Category Archives: Working Hard
Recently, I sat down with Ryan Carney, the CEO of G Rock Certified, a sustainability group based in Sausalito, California that is currently implementing a waste diversion program for Costco warehouses in Northern California. His interview is packed with insider information. See it below:
So where are you from Ryan?
San Diego, California
Okay cool, and what is your educational background?
I studied environmental studies: sustainability and social justice at San Francisco State University.
Awesome. And can you tell the audience a little bit about G Rock Certified?
Absolutely. We’re a sustainability consulting group so we work to help research, design, and facilitate broad sustainability programs for businesses, cities, and organizations.
Awesome. And how did you become a part of it?
A Friend from high school was involved with G Rock when it was first starting as the events coordinator and he knew that I had experience at the time at a non profit–I was working in art to teach sustainability and environmentalism through art and music–so I had a lot of experience working in festivals so it matched up perfectly with what G Rock was doing at the time. And so I got involved and two years later we’ve been engaged in a lot of different work.
Wow that’s great. And what projects are you working on?
Right now we’re partnering with Costco Wholesale for a waste diversion program, so we’re implementing composting and recycling throughout every Costco warehouse in Northern California, which is effectively diverting about eighty percent of what used to be sent to the landfill.
Wow that’s very impressive.
It’s large scale. We also do research and remediation of fields so we work in sustainable agriculture as well so we’re hoping to do some research projects to prove the efficacy of compost and firming compost as alternatives to synthetic fertilizers.
What is the difference between compost and virmi compost?
…Firmy is Latin for worm, so it’s essentially the castings that the worms produce after digesting compost so it infuses it with another population of beneficial microbes that work symbiotically with plants’ root systems to help bring nutrients as far as the soil quality.
So working together with both of those composts helps the soil become as best as it can be?
Okay. Cool. And so I assume you’ve been there for two years?
And how have you seen the field changing?
Dramatically. Since I’ve begun my work in environmentalism ten years ago it’s night and day. [I’ve] seen a lot of support from large corporations, from cities, from people, ordinary people, where as when it was first coming out there was a lot of skeptism as to why should we change our ways as in our relationship to the earth. And I think a lot of people have realized the importance of that.
And where do you think that came from?
That’s a good question. A lot of sources. You can point towards talking heads like Al Gore who could be called leaders of the environmental community, but I think it comes from local media–I’ve seen a lot of news branches have reporters who are focusing just on green stories, so it helps bring a lot of attention on the local state and the state policy makers are also used in a lot of change in this scale, so it’s really hard to say how it all happened. It’s not necessarily a book that we have here in this time it’s just sort of evolved here so it’s really exciting. When I started studying environmentalism I thought I would spend the rest of my career banging my head against the wall trying to get any sort of change instigated and I’m pleasantly surprised to see how not necessarily easy it is to get these changes in effect now but how much support people are giving.
That’s fantastic. That’s fabulous. So I guess that brings me to sort of the opposite end—what is most challenging about being in the field?
It’s a good question. The way I look at it is that were instigating change. That’s what this is. And change can be frightening for a lot of people. We’re hard wired to find a routine, find something that’s comfortable with us so helping people to develop their own intrinsic motivation, to accept, to be inspired, to find change within themselves has been the most challenging but also the most rewarding. All the answers are here as to how we can solve our environmental crises, our personal health, the answers are there—it’s just about our motivation to find it. Just like success for Success strivers–all the information is there you just need to have the will to make those changes. So the biggest challenge is to work with people, find out what connects with them, and how they can be inspired.
And so what is your typical work day like?
I don’t know what a typical work day looks like. I spend about half of my time in the field, in meetings, right now we’re focusing on Costco, the majority of our time, so we spend a lot of time working with managers, and employees, and trainings, also coordinating, collaborating with city agencies, nonprofits, for profits… so I’d say about half of my time is in the office making calls and collaborating with people via email and the other half is in the field.
And when you’re out in the field are you monitoring projects?
That’s a good question. Out in the field in the Costco warehouses right now [I’m] working to implement this diversion programs. With our research projects for sustainable agriculture its sights, it’s site management, monitoring the virmi composting, application of compost, so I’m happy to say I don’t have a typical work day. I like the change.
I don’t know if you are able to answer this but what are your future plans?
To do more of what we’re doing now. To expand the impact. Double our work, To go international–that’s always something I’ve wanted to strive for. We’ll be implementing a program in Portugal at the University of Lufthansa. To help students facilitate projects like G Rock. So G rock started with the intention of giving opportunities to students in the field of sustainability to create jobs so we like to spread that opportunity to anybody who has the will to enter this kind of field.
So what advice do you have for strivers who want to go into sustainable fields or make a field more sustainable?
Connect with what you’re most passionate about, and then bridge the gap between how that can improve the field of sustainability. And any field that you’re interested in can be applied to improve the quality of life of anybody. So anything that you want to do–whether it’s in the advertising field, which also spreads the awareness, accounting–sustainability firms need accountants, find what your passionate about, do it really well, and also look at the bigger picture of how it connects with this larger field.
The other day I was fortunate enough to catch up with Misak Pirinjian of Tony’s Shoe and Luggage Repair in Mill Valley, California. Over two decades ago, after attending law school and then working in the field, he left for the leather repair business and has become the go-to man. Bonus includes advice for maintaining goods.
Be sure to also check out this post on shoes.
Even when you are a student and/or are looking for a job, it is critical to carry a business card because you must be prepared for all encounters. Here are four tips for creating an effective one even when your path may be a bit murky:
- Limit your strives to three in one to two words each. If you are not yet sure which pathway is your primary, consider alphabetically ordering them. For example: “Interior Designer, Journalist, Marketer.” The key here is for you to present yourself in a clear, organized, and concise fashion.
