From Professional Network to Life-long Friends

As part of our Member Appreciation Week celebration, we asked Ana Fernandez to tell us what NAEM means to her:

Ana Fernandez

I began my journey with NAEM 10 years ago when I was an environmental manager looking for courses to  learn more about the topics that were relevant at the time: water, waste, management, etc. Sound familiar?   I attended several of the courses offered by NAEM and after about a year of running into the same folks from the Washington, D.C. office I was asked to start the Atlanta Chapter.

Not long after that happened, I was offered a great opportunity to become an environmental director at another company.   I continued my participation in, and commitment to, NAEM so much so that I mentioned them during my interview and the importance of my new company participating in the organization as a corporate member.  So why all the devotion to this organization?

NAEM was the first professional organization that introduced me to peers in my field of work.  The majority of us  in the environment, health and safety (EHS) field do not focus on the core competency of the organizations where we work.  That’s not to say we don’t contribute to the safety of our associates or the strategy of the firm.  What it means is that we are outsiders that work very hard to fit in and contribute to the success of our companies.  When the chance comes along to mingle and tell war stories with people that understand what you do and appreciate it at face value…well, who wouldn’t want to be in that club?

The people I’ve met at NAEM are more than just professional colleagues.  The annual Forum is like a family reunion where you see what seem like brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles…and without fail,  patriarchs and matriarchs that are the cornerstones of the organization.

NAEM didn’t  just  improve my knowledge as an EHS professional and my proficiency  as a manager, it enriched my life, too.


About Ana Fernandez

Ana Fernandez is the Corporate Director of Environmental Programs for U.S. Foods. Before joining the company, she worked for Coca-Cola Enterprises in the Corporate Environmental Affairs Department, where she brokered the Charter Partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Way Transport Program. She is the president of NAEM’s local networking group in Atlanta and a member of Georgia State University’s advisory board for ethics and social responsibility.

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