air quality in the variety of industries that exist! However, I was quickly made aware how in depth consulting is during my first week. I arrived at ALL4 in the middle of one of the biggest projects the company had experienced, which was U.S. EPA’s Pulp and Paper Information Collection Request (ICR). U.S. EPA had requested vast amounts of operational and emissions information from all pulp and paper mills across the United States. Aside from the Pulp and Paper ICR Survey, during my time at ALL4 I have been exposed to many different industries and permits. I have worked on Title V permit renewals, emission statements, Toxic Release Inventories, greenhouse gas calculations, and Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines Maximum Achievable Control Technology (RICE MACT) applicability analysis. Other roles I’ve assisted with include marketing, EnviroReview, and recruiting. Let us just say I have worn many hats during my term(s) at ALL4. That is one phrase used frequently, “At ALL4 you wear many hats.” Wearing many hats is something that comes with working for a small company; you get involved in many different functions of the company.
ALL4 may be a small company, but it contains a wealth of knowledge. ALL4 is made up of people with various backgrounds and levels of experience, ranging from people right out of college to people with decades of experience. I thought it would be helpful to share advice and thoughts from people of differing levels of experience. I first spoke with Julie Maltese, who graduated from Georgia Tech in May of 2011 and came to work for ALL4 that same month. When asked what her best piece of advice would be for recent graduates that are going into the consulting industry, she said “Make sure you keep a running list of the all the types of projects you work on. It is important to remember what you have gained experience in, and it can be a surprisingly difficult task if you don’t write it all down. Especially in the consulting world, there is so much going on and it is easy to lose track of everything you have done before.”
I then spoke with Susie Bowden, who has been working at ALL4 for almost two (2) years. Susie has 11 years of experience at a pulp and paper mill. During that time, she spent eight (8) years as a process engineer and three (3) years as an environmental engineer. When asked what her best piece of advice for a recent graduate looking to go into consulting, she said “Learn Microsoft Excel and Word inside and out! Be ready to learn quickly and invest a lot of your own time in the beginning. I know that is two (2) pieces of advice, but I think both are equally important.”
Finally, I spoke with John Egan, one of the Principal Consultants of ALL4 who has almost forty (40) years of experience. He spent the first 14 years of his career working for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). Since his departure from PADEP, he has continuously worked as a consultant and eventually helped to found ALL4 in 2002. When I asked him what his thoughts were on consulting and what he would tell recent graduates, he said “A career in consulting can ultimately allow you to be your own boss. For the most part, you are selling your personal knowledge and expertise and, as a result, your ability to succeed and to control your own destiny is only limited by your personal commitment to becoming the expert and your ability to successfully enroll those that support you.”
I have learned a lot during my co-op terms at ALL4. I will be leaving with a new perspective on environmental consulting. When I get back to Auburn and hear of a classmate’s interest in the consulting industry, I will make sure to tell them to be prepared to hit the ground running and bill as much time as they can. I would then probably have to explain the concept of billable time because that is not something we learn in the classroom.