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Nanotechnology – The Next Revolution

Careers in Science From the Field

Joshua Feldmark is the Executive Director at The Center for Environmental Citizenship. Previously, he worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, working with local leaders to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous input into the Chesapeake Bay Tributaries. Mr. Feldmark then moved to the nonprofit world and quickly came to The Center for Environmental Citizenship, where he has been for almost four years, first as Training Director, then the Program Director and now as the Executive Director.

Mr. Feldmark attended Rutgers University where he became active in the Sierra Student Coalition. He graduated in 1997 with a degree in Human Ecology.

What is your profession?

I am the Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Citizenship (CEC). I also serve as a representative on my City Council, which is a volunteer position up for reelection every year. I am currently serving in my third year.

What are the responsibilities of your position?

As Executive Director I am in charge of the organization. I supervise the three directors (Operations, Program, and Technology), help set the vision for the organization, and manage our Board of Directors. I am the primary spokesperson for the organization, and—most importantly—I am the primary fundraiser.

On the City Council, clearly my primary responsibility is to represent the people who elected me. I am also there, I believe, to be a young and fresh voice in an old stodgy and out-dated system of governance.

Can you describe a typical week in your position?

I am not sure there really is a typical week. On the days I have city council meetings, I get in around 7:00a.m. and leave by 5:00p.m.; on days I do not, I get in around 10:30a.m. and leave by 7:30p.m. In the mornings, I tend to spend most of my time writing grants, looking over my staff's work for approval and other written things. In the afternoon, I essentially do nothing but have meetings. I am on the phone for an average of three hours a day. I am calling funders and potential funders, organizational partners and, of course, my staff and Board. I also travel quite a bit. For an average of about one week a month, I am meeting with funders and partners in places such as New York, Boston, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle. The travel is not anywhere near as exciting as it sounds.

What are the most important personal satisfactions connected with your occupation? Dissatisfactions?

This is my first fundraising position; I came from training and organizing where I thought fundraising was a necessary but obnoxious evil. I now feel a great deal of satisfaction from fundraising. While obviously securing a large grant is very satisfying, my biggest satisfaction comes from securing individual donations, even ones that amount to only $50 or $100. The day I got a $25 check for CEC from one of my city council colleagues, whom I clash with regularly, was a powerful moment for me. I send all of my colleagues fundraising letters every year, with some minor support from my allies, but this was the first time I got money from an adversary. In her note attached to the check, she said that while clearly we disagree a lot on the Council, she was compelled by the work that I do here at CEC and wanted to show her support for that. Getting individuals excited about what clearly excites me—excited enough to give us money—is very satisfying.

What part of this job do you find most challenging?

I think it is all challenging, as well as primarily figuring out how to balance everything.

What is the greatest benefit of working in this field?

Specifically, because I run a small to medium sized nonprofit (our budget is around $1 million) I think that we have the ability to be dynamic and really play to individuals' strengths and help them grow out of their weaknesses. Personal development is a huge part of this, and if you are with the right organization, you can literally see yourself getting stronger and better as a person.

What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?

There really is no right answer to that question. If you specifically mean being an executive director of an organization, there are clearly a thousand skills necessary. You need to know basic accounting, fundraising, staff management, and probably most importantly, you need to be a visionary who is able to implement your visions successfully.

What kind of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage someone to gain if he or she is interested in pursuing a career in this field?

Again, I am not positive what is meant by field, since the environmental non-profit field is too vast to really answer that. I would say that student activism is a great prep tool. I do not necessarily mean hanging out by the dining hall getting postcards signed. Serving in the leadership of a student group though, will give you some real life leadership opportunity. You will have to create a vision for a group and figure out how to get others excited about that vision and then together try and implement it. If one wants to lead a nonprofit, that's a pretty painless place to figure some things out.

What type of educational background is required?

An advanced degree from the Sorbonne is highly recommended.

What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions in your field?

Again, they vary as widely as the nonprofit sector. Instead of actually answering this question, I will instead make one recommendation—do not wait around for the "perfect" opportunity. Instead, find the not quite perfect opportunity and turn it into something.

What are the salary ranges for various levels in the field?

I honestly have no idea.

Is there a salary ceiling?

I am pretty new to this so I guess I will find out, but so far, at 28 years old, I am doing just fine. Could I be making more in some other profession – probably – but I can only say to people that I feel confident that my wife and I have made no sacrifices in our lifestyle to work in this arena.

What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?

I will reiterate what I said above, do not sit around waiting for the perfect opportunity— take something that gives you even a little opportunity and make something of your opportunity.

Submitted by: Matt Mosgin, 2003 Summer Intern