Raised by entrepreneurs and small business owners, Faith Zydowsky always aspired to blaze her own trail. Throughout college and shortly thereafter, she worked in real estate, which was a convenient way for her to earn an income and have a flexible schedule as she took care of an ailing parent. But after some time working as a RE/MAX agent, she reached a turning point in her career and wanted to make a change, so she accepted a sales role at Waste Pro USA presented by a prospective buyer.
Zydowsky stayed in that role for seven years before moving on to work at Waste Management, Rehrig Pacific Company and Sierra Container Group, where she currently serves as vice president.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed to have worked with some of our industry’s greatest leaders, and I am thankful for a handful of mentors who have taken the time to invest in my growth,” says Zydowsky.
“While all of my past roles were in sales and management, they afforded me invaluable experience of learning about other aspects of the business,” she adds. “Especially in sales, I think it’s important to walk in the shoes of the person providing the service or product you’re selling. I have taken and still try to take those opportunities today. I’ve performed ride-a-longs, answered customer service calls and worked on a MRF [materials recovery facility] sorting line and on a manufacturing line for roll-out carts. Many of my most memorable experiences involve bad weather! I have picked up a recycling route with an impending hurricane and delivered recycling bins in a thunderstorm, but through all of my experiences and understanding other people’s challenges, I’ve learned to relate and appreciate how hard the fine people of our industry work.”
Throughout her career, Zydowsky has worked with people from all walks of life and has worn multiple hats. In addition to her role as vice president at Sierra, she now serves as the president of the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) Women’s Council.
Zydowsky previously served as the council’s fundraising chair and vice president, helping the council raise more than $300,000 and award 48 scholarships since its inception.
“My experience serving as vice president was invaluable as it provided me the opportunity to work with Carmen Smothers of ESG [Environmental Solutions Group], now past president,” says Zydowsky. “Carmen is a friend, an industry leader and a role model to me both personally and professionally. I am grateful for the opportunity to have learned from her leadership of patience, perseverance, grace and vision.”
Now, as president, Zydowsky plans to continue leading with the council’s mission to serve the industry and the council’s members by providing education, networking, professional development, volunteer opportunities and academic scholarships. She also aims to leverage the council’s talent to increase exposure and awareness via social media; partner with the Environmental Research & Education Foundation to promote the 2019 Internship Toolkit created by the 2019 Women’s Council Professional Development Committee; explore the many talents of the council’s membership; and increase engagement by suggesting roles members may find enjoyment in and excel at.
“I’m extremely honored to have been elected by my peers as the 2020 Women’s Council president,” she says. “I take the responsibilities very seriously and hope that my actions may inspire others to take the risk to achieve their goals. No risk, no reward.”
As someone who grew up with an exceptionally motivated mother who worked hard to balance work and home, Zydowsky feels very fortunate to have inherited that motivation, inner fire and drive to inspire others.
As a leader at Sierra, she ensures that every team member knows they play a vital role in the company’s success and that they are all working toward a common goal of living their best lives and putting their families first.
One of the ways the Sierra team celebrates each years’ accomplishments is with an anniversary dinner, where members recant funny stories with customers or challenges they’ve overcome. The annual get-together has provided Zydowsky with some of her career’s most fun and heartfelt memories. This year, Sierra President Mike Schwalbach presented the First Annual Dundie awards followed by the reveal of Vice President Sean Mason’s hidden talent of comedic poetry. There is never a dull moment with this crew, according to Zydowsky.
Zydowsky believes what makes this industry so great is the “people, people, people.” As she pushes forward with her career and encourages others to pursue a career in waste and recycling, she notes that in addition to great, hardworking people, the industry houses endless opportunities.
“Leadership, sales and marketing, operations, accounting, engineering, technology, environmental, government affairs—you’d be hard-pressed not to find a good fit,” she says. “While I wouldn’t define the waste and recycling industry as recession proof, I do believe it is more recession resistant than others. I’d recommend taking the leap of faith (no pun intended)! Many industry loyalists will agree that once you fall in love with the incredible people of our industry, you won’t want to leave. Many of those who do boomerang back.”