Episode 171: When Science + Sustainability + Climate Change = A Fulfilling Career

Meet Stephanie Bolyard, Sr. Engineer to the Asst. Secretary at the NC Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and one of our brilliant Waste360 40 Under 40 award winners. In this episode of NothingWasted!, we spoke with her about emerging contaminants, quantifying the impacts of climate change, the power of mentoring, and more. #NothingWastedPodcast

Liz Bothwell, Head of Content & Marketing

October 31, 2022

Meet Stephanie Bolyard, Senior Engineer to the Assistant Secretary at North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the lead stewardship agency for the protection of the state’s environmental resources. In this episode of NothingWasted!, we spoke with Bolyard about emerging contaminants, quantifying the impacts of climate change, the power of mentoring, and more.

Here is a sneak peek into the discussion:

Waste360: Would you tell us about your journey?

Bolyard: Being in the solid-waste industry was not my plan A and likely far from my plan B, but I like to bring this up when I talk to college students or emerging professionals in our field to remind them that our careers aren’t linear—and to try to embrace the skills and experiences you might gain along the way. I say that because, when I started undergrad, I was going to be a chemical engineer, but that wasn’t the right fit for me at the time. Thankfully that brought me to UCF and environmental engineering. One of the things that has really helped me get to where I am today is that I had opportunities I was able to take advantage of, and I developed a love for the field of solid waste. 

Waste360: You spend a lot of time digging into the research and data behind our industry, and especially in your new role. What are you especially paying attention to?

Bolyard: I help to support and guide various activities aligned with DEQ’s mission and also to implement our strategic plan. I’ll also be serving as a lead engineer supporting DEQ’s leadership. In my previous roles I really enjoyed delving into research and data…and seeing how we could address emerging needs like PFAS. And, in my current position, I will be working on emerging topics that are very important in our society.

Waste360: You have a unique skill set of having a technical background but an innate ability to translate that into easy-to-understand commentary for people. How do you do that?

Bolyard: I try to figure that out probably almost every day. As a student, I didn’t always easily understand topics. And, when I was in grad school, and I taught solid waste management, when I approached my lectures and homework, I always thought back to myself as a student. Where are some areas students are likely to get tripped up? Where do we need to break this down a little more? What are some ways to explain something to meet various learning needs? I think that’s really helped me in writing. I’ve also realized that, when executives need information one way, and technical folks need it another way, you need to balance that. I really want people to be excited about what they read as well.  

Waste360: What advice do you have for young professionals in our industry?

Bolyard: Love what you do, and put everything that you have into it, with a good work-life balance. One of the things I’ve always appreciated is when I’m in a position that allows me to work on something I truly have passion for; where I truly see the connection to society. I would also suggest: don’t be afraid to take an opportunity. I love to tell students, “don’t ever be afraid to go to a professional society meeting; don’t think that you don’t have something to contribute. You have something unique to bring; don’t ever limit yourself."

Listen to the full episode above.




About the Author(s)

Liz Bothwell

Head of Content & Marketing, Waste360

Liz Bothwell is head of content and marketing for Waste360, proud host of the NothingWasted! Podcast, and ghostwrites for others to keep her skills sharp and creative juices flowing. She loves family, football, her French bulldogs, and telling stories that can help to make the world a more sustainable place.

Follow her on Linkedin or Twitter

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