After working in the service industry for some time, Caitlin Hitt was seeking a new adventure when a former colleague introduced her to the waste and recycling world. Now, nine years later, Hitt is leading the charge in utilizing data and analytics to build relationships and retain customers for RiverRoad Waste Solutions.
As director of national accounts for RiverRoad, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rubicon Global, Hitt says she has a passion for continual business process improvement. She also views technology as a critical factor in the waste and recycling industry, especially artificial intelligence (AI).
Hitt, named a 2019 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient, recently sat down with us to discuss her waste and recycling career and the future of technology in the industry.
Waste360: How did you begin your career in the waste and recycling industry?
Caitlin Hitt: Almost nine years ago, I began working at RiverRoad Waste Solutions. The owner Kristen Bunnell and I had previously worked together in the service industry, and I had always admired her leadership and strategic team building skills. I was intrigued to learn about the waste and recycling industry due to its diverse customers and ever-changing industry dynamics. Critically as important, I saw that there was a potential to make a difference in the world by utilizing technology to improve waste diversion. While my career at RiverRoad began in sales, I transferred to operations when a fantastic opportunity presented itself. My role today reflects all of my previous experience and builds upon the skills I learned in each area of the company.
Waste360: Describe your role as senior director of national accounts for RiverRoad Waste Solutions.
Caitlin Hitt: My role as senior director of national accounts has a singular yet deep focus on our customers and their mission to divert waste. My primary goal is to ensure that we are continually meeting or exceeding their expectations, not only at the time of securing their business but throughout the entire relationship. I work closely with corporate points of contact to build long-lasting and trusting relationships that enable RiverRoad to become an extension of their organization seamlessly and efficiently. I also provide thorough analysis of their waste and recycling volumes. Through deep data analysis, we are able to offer creative, money-saving solutions to increase their diversion rates and improve recycling efforts in their facilities. Through my passion for continual business process improvement, our customers have been able to streamline operational processes and achieve their sustainability goals typically ahead of schedule.
Waste360: What do you consider your biggest achievement within the industry?
Caitlin Hitt: I feel my biggest achievement is assisting RiverRoad Waste Solutions and now Rubicon Global in the achievement of key customer retention rates. My strengths in building solid customer relationships and continually proving how we add value has resulted in repeated contract extensions, as well as new business through word of mouth. Seeing that my efforts have contributed to our customers’ success as well as my own organization receiving a variety of industry awards is very rewarding.
Waste360: What keeps you motivated in your work now and moving forward?
Caitlin Hitt: What keeps me motivated is finding solutions that will help make our customers' day-to-day job easier and more productive. While some may perceive waste and recycling services to be a “set-it-and-forget-it” business process, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are continually looking for the best solutions to complement customers’ waste and recycling programs to help them achieve their sustainability goals. By bringing technology and data into the discussion, we are able to move forward on recommendations for customers to see tremendous impact and results around their sustainability and recycling goals. Developing comprehensive solutions, which may include monitoring devices, reporting enhancements, backhaul solutions and waste audits, or some winning combination of these, is what keeps me motivated to think outside of the box for our customers’ best interests today and in the future.
Waste360: What role does technology play in the waste and recycling industry?
Caitlin Hitt: Technology is a critical factor in the waste and recycling industry. With the advent of artificial intelligence, in-truck monitoring systems and advanced data analytics, each has the potential to transform our industry in the coming years. With an ever-changing regulatory environment, we will need to rely on current and future technological solutions to be able to continue to improve diversion rates at both the household and commercial levels. I look forward to emerging technologies that will help us assist our customers with their regulatory needs.
Waste360: What are some exciting technological opportunities that you see opening within the industry?
Caitlin Hitt: I think the most exciting technological opportunity for our industry is the use of artificial intelligence. I believe we are only touching the surface of what AI can do to transform everything from pickups, to sorting, to bale analysis. The RiverRoad and Rubicon family is setting the agenda for what the waste and recycling industry will look like. Fifty years from now, people will look back and see that RiverRoad and Rubicon were the catalyst for this change. Technology such as the RUBICONSmartCity solution is being used to drive informative business decisions in neighborhoods across America. It’s an exciting time for the waste and recycling industry.
Waste360: What advice do you have for someone who is looking to make a career for themselves in the waste and recycling industry?
Caitlin Hitt: The waste and recycling industry continues to expand, and those who are interested can create a long and rewarding career for themselves. I would encourage anyone entering the job market to gain experience in a variety of functional areas so that they can secure a solid understanding of business operations. I would also recommend those who are engaged in technology advances and at ease with data analysis since both of these will be key drivers in the coming decades for our industry, whether at the hauler level or with waste and recycling management companies. Most importantly, I’d advise them to hone their verbal communications as well as relationship building skills since working with customers is inherent in any role.
Waste360: What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?
Caitlin Hitt: I am an avid traveler and enjoy new adventures. I also enjoy scuba diving, sporting events, concerts and spending time with friends and family.