William & Mary

Rachel Cook '15

Consultant at TetraTech

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Tell me a little bit about your current position and your role in the organization.

I work for TetraTech. We help clients evaluate water quality and develop criteria for water quality standards. My official title is a biologist and I studied environmental science in college. I mainly do data analysis and research but I can help out with whatever people need me to do.

How did you find out about your current position?

I actually got this job through the career center. I saw an advertisement on one of those career center listservs. I had previously done research when I was in undergrad, looking at the effect of hormones on water quality in my evolutionary biology class.  I thought I was qualified for the position, I applied, and I got it.


What is the most challenging thing about the position? The most rewarding?

I think the most challenging thing is because it is a consulting position, things change every day. I could be doing five different things in one day. But at the same time it is always something new. You will have be doing things that change constantly. That keeps things interesting.

Aditionally I have had the opportunity to travel and do hurricane relief work, which is something I loved. Also it is great to see the final product. You can see the final product in the official policies or the final report of recommendations that are completed and sent off to the client.

How does the position work? Does the research you do differ from undergrad?

The way our company works is that the organization contracts me. They put me on anything that they want me to do research on and I do a wide variety of things. A lot of the skills that I learned in college like writing a literature review is incredibly different than my work here. Instead of reading papers, I am not going as it in depth, but really being direct and to the point.

What is the difference between being an environmental scientist and an environmental consultants?

The difference is the background knowledge, there is the idea and the knowledge of science and technology. Most of the work that I would do is necessary to have a science background. We are doing analysis on environmental work, but the skills are need are the same.

What is it like on the job? What are some traits they are looking for?

One of the main things that my company is looking for is versatility, I think W&M does a good job of this because you are challenged in different ways, such as doing research and presentations. I feel like you get most of those things. Research was pretty big for me. They are pretty big on writing skills and attention to detail

I think it's a lot of learning on the job. When I interviewed, they talked about taking your base knowledge and helping shape it into allowing you to do what they do in the company. I learn different things all the time. People teaching you has been a positive experience, but having that base knowledge is helpful.

What type of person would this be a good fit for?

People who like to be learn about a lot of different things and somebody who is interested in diversifying their skills beyond just science. If you are the type of person that you only care about one particular thing, entry level consulting might be boring, but someone who is enthusiastic and likes to problem solve this is exciting. I think I am a person who likes to be challenged and have to figure lots stuff out.

While I was at W&M, I did research and also I did some data analysis and data visualization. While those were not things I thought I at the time I really loved, I learned I really liked data analysis. There is a lot you can do with it. It is kind of strange that it turned into something I really enjoyed, even though I was not fond of it at the time.

What are your long term goals?

I would like to get more involved in the field quality aspect, but I already have the research side, and one of my long term goals is to see what it the process is like with the hands on perspective.