Tom Conboy (BS '17)
Consultant, Climate, Energy Efficiency, and Transportation, ICF
Could you please tell us what you do, and how sustainability intersects with your day to day responsibilities?I spend the majority of my time as a consultant within the Climate, Energy Efficiency, and Transportation line of business at ICF executing partnerships and growth strategy for Clean Air NY. Clean Air NY is a transportation focused air quality awareness program sponsored by the New York State Department of Transportation. New York City’s latest greenhouse gas inventory shows that around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by private and commercial vehicles.
In short, behavior change. A majority of New York City residents enjoy a thoroughly developed mass transit system, though the car remains the primary mode of transit in the state by far. Clean Air NY encourages New Yorkers to be mindful of how daily commutes impact statewide air quality, and to take steps to drive less, share a ride, use mass transit, or bike to lower vehicle miles traveled and related greenhouse gases.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities that your sector faces with respect to sustainability?
It can be difficult to evaluate and communicate the impact of something as simple as a daily commute, so I find myself working around sustainability in the most pragmatic sense – by trying to provide education and incentive- based avenues to understand our collective impact on air quality – all while balancing the rational, economic needs of getting to work or school. This sort of needs-adapted approach to sustainability is becoming increasingly important to accelerate adoption of sustainable practices in the average consumer’s life.
I will speak to my undergraduate experience in saying that the flexibility to take on additional coursework is one of your most valuable assets. I began to explore urban sustainability focused coursework at NYU Tandon and NYU Berlin in my sophomore year (prior to the foundation of the Center), and it opened up doors cognitively and physically to pursue both a Minor and applicable internship work in different sustainability-focused business arenas. Utilize the resources of the Center for Sustainable Business as an asset to help ‘dip your feet’ in the profession, look to the greater NYU community for enrichment as Stern so graciously encourages, and explore coursework within Stern that helps build bridges between sustainability and your business education.
What advice do you have for Stern students interested in embarking on careers related to sustainability?
New York City provides an indispensable opportunity to intern and work while pursing studies, especially in a profession dependent on impact and results. I found that having the opportunity to dabble in work such as impact investing and non-profit work helped me explore my interests and feel out the right way to position myself upon graduation. I like to visualize the sustainability profession as a small ‘slice’ of a large pie present in nearly every industry, and so I think it’s important to figure out which of the many ‘slices’ you believe you can translate your skills into the greatest impact.
How do you recommend students use their time at Stern to be better prepared for a career in sustainability? Are there are any books, courses, podcasts, or other resources that you recommend one to read to understand the various themes and career options in sustainability?
My proudest career accomplishment to date is developing a partnership between Clean Air NY and a top 5 largest private employer in New York State. We’ve connected thousands of employees with alternative commute and air quality resources, which is helping contribute to a reduction in single-occupancy trips on some of the most congested roads in the State.
What is your proudest career accomplishment?
Be proud of your choice to follow a career in sustainability at Stern. You’ll be surprised to find that your sustainability-focused studies provide perspective and insight into your required Stern coursework. Beneath the surface, I was heartened to find a large community of undergraduate students working towards a variety of passions, from e-commerce to luxury marketing to the business of dance!
Are there any final comments or anything else you would like to share?
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