Approximately five years ago, Jenny English jumpstarted her career in the waste and recycling industry by taking on a variety of contract roles, which eventually led to her current position as account executive at ReCollect Systems. ReCollect Systems is a technology company that specializes in digital solutions for the waste management sector.
Since joining ReCollect, English has served as a waste and recycling expert for municipalities, helping them to achieve their waste reduction goals by using the efficient and effective tools that ReCollect has to offer.
“I think that Jenny’s persistence and focus on her goals, regardless of obstacles, comes from a deep understanding of who she is and what she wants for the world,” says ReCollect Services CEO David Eaves. “Jenny’s best quality is that, like anyone successful in helping others, she listens profoundly to people and does the work to follow up with solutions.”
In addition to her role at ReCollect, English is a Solid Waste Association of North America Young Professional. We recently spoke with the Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient about some of the challenges she’s faced in her career, what she’s most proud of and some of the exciting opportunities that she sees opening up within the industry in the near future.
Waste360: How did you begin your career in the waste and recycling industry?
Jenny English: After I completed my degree in environmental technology at Georgian College, I worked for an environmental consulting company studying landfills and conducting environmental monitoring. At that time, I don’t think it dawned on me that what I was doing was something that I was really interested in because I ended up going back to school at Royal Roads University to study environmental science.
Once I finished school the second time around, I worked for a solid waste group at a regional level, and that’s when I started to get keener into the waste world. I got to see all of the different types of opportunities and career paths that the industry had to offer, and I became more passionate about the waste management field over time.
Waste360: Tell us about your role as account executive and some of your responsibilities.
Jenny English: At the end of last year, I was promoted from business development representative to account executive, which was very exciting. I am now working in the sales group, where I get to chat with multiple municipalities and waste haulers to learn more about what their challenges are and how we can help them overcome those challenges with our tools.
It has been an interesting shift for me because I get to learn a lot about different waste programs across the continent and some waste programs overseas. It’s really amazing how waste programs can vastly vary from one community to another.
Waste360: You have held multiple roles in the industry and worked on a wide range of projects. What are some of the challenges that you have faced thus far in your career?
Jenny English: When I was in my mid-20s, I worked as a landfill site supervisor at the County of Simcoe, and people often assumed that I didn’t have the experience needed to hold a role like that because I was young and a woman. It was difficult to deal with, but I often spoke with my peers about the issues and learned from their personal experiences.
That was my biggest challenge so far, but I am happy to see that women are now starting to play a bigger role in this industry and beginning to take on higher-level roles that were less available to us in the past.
Waste360: Can you highlight a moment or two in your career that you’re the most proud of?
Jenny English: I would have to say proving my ability to do the landfill site supervisor role, and implementing a number of different programs while working as a recycling and waste reduction coordinator for the City of Richmond. Working for the City of Richmond actually led me to my career at ReCollect because the city expanded its use of products with ReCollect, and I got to build up a strong relationship with ReCollect. That strong relationship made the career transition to ReCollect a smooth one, and I’m grateful for that.
Waste360: What are some exciting opportunities that you see opening up within the industry?
Jenny English: I think there are a lot of opportunities to make operations of all kinds more efficient through the use of technology. I have held multiple roles over the years, and technology is one of the things that have continued to grow and develop in various areas of the industry.
Waste360: What best practices have you learned over the years and how do you apply them in your role today?
Jenny English: Gather as much information as you can before making a decision or moving forward with an idea. It’s important to understand what your customers’ needs are so that you can take those needs into consideration before making any decisions. Also, do your research! It’s important to conduct as much research as much as possible about a municipality or customer before having a conversation with them because you’ll be better prepared and it will help the process go smoothly.
Waste360: What advice do you have for someone who is looking to make a career for themselves in the waste and recycling industry?
Jenny English: Get experience where you can. Just because you start your career off in a certain position doesn’t mean that you have to stay in that position forever. I think it’s super helpful to gain experience in a variety of different areas because it helps you stand out and it helps you to better understand all aspects of the business. Part of the reason why I ended up being a successful candidate for the landfill site supervisor role was because I had a range of experience in different areas, such as landfill monitoring and construction.
Also, don’t be afraid to take on a contract position because that position could be one of the best ways to gain the experience that you need to excel in the industry.