FTG 0045 – Engineering Practice, Leadership, Impact, and Advocacy with Engineer and Sustainability Policy Advocate Quinta Warren ’05

Episode 10 April 25, 2023 00:57:41
FTG 0045 – Engineering Practice, Leadership, Impact, and Advocacy with Engineer and Sustainability Policy Advocate Quinta Warren ’05
Following the Gong, a Podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State
FTG 0045 – Engineering Practice, Leadership, Impact, and Advocacy with Engineer and Sustainability Policy Advocate Quinta Warren ’05

Apr 25 2023 | 00:57:41


Hosted By

Sean Goheen

Show Notes

*Editor’s Note – There was a technical issue with the microphone quality for the first half of the episode. Please bear with us for a great conversation!



Dr. Quinta Warren ’05 Engineering is the Associate Director of Sustainability Policy at Consumer Reports (CR), where she leads the legislative, regulatory, and corporate engagement strategies for sustainability on behalf of consumers. Quinta joins the show after both testifying before Congress and participating in the White House Summit on Electrification to discuss her journey. Quinta graduated with a PhD in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2009, and a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering with Honors from Penn State’s College of Engineering in 2005. She is a 2019-2020 recipient of the Schreyer Honors College Outstanding Scholar Alumni Award. Quinta started at Penn State Greater Allegheny and entered the Honors College so she could pursue research. She shares her experiences and advice for students on making tough choices, enjoying the ride, and careers in both oil & gas and in policy, on top of insight on additional education including PhDs, PMP, and PE certifications. This episode will be great for any Scholar, and particularly for those who are international students, started at a campus other than UP, and are interested in careers in STEM or policy. Her full bio and a detailed breakdown of topics discussed are available in the show notes below.


Guest Bio:


Dr. Quinta Warren ’05 Eng is the Associate Director of Sustainability Policy at Consumer Reports (CR), where she leads the legislative, regulatory, and corporate engagement strategies for sustainability on behalf of consumers. She recently testified before Congress about the consumer benefits of the historic clean energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. She also recently participated in the White House Summit on Electrification, providing the consumer perspective on transportation electrification. Previously, Dr. Warren worked on carbon capture with ConocoPhillips, power generation with the Department of Energy, and international development with the Millennium Challenge Corporation and her own firm, Energy Research Consulting. Dr. Warren graduated with a PhD in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2009, and a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering with Honors from Penn State’s College of Engineering in 2005. She is a 2019-2020 recipient of the Schreyer Honors College Outstanding Scholar Alumni Award.


