From inventing and implementing next-gen technology, to raising the next generation of hell raisers, Mom’s deserve some serious kudos for Mother’s Day 2017. And we know one in particular who’s not only running circles around the tech scene, but also the playground – meet Sam Podgorny, resident hauler-tech master and a mother you don’t want to mess with.
All kidding aside (sorry, last pun we promise), Sam is the stellar Product Manager of the Rubicon Hauler App. She takes care of the app’s design and functionality, as well as leads our launch specialist team through every seamless tech launch with our partner haulers. Sam’s other day job is being a rockin’ wife and mother of two, soon to be three, awesome kids. Yea, she’s 6 months pregnant and still killin’ it. She enjoys fried pickles, gardening, and building Star Wars Lego sets with her 7-year-old.
Q: You’ve been working in the Waste Industry for several years, what exactly drew you to the garbage life?
A: Well, when you’re in your early 20’s and trying to figure out a career, you basically take any opportunity that’s handed to you. At the time, my boyfriend who is now my husband, was working for a construction company that ordered a lot of dumpsters. I was in between jobs and this particular trash company was hiring, so I decided to give it a shot and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve now worked for three different waste and recycling companies holding positions in Customer Advocacy, Finance, Data Integrity and now IT. I always tell people, ‘I’ve basically done everything except sling the trash and drive the truck.’
Q: Anything in particular that’s kept the love affair alive between you and waste?
A: It’s funny, once you get into this industry it does have a hold on you. Someone once told me that waste is a “big industry, small fraternity” and it’s very true, everyone knows each other. Whether I’m at a conference or installing Rubicon tech in trucks, I get to see old friends or meet new people that have connections to my waste industry friends. It’s always a mini reunion. I also really respect the unsaid code of “reliability” in the industry. You have to do what you say you are going to. People will remember if you don’t, and your reputation will be completely tarnished. Being honest and holding myself accountable has helped me excel in my career, and I truly enjoy working with people that do the same.
Q: Since working at Rubicon, you’ve entered the tech side of the waste industry. This is a big change, any reason for the move?
A: My general philosophy 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 become and the more crucial you are to the organization. I like being able to take everything I’ve learned from previous positions and apply it to new roles. It helps your colleagues learn and ultimately makes the company a better business. Also, the tech I get to work on at Rubicon allows trash companies to run smarter and more efficiently. After being in the industry for so long, I have seen the work and the hours these people put in, so being able to make their lives even a little easier keeps me doing what I do.
Q: The waste and tech industry are widely known for being mostly dudes. Has this been an obstacle in your career?
A: Of course in some ways, but you will always have a person that creates obstacles for you no matter the industry. The way I try to get around it is 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 also a particular brand of sass I bring to conversations that lets others realize they can’t overlook me. I’ve found it’s very easy to gain others’ respect when you don’t only walk the walk, but also talk the talk.
Q: You have a stellar career and two awesome kids, with a 3rd en route. Do you have any advice for young mothers working to figure out the work/life balance, while also working to grow in their careers?
A: I love my job, and I’m really lucky to be able to say that. But I don’t live to work, I work to live. And I think that is the biggest piece for people to grasp – you have to find a balance that works for your life and your goals. I think a lot of it is a mental game. Most people don’t realize that they’re putting much more pressure on themselves than others are. Honesty is also key. You have to be honest with yourself, as well as your bosses and colleagues. Know your goals and priorities and make the people you work with aware of them. My boss knows that I will work crazy hours when necessary, but that I am also going to leave to celebrate “Muffins with Mom” with my daughter’s kindergarten class.
Q: Alright, you worked in the waste industry for almost 10 years – you’ve got to have some amazing stories. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in your career?
Haha, hold on let me choose an appropriate one … So one time at my previous company, the division supervisor got a call that there was an emergency down at the fast food fried chicken warehouse and that he needed to come ASAP. So, he and I drove down there and saw a man standing outside of the chicken place covered head to toe in feathers. Apparently, this homeless man had fallen asleep in the dumpster and had feathers poured all over him when they emptied the container. It looked like there was a live, giant chicken standing outside. It was pretty great. It’s been a pretty cool part of the job getting to ride around with these haulers and hear all the incredible stories they have