- Include as much contact information as possible. Email is so common these days—and should absolutely be on your card, but nothing replaces verbal conversation, so your number(s) should be on there also. If you do not have an office or postal box, then do not worry about an address.
- Consider including your picture. Particularly if you are really into networking then you probably meet many people; chances are that the person you are handing your card to does also. Make them remember you even more by being able to see you long after your meeting.
- Stay practical. Some people use shiny paper and have a mosaic or other details on the back of their card, but that is costlier and can prevent you from having a clean writing space. So be sure your card is in line with your pocketbook and style.
Ready to make your cards? You can do so for free if you have a program like Microsoft Word or software like Business Card Factory Deluxe (although you still must pay for printing and paper like from Avery). Websites such as Vistaprint and FedEx are also great resources.
The other day I met with Mathieu Thouvenin, a tech entreprenuer who’s accomplishments range from starting GSM Online, one of the first French portals about mobile phones to launching iPhone applications like Voila. He is also the three time recipient of a scholarship to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. Today he is a project manager at Seesmic, a social software company. The Bay Area transplant from France has much insight, so I have cut the interview down to the version below that includes his successes and advice for strivers. Although I urge you to read the full version–which features valuables like his talk about social media, by clicking here.
Either way, enjoy!
You received a scholarship to attend one of Apple’s conferences, the Worldwide Developer Conference, three times—how did you do that?
I don’t know. When I was doing programming I subscribed to the program that Apple is doing, it’s basically a membership to get access to special resources to code for Apple and it’s cheaper because it’s for students and then that year I received an email they were like “oh you can apply, tell us why you are motivated and why we should invite you to go to the conference.” And I just filled out the form and explained why I was motivated and I guess it worked–I got invited the first year and then it was pretty easy to go the next years.
How many applications have you launched for the iPhone?
And can you tell us a little bit about them?
Yeah. The first one is called Voila and it allows you to share your location with your friends online so it seems pretty basic right now because all those apps like Four Square or Twitter allow you to share your location, but a year and a half ago there wasn’t much applications to share your location and that’s why I decided to create that. And it was a great opportunity for me to learn how to code for the iPhone, so that was the first application. And the second one, it’s called Serenade, it [launched] almost a year ago and it allows you to share on Twitter and Facebook the song you are listening to right now on your iPhone, from your iPod. And so it gives you a link to your friends so you can say “hey I’m listening to that song and I really like it” and your friends can click on that link and immediately listen to a preview of the song and buy it if they like it. And we give you the lyrics for the songs too, so you can sing on the bus, if you want.
And did you launch those by yourself or did you have some friends you launched them with?
Yeah I worked with some friends that did the design, the logo, and the website. I was focused more on the code of the application and I worked more with other people who were great designers.
How did you launch GSM? And would you say it was the foundation for all you’ve done?
Kind of. When I first got a computer with internet I started to play and see what was happening and quickly I really wanted to be part of that and create a website myself. And so at the time you could create a website with Microsoft Word and export it as a website and so I started with that and I thought it was limited and I learned how to code webpages and it’s kind of how I started. And so I created that website for mobile phones, like ringtones and stuff because I liked that at the time. I’m still really involved and passionate about everything that is mobile and that’s my job right now, so I guess it helps.
How did you get the job at Seesmic?
I knew the CEO because I did an internship at his previous company when I was in Paris so it was like three years ago and so I knew him and in the meantime he left that company that he founded and created a new company here so when I arrived here for my internship I just talked to him and I pinged him and we stayed in contact. And when I said I wanted a change of job he proposed to me the job.
So what is most challenging about being in your field?
It’s really interesting because lots of things are happening all the time and also in our field at Seesmic we have lots of applications and it’s really interesting because we all go really fast, we adopt ourselves into the market, and to what customers want, and so you don’t know what you’re really going to work on in a few months. You can’t really plan ahead because you have to adapt to that real time so it’s really interesting and really challenging.
What is most rewarding about what you do?
Working in a startup is really cool because since you usually don’t have a lot of people working with you, you have a lot of responsibilities–you can work on pretty much anything you want–and that’s what I like the most because if I tell my boss I want to work on that project and there is benefits from that and it makes sense then I can get that project and work on it and take care of it. So, it’s not like you’re always focused on the same thing compared to I guess if you work in a big company–I have never worked in a big company but I hear that you do pretty much the same job all the time and that’s definitely not the case in the startup.
So what is your typical work day like?
So when I arrive in the office I catch up with the teams that are pretty much all over the world: we have engineers in Europe, in Singapore, all over the U.S., so in the morning everyone usually is up so it’s the end of the day for Europe, beginning of the day here, so we catch up on the work that has been done during the day, answer any questions they have, ask them questions, then I answer my email, have meetings, etcetera. And then in the afternoon everyone, all the engineers, are pretty much offline so I can work on planning, planning the resources, and specs and mockups for new features on products. So the morning is more social with the teams and the afternoon is more thinking.
I’m going to segway and ask: what is the role of money in your definition of success?
The role of money, I don’t know… it’s just, I don’t think it’s that important. I mean, it’s a nice reward but I think it’s not as rewarding as liking your job and working on patience and being with your friends, your family, I think that’s the most rewarding. Money is nice to have, of course, but I think you can be really happy without having that money as a main reward for your job.
So what advice do you have for strivers?
I would say follow your passion, whatever you like, whatever is your passion, just work on it, do stuff around it, create a blog, do videos about it, create a podcast, that kind of stuff–and show the world what is your passion. And ultimately, you will find people who have the same passion or that are interested in your passion and based on that you can maybe do a live-in or get a job or get hired by a company that is working that field–I think it’s really important. And feel free to just do it, whatever you like–just follow your passion, I think that’s really important.