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Episode Transcript

Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01 Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:00:12 Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:00:55 Dr. Quinta Warren. Class of 2005 is the Associate Director of Sustainability policy, a consumer reports where she leads the legislative, regulatory and corporate engagement strategies for sustainability on behalf of consumers. Quinta joins the show after both testifying before Congress and participating in the White House Summit on electrification to discuss her journey. Quinta graduated with a PhD in Chemical and biomolecular engineering from Georgia Tech in 2009 after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering with honors from Penn State's College of Engineering in 2005. She's a 2019 2020 recipient of the Schreyer Honors College outstanding installer alumni Award. Quinta started a Penn State Greater Allegheny and entered the Honors college so she could pursue research. She shares her experiences and advice for students on making tough choices, enjoying the ride in careers in both oil and gas and in policy. On top of insight on additional education, including PhDs, PMPs, and PE certifications. This episode will be great for any installer and particularly for those who are international students who started at a campus other than up inner interested in careers in STEM or policy. Her full bio and a detailed breakdown of topics discussed are available in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's dive into the conversation following the gong. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:02:11 Joining me here today on following the gong is 20 19 20 20. Outstanding Scholar Alumni Quinta Warren Quinta, thank you so much for joining us here today. Quinta Warren 00:02:20 It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Sean. Sean 00:02:24 Absolutely. Uh, you have a great story and a lot of great advice, so I just wanna dive right into it. And as always, Quinta, I start by asking how you first came to Penn State and eventually worked your way into the Honors College? Quinta 00:02:36 Uh, it's such a funny story because I picked five colleges. So I was living in, in Zambia at the time and my dad had this book of colleges in the US and he said, so pick some <laugh> and don't apply to them. And Penn State was one of the ones that I applied to. Um, so I got accepted to all of them, including my dad's alma mater, which was, was UMAS at Amherst. And then part of the reason we picked Penn State is the final one. We had a family friend living near Penn State McKeesport. So he lived, um, in McKeesport and it just seemed like, you know, I mean my dad knew I was gonna be far away from him and he wanted me to be close to someone who could look in on me and uh, kind of help ease the transition, um, and minimize, I guess the culture shock <laugh>. So that's how I ended up at Penn State. Sean 00:03:25 So you started at McKeesport, which is now Greater Allegheny. For those of you who are like, I don't know what <LAUGH> is, I remember that in on the website, on the brochure. So that's now greater Allegheny. Uh, for those of you who may not know, tell me about your transition from that campus up to University Park. Quinta 00:03:39 So I studied chemical engineering and I knew that I wouldn't be able to stay at Penn State McKeesport the entire time. Cause I think back then it was just, it, I think it was starting to, you could stay there for four years for that, but, uh, really nothing else. I think normally I probably should have transitioned in my fourth semester. Um, that didn't happen. I, I transitioned in my fifth semester, so the first semester of my junior year. Um, and that's the first time I went to the main campus. So actually that put me behind. I was behind <laugh> right away, <laugh> and that kind of, um, colored the rest of my career cause I was playing catch up the whole time. And thankfully I was an honor student, so I got access to some classes that other chemical engineers didn't have access to, which meant that I didn't quite catch up. But I, I, I certainly had the power of the honors college behind me because I, I could go to professors and say, I, I know I, I don't have the prerequisite for this, but I really need this class. And they would look at the fact that I was an honor student in, in, you know, making the decision to let me take the class along with the prerequisite sometimes along with the prerequisites for those classes. It was quite an, quite an adventure <laugh> getting through. Sean 00:04:48 Well, I think that's a quick takeaway if you're listening is be respectful about it, but don't, don't be afraid to throw that out there, that you're a scholar when you're trying to work with professors. You know, whether you're stating a research or like in Quinta's taste, trying to get into a specific class, like be polite about it, but, you know, throw that out there, you know, that's a, that's a great resource that you have. And you mentioned chemical engineering, so what drew you to major in what I've heard is one of our toughest majors. Quinta 00:05:12 Thankfully, I didn't think I was the toughest when decided to go into it. Um, I just, I loved chemistry and I loved math. I've always, I've always enjoyed math, chemistry, not so much the first time I took chemistry, I, I would say I failed it. I got, I still remember 48%. It's a big deal for me because I never failed anything. And I remember going to the teacher and asking him, I'm like, what happened <laugh>? And he, he looks at me and he's like, you tell me. And so he kind of talked through it and he, he broke it down for me. He said, chemistry is just about patterns and if you study, you will, you'll understand the pattern and then you'll be able to tell what's supposed to happen. And I took that to heart, the very next, you know, term. So this was in high school. Quinta 00:05:55 Um, I, I, I didn't study anything, anything else. I was really bad at studying, but I studied chemistry and I, I was, I think the top five, um, in the finals that year. So just developed a love for chemistry, but also understood that, well, back then my thinking was if I studied chemistry as my major, all I could do with it was teach. And I knew I didn't wanna be a teacher, so I combined it with math and I thought, well then I can do engineering and I can do two subjects that I really enjoy. And, and that's how I made the decision. Obviously I was wrong. Um, there's just so much more that you can do with, um, either math or chemistry on their own. But, um, maybe this is a lesson for us to do more research as we're trying to figure out what we wanna do with our lives. Um, the world just seemed so defined to me back then, but today I'm still, I'm still discovering a lot of different majors. Sean 00:06:43 Yeah, I think Quinta, you make a really good point about, you know, we come into college thinking, oh, there, these are the things I can do with a major. And then you get here and then suddenly you start and you, maybe after you graduate, you figure out there's so many more things that you can do. And we'll get into what you pursued during with your, your Chem e degree. But I wanna ask, you know, you shared in advance, I know you were involved with some different groups on campus, like the African Student Association and some others. So how did you balance being involved in these things with, as you said, you were kind of playing catch up in, in your major, and obviously they were honors classes and writing your thesis. So how did you balance all of Quinta 00:07:18 That? Um, I'll be honest, I didn't balance it very well. At some point I just had to let a lot of those activities go. Um, another thing that I was really struggling with was I needed to gradu well, I felt like I needed to graduate in four years because I was paying out-of-state tuition. I was an international student. So the idea of being here for five years or more just didn't make sense to me. At some point, I just let those activities go. I was very involved my first two years, like I was a line ambassador. I, I did a lot of things, but eventually, um, I would just show up to the occasional event. So the African Students Association, I think they had like a taste of Africa every year. So I sh I might have showed up once or twice. There was the occasional party. I can literally count on one hand the number of parties I went to <laugh> once I got to the main campus. But I was just very, very focused. And um, I don't necessarily think that's a good thing. Like I wish I could go back and do things a little differently. But money was a huge motivator and I know that for me at least, it didn't seem like there was a choice. Well, Sean 00:08:14 Hopefully, you know, you're listening if you can relate to Quinta in any way, you know, being able to find that balance. You only get college once, right? So make sure you Quinta 00:08:22 Exactly, Sean 00:08:23 You enjoy it. Not advocating for you to go out and party, but, you know, maintain that involvement in the club or two that you're in and, and you know, find time for your friends, go out, you know, go to that 2:00 AM meal or whatever, you know, those kind of things. But one of the things you did keep on your docket there, Quinta, was your research experiences. So obviously you did your thesis, but I think you did some other opportunities as well that led into that. Can you talk about how you secured those and what you learned early in those experiences doing research as an undergrad? Quinta 00:08:51 Yeah, you know, I think I was very heavily influenced by my father. So my dad has a PhD in education of all things. And so I was very, as a, as a young child, I was exposed to that whole research thing. So I'd see him, you know, planning and writing reports and, you know, designing surveys and, and things like that. So I, I knew that I was gonna get a PhD. I knew I was gonna do research, so I started doing research back when I was, um, actually at Penn State and Keyport, I worked with my chemistry professor, Dr. Bitner, I think he's retired now. And then when I got to the main campus, um, I definitely wanted to continue that cuz also I saw a path to grad school. Like you kind, it's helpful to have research experience. Um, I, I got some, I think undergraduate research money with, uh, and I was able to work with Dr. Quinta 00:09:37 Sydney, who again was department head at the time. And that was a fascinating experience. I was able to continue that. And that part became my, um, honors thesis. So actually the decision to become an honor student was partly because I knew I would have to do research and it was like a way to get credit for something I knew I was already going to do. But I really did enjoy re the research and, um, I think that experience set me up very well for grad school. I wanna believe that those experiences, <laugh> obviously fed into my, um, application to grad school. And that's part of why I was accepted in the places where I was, Sean 00:10:12 You know, for any chem e majors that are listening. What exactly was your thesis topic? Quinta 00:10:17 My thesis topic was on, so protein filtration to remove viruses. And this application is, I guess usually in food or pharmaceuticals, you are producing proteins for whatever reason, right? They, again, they could be medicines, they could be foods, and you need to make sure that they're clean, right? They, they're not contaminated with anything. Viruses tend to be quite small. Um, so you need to filter these proteins out. So you need to filter the solutions to get the viruses out. And so trying to understand the, um, the different parameters that go into making sure that you end up with a, a clean and pure product, um, is essentially what I was doing. Sean 00:10:54 Well, given that we're recording this, try to, as we're coming out of the pandemic, that seems pretty relevant. <laugh> say, uh, after we've been dealing with a certain virus for the past few years. Glad that you were able to add to that body of knowledge. Now, Quinta, originally I was gonna ask what inspired you to pursue a PhD? But you already answered that because you talked about your kind of your family and that was trying to, you knew you were going to do that. So I'm gonna rephrase my question here for you. So what inspired you to go straight to a PhD as opposed to going out, working and then maybe going back to grad school. So walk us through your thought process there. Quinta 00:11:26 Yeah, again, another funny story because I, the choice was made for me <laugh>, as I said, I was an international student and so, you know, I was an honor student. I had strings. I, I did really well in school. I'm not bragging, it's just <laugh>. Well, I worked really hard. Um, so I wanted to get a lot of interviews. But you know, companies, as soon as they found out that they would need to deal with immigration in order to hire me, oh they would just give up on me. And I was in parallel pursuing grad school. So grad school worked out and getting a job did not. So like I said, the, the decision was made for me. I would've probably liked to have worked in real life before going on to grad school just to have something to compare. Cause I'd already done research and I wanted to see what the real world was like, but didn't get the opportunity. Sean 00:12:15 