Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Alumni Blogger: My Adventure In The Green Industry

What experiences led you to this position? 

Everything from my senior year of college onwards has led me to the position I am in today. During my senior year at Hofstra, I spent lots of time at the Career Center which really prepared me for scoring interviews and then interviewing well. Right out of school, I worked in the audit department at KPMG for a little over two years. Having a background in audit really provides a great foundation for understanding any type of business. I then worked in private accounting where I was able to gain experience in business management. After my client service work, I spent some time working in internal accounting and then began working as the Financial Controller of DuJour magazine. This was an incredible experience as it was a small company and it allowed me to utilize all of my skills while also learning how to manage a business. Finally, wanting something a little different and closer to home, I came across this role at Gotham Greens. Every single one of my experiences mentioned above has really helped me to prepare for the role I’m in today. If you are an accounting major, I’m sure you’ve heard that “accounting is the language of business.” I’ve learned, it’s so true.

What drew you to working in a sustainable company? 
I’ve always been really healthy and environmentally conscious. I was lucky enough to find the Gotham Greens job posting on Linkedin and even more ecstatic when I was called in for an interview. I had been following Gotham Greens for a while and was a big fan of their products and environmental stewardship. Gotham Greens is a Brooklyn based urban agriculture company founded in 2009 with the mission of growing premium quality, local and pesticide-free produce in cities. They’ve quickly become a worldwide pioneer in the growing urban agriculture industry and are one of New York State’s leading greenhouse growers. Not only does Gotham Greens provide a local and delicious year-round product but they’re also considering the environment while doing so. For example, Gotham Greens’ sustainable farming practices utilize 1/10th the amount of water as traditional soil based agriculture with 20x the yield. Another surprising fact is that even though their greenhouses are located in cities, they still have to combat agricultural pests. Instead of using harmful chemicals and pesticides, Gotham Greens introduces beneficial insects into their greenhouses, creating their own mini ecosystem where “good bugs are battling bad bugs.”   

What particular skills or talents are most essential to be effective in your job? 
Aside from having the accounting degree, it’s really important to be on top of things. I always try to think a step ahead. For example, if I have a deliverable or if I know that someone might request something, I try and be proactive to get everything done before its needed. This prevents last minute “fire drills” and allows people to trust that you are responsible and accountable. Another important skill is resourcefulness. If you can be resourceful at a job, it saves you and the company time and money. I always like to make sure that I am doing things in the most efficient ways.

How well did your college experience prepare you for this job? 
Hofstra has a great career center so I highly recommend utilizing its services to prepare for getting interviews and interviewing. The career center also has a great network. When I was interviewing for jobs, I was put in touch with Hofstra alumni at the jobs I was applying for. It was really helpful. I also felt that I had a great education and my professors were always willing to take the time to help. I also recommend going to your professor’s office hours. It shows a lot when a student takes that initiative and it’s also helpful to you.

Which reading materials or professional associations would you recommend to someone looking to enter your field? 
I recommend reading the newsletter from www.hortidaily.com for your most up to date news on greenhouses and sustainability. I receive their daily newsletter and it keeps me tuned in to what’s going on in the agriculture world. In terms of finance, I like reading the finance section of yahoo. Another perk of working in the sustainable agriculture industry is that reading food blogs can be considered “research.” One of my favorite food blogs is www.tastingtable.com.

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter your career field? 

For someone who would like to work in the finance world in a sustainable company, I recommend having a strong business foundation. Once you develop the business and accounting skills, you can really work at any company. If your ultimate goal is to work in a sustainable business in finance, it may help you to have the audit or public accounting experience beforehand. It’s also really important to network and utilize all opportunities you are given. Go to career fairs, network with your classmates, seek help from the career center, and most of all, be open to new things. Good luck!

Allie Schiffmiller, Gotham Greens

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