Ecotone Renewables, Pittsburgh, PA
My undergraduate journey, having taken two, non-consecutive gap years, is an unconventional one. Thus, this summer marked the first time in six years that I joined a small team of professionals as a summer intern. And so, I spent the past roughly three months working for Ecotone Renewables, a small, early-stage startup that focuses on issues of environmental sustainability, primarily that of food waste and accessible renewable energy. They form partnerships with businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets, as well as with communities through farms, local producers, greenhouses and schools, in order to build local sustainable food and agriculture systems.
My responsibilities revolved around helping Ecotone grow in the Berkshire region and the greater Boston area. I conducted my own research on any entities using fertilizers in the greater Williamstown area such as farms, orchards, and greenhouses. I was seeking possible partners for the distribution of Ecotone’s organic liquid fertilizer but more importantly for the installation of new anaerobic digester units that could help locals develop more sustainable food practices, gain access to waste composting more affordably and build local networks of agricultural trade. Being based in Boston, however, I could only communicate with my contacts in the Berkshires and Western/Central Massachusetts through email and phone. My work in Boston was very similar, though I conducted most of my work there in person, visiting the various organic businesses I interacted with. Another difference was the type of contacts I had in the city, consisting not of farms and greenhouses but organic and local plant and flower shops, as well as garden stores.
In the end, I think the most important and unique aspect of this internship was being able to interact with the market with immediacy, learning about market processes and business strategies firsthand at the same time as doing my work. This simultaneity was at first a challenge, having to overcome obstacles in almost real time, but it quickly became just a matter of picking up a different pace and stepping up with more confidence in my interactions with various businesses and individuals. Having autonomy in researching market dynamics has been a very rewarding experience in terms of professional development, and it is now motivating me to seek a career with a similar combination of autonomous work and shared projects. Working through a primarily market approach has also proven more interesting than I expected, which is another factor I will consider when looking for jobs. Thanks to Ecotone, I am now more inclined to follow an early career path in entrepreneurship and market/business strategy.
This summer has been the most impactful in recent memory, both professionally and personally, and I cannot be thankful enough to everyone at the ’68 Center and all of the alums working so hard to provide students with these incredible opportunities!