Memo to the Millennials

Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff

This is a big, fat, bald-faced, suck-up appeal to NAEM members under age of 30, aka, the Millennial Generation.  You old farts, a.k.a, Boomers, stop reading, put down your bifocals, and go watch M*A*S*H reruns.

My millennial generation-aged son likes to remind me that I am from the Bronze Age.  Yes, I was alive when Kennedy was President, and can remember when telephones had dials and the four local TV channels went off the air at midnight.  But hear me out — because NAEM wants to hear from you.

The EHS profession emerged as the Boomers began entering the work force.  So for the past 30 years, Boomers have dominated the profession to an even greater extent than they’ve dominated every other aspect of our society.  All this is about to dramatically change.  The Boomers will be retiring in large numbers over the next decade and your generation will need to fill the void and take on EHS challenges more complex, more global, and more long-term in nature than ever before.

I’ve visited college towns like Ann Arbor, Mich. and given presentations on EHS management at the University of Denver and University of Colorado.  I’ve concluded that your generation brings a unique set of skills, healthy perceptions and realistic expectations to these issues.  I think my son and his friends are representative.

My son works for Apple Computer in Denver’s Apple Store.  He’s passionate about his work and believes in the product, but he’s not a workaholic like I tend to be.  He understands that our current way of living isn’t sustainable, but he’s not a zealot about the environment like many Boomers were when they were his age.

He and his friends want to live comfortably, but they are not motivated by materialism.  The 1980’s bumper sticker “He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins” makes no sense to them.  I’ve observed that he and his friends seek balance in their lives and tend to value relationships above stuff.  These are encouraging signs.  After all, achieving balance in one’s own life is the first, important step to achieving balance in the world around us.

NAEM understands this and is ready to change. Over the coming months, we will begin making changes to the NAEM Website, the Green Tie blog and our event offerings to better connect to the needs and values of the future leaders in our profession.

But we need your help to make our efforts a success. So, if you are younger than the band members of Green Day and Coldplay, tell us: What do you like about the EHS profession? How can NAEM help you advance in your career? What kind of tools would you like to see us use to help you do a better job?

And to you Boomers, if you’re not already into your afternoon nap, tell us: What skills do you think our younger members should develop to be successful EHS managers?


About Stephen Evanoff

Stephen Evanoff is Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety for Danaher Corp. and President of NAEM’s Board of Directors. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveEvanoff.

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  1. Bruce Klafter

    June 10, 2010

    I’ve been wondering about how big the profession is these days since so much manufacturing has moved offshore. How many students are even studying EHS subjects and are contemplating entering the profession? Since my daughter is about to enter college, I sometimes find myself looking at the college catalogs she’s brought home. The environmental engineering curricula do not seem closely related to industrial enterprises. The closest fit these days seems to be in the MBA world where sustainability is on everyone’s minds (or so it seems). I will also be looking forward to some input from Gen Y – I hope they’re reading Green Tie!

  2. Fred Rubel

    June 11, 2010

    Stephen – As a “Boomer” cohort, I found it difficult to follow your suggestion that I skip your post. At last, someone finally asking to hear “my elder wisdom!”

    Besides strong math and science skills, what do we need in our new EHS professionals?

    ▸ A Commitment to Continue Learning and Continuous Improvement – For some time now, a bachelors degree alone has not been sufficient for most to excel in the sciences. An advanced degree in a technical specialty, or in business management, is desirable. They need an ongoing commitment to learning through reading professional journals, through attending and participating in professional seminars, and by taking courses that teach needed skills.

    ▸ Flexibility – Flexibility in performing more than one job has value. Individuals who show a willingness to take on additional functions, including those outside the scope of their job, tend to be more valuable, and are more likely to succeed.

    ▸ International Skills – Other language skills and ability to successfully work with other cultures.

    ▸ Money Management Skills – In addition to managing their own money, we need people who understand how money is managed in the business world. They need to understand that business does not, in most cases, have a bottomless pocket. They need to appreciate the basics of how businesses makes decisions about how money is spent.

    ▸ Project Management – We need professionals who know how to lead a team of people. We need them to have project management skills that include: budgeting, scheduling, knowing how to keep things moving and on time, time management, managing multiple projects, problem avoidance, and problem solving.

    ▸ Regulatory/Safety Skills – A basic ethic and appreciation for safety in the workplace is important. We need them to understand the basic environmental and worker safety regulatory context, and have them adopt a mind set that makes their actions compatible with work places that may include serious hazards.

    ▸ Selling Skills – Aside from those who we need to be in marketing and sales, we need our technical people to be skilled in selling ideas, especially to management, their colleagues, and even to customers.

    ▸ Speaking Skills – To effectively convey ideas and share information, they need to speak effectively to others. I agree with those who have complained that the ability to speak well and impressively, too often is sorely lacking.

    ▸ Writing Skills – Likewise, conveying ideas and information in writing needs to be effective. Again the ability to do this is missing.

    ▸ Research Skills – The ability to think analytically, acquire and evaluate data, is critical to many tasks. We need people to have strengths in doing this.

    ▸ Presentation Skills – Conveying ideas and sharing information in formal settings needs to be effective.

    Are any of you “young folk” listening to any of this?

    • William D'Alessandro

      June 11, 2010

      “Are any of you “young folk” listening to any of this?”

      Better to send them a text message.

      • Stephen Evanoff

        June 11, 2010


        This is a fantastic summary. Thank you very much. I hope our younger members read it and heed it.


        You’re probably right. We need a text version of The Green Tie. My son tells me that Twitter is not hip with his crowd.

    • Stephen Evanoff

      June 11, 2010


      ..and I’m glad you didn’t take my facetious advice and skip the post.

      C’mon you Boomers, reach out to a Millennial! You might even sponsor one to The Forum in October in Indy.

  3. Judi Fox

    June 11, 2010

    Stephen and Fred, I really appreciate your comments and lists. I have been passionately engaged in the Environmental profession for over 11 years. I am 34 years old, with my undergrad degree in Chemical Engineering and my Masters in Environmental Management.

    I think the list that Fred wrote above is a great summary, but I also wanted to comment that it takes all kinds of people to fill the many different types of roles that we need in the Environmental Field. I also think the leaders need to either have all these skills that you list or be skilled at building a team of people who collectively have all of these skills together.

    I have seen great EHS leaders, who were amazing at building a team of EHS professionals that collectively had all of these skills that you mentioned above.

    I also wanted to mention to Bruce that when I looked at what type of education / degree to pursue so that I could enter into the Environmental field I decided on Chemical Engineering, because I wanted to understand how manufacturing of chemicals / industrial processes worked and I thought it would help in the process of controlling Environmental issues and cleaning pollution out of our air, water, and land. I then pursued my Masters in Environmental Management since you need to have MBA skills to communicate environmental issues and solve problems in the business world.

    I also would recommend Toastmasters. I just recently joined a local group and that organization is focused on helping individuals improve their speaking, presentation, and leadership skills.

    I hope my comments helped and I also just wanted you to know that there are people listening. 🙂

    • Stephen Evanoff

      June 11, 2010


      Thanks for your feedback. I like your thought process on choice of academic major and your skill-broadening ideas. I also found your suggestion about diverse sklll sets among leaders. One of the marks of the GenX and Millennials is a core belief in the importance of diversity of ideas and skills in project teams.

      Hope to see you in Indy.

  4. Fred Rubel

    June 11, 2010

    William – Yes, you are correct (and a funny thought)!

    Stephen – I too am glad that I chose not to “opt out” of the discussion.

    Judi, I agree with you about creating groups that exhibit the listed strengths. Individually, we all may have some of these strengths, and it is the rare individual that has them all. But for those who wonder what it takes to be outstanding, I think the list can provide some interesting pointers for a self-evaluation, and maybe some encouragement for future development. I also agree with your assessment of Toastmasters.

  5. Alex Pollock

    June 15, 2010

    Thanks for a wonderful exchange. Very thought provoking indeed. My perspectives on the subject of Stephen’s blog were influenced by two books that you may find valuable:
    -“Geeks & Geezers” by Warren Bennis & Robert Thomas
    -“The War for Talent” by Ed Michaels et al.

  6. Sacha Boon

    June 18, 2010

    To William D’Alessandro’s comment-

    Yep, the “young folk” are listening!

  7. Kristin Meek

    June 22, 2010

    I appreciate this discussion. I often find the “young folk” are listening but no one is talking to them. My request to the senior EHS professionals is to seek out younger professionals. Share your insights. It is both motivating and inspiring to have a strong mentor in your career.

    NAEM events, as with many professional organizations, are filled with people catching up on old times within their small circles. When you are at NAEM or other organization meetings, do you mingle or just talk to your longstanding group of cohorts?

  8. Fred Rubel

    June 22, 2010


    I would like to turn the tables. At the start of my career, I kept an eye out for successful individuals, observed how they operated (skills, behaviors), and figured out what it was that I should do to be successful, and even what I needed to do to work with them. I challenge the “young folk” who are out there to seek out role models and mentors, and then take action to engage them wherever appropriate. Invite them to speak to your groups. Ask them to be available for one-on-one at professional gatherings including those at the college, pre-employment. Ask, and in all likelihood we will be there for you. Just ask.

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