“The story of women’s struggle for equality,” wrote lecturer, political activist, and world-renowned feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, “belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
The first official International Women’s Day took place in 1911, and it was supported by over one million people. The theme of International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter, with the idea being that when you better the balance, you better the world—an idea in which we passionately believe at Rubicon.
Recently we announced that Rubicon’s Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Nate Morris, is joining the Action for Diversity & Inclusion Council, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace in the world.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, which takes place this year on March 8, we sat down with Sam Podgorny, Director of Technical Business Development at Rubicon and an animated evangelist of the waste and recycling industry for almost twelve years. We talked tech, work life balance, and the advantages she sees in having more female perspectives in this industry.
You’ve been working in the waste and recycling industry for almost twelve years now. What is the draw of this industry for you, and what would you say to anyone, particularly young women, who are thinking about getting their start in waste and recycling today?
I was once told that waste is a “big industry, small fraternity.” I’ve found this to be true; everyone knows each other. Whether I’m at a conference or installing Rubicon technology in trucks, there’s a good chance I will bump into old friends or meet people who work or are friends with some of my connections in the waste and recycling industry. It’s always a mini reunion!
To any young person, woman or man, who wants to get started in waste and recycling, I would first say that it is critical that you respect the unsaid code of “reliability” in the industry. Simply put—you have to do what you say you are going to do. If you don’t, people will remember, and your reputation will suffer. Personally, being honest and always holding myself accountable has helped me excel in my career, and I love nothing more than working with people that do the same.
You’ve worked your way up from Customer Advocate Manager for restaurants to Director of Technical Development at one of the most innovative technology companies today. How have you enjoyed working in a more technical role?
Honestly, my philosophy in this area is that it’s not a corporate ladder, but a jungle gym. The more you can swing around and learn from different departments and roles, the more well-rounded you’ll become and the more crucial you will be to the organization.
I always encourage people to take everything they learned in their previous positions and apply it to their new role. This not only helps you do the work you’ve set out to do, but it helps your colleagues learn alongside you and ultimately it makes the company a better business. The tech I get to work on at Rubicon allows companies to run smarter and more efficiently. Having been in this industry for as long as I have, I have seen the work and the hours people put in. Being able to make their lives even a little easier keeps me doing what I do.
What obstacles have you had to overcome over the course of your career?
You will always have people that create obstacles for you, no matter the industry. To get around this I always make a point to feel out my audience and speak their language. There is a certain language you use in the waste industry that lets people know you know what’s up. There’s arguably also a particular brand of sass I bring to conversations that lets others realize that they shouldn’t overlook me. I’ve found it’s easy to gain others’ respect when you don’t only walk the walk, you also talk the talk.
What I’ll also say is that as time goes on more and more female-owned waste and recycling companies are popping up both across the country, and around the world. Here at Rubicon Global we work with dozens of women-owned waste and recycling companies and independent haulers, a fact that excites me personally because I know what a fulfilling and positive place this industry can be.
Needless to say, I think having more female perspectives in the industry is hugely powerful. Last year we brought on Kim Rumph as Rubicon’s President (she was formerly on our board for more than three years), making her the highest-ranking female executive of a major waste and recycling company, ever. This commitment to diversity and equality in all of its forms makes me proud to work at Rubicon.
When talking about our technology, whether it be to a municipality or a hauler partner, I believe that my passion for what we are creating is contagious. I always strive to make our demonstrations memorable though our amazing features and the passion of the team behind creating them.
On the theme of #BalanceforBetter, work-life balance is something that both women and men alike have to figure out for themselves in order to get their best work done. How do you walk this tightrope on a daily basis?
It’s essential that you find a balance that works for your life and your goals. It’s mostly a mental game—most people don’t realize that they’re putting much more pressure on themselves than their peers. Honesty is also key. You have to be honest with yourself, as well as your bosses and colleagues.
Make a point to know your goals and priorities and make the people you work with aware of them too. My schedule involves some crazy hours but also gives me the flexibility to make sure I am not missing out on school plays, chorus concerts, or other milestones that are constantly going on in the lives of my three children.