William & Mary

Dawn Oleksy

Environmental Coordinator for James City County

Ms. Olesky has been the Environmental Coordinator for James City County for a few years now. She works with volunteers, full-time employees, and local residents on advocacy and event-planning. Her goal is to keep our county clean and green. 

{{youtube:large|fTfPiBLbM3A, Interview with Dawn}}

Topics discussed in this interview (in order):

  • Details about her position (0:04)

Ms. Oleksy has been the Environmental Coordinator for James City County for a few years now. She said her position is under the General Services Department, and the largest part of her job is managing energy usage for city infrastructure. She is the “staff liaison to the Clean County Commission,” which is a group of volunteers that work on recycling, litter, and beautification projects for the county. A large part of her job is public outreach, which includes educating locals on being green. The most important part of the energy-related part of her job is decreasing emissions from city buildings. For example, all city infrastructure had to be Silver LEED certified.

  • How she got to her current position (3:28)

When Ms. Oleksy first entered the workforce, the types of green jobs were limited to park rangers and working for the State Department. She decided to get her Masters Degree in Environmental Decision Making, and she interned at an environmental education center. She was an environmental consultant for many years, and in that position she assessed properties and wrote permits for developers.

  • What her interns do (7:32)

She likes interns! Most of the interns that work under Ms. Oleksy are students. She mentioned one intern-led project that included tracking the fuel usage in city vehicles, like firetrucks.

  • Skills she wishes she had when she graduated college (9:30)

Networking with people in your field is still the best way to advance yourself. Ms. Oleksy advised that you find someone with the career you want, and try shadowing them. Many companies have green positions, you just have to be willing to put in the work to find them.

  • Trends in her field and advice for people entering positions like hers (10:48)

“Saving dollars really is the bottom line,” Ms. Oleksy explained. Positions that save money and also promote sustainability are growing rapidly, and “energy is the hot topic.” She also emphasized that you can make yourself more valuable to a company by learning technological skills. “What you can offer an organization technically really is important,” she explained, and adds that expertise of programs like Microsoft Excel and modeling softwares are valuable for a variety of positions.

If you are interested in learning more about what Ms. Oleksy does, you can contact Gina at [[e|gmsawaya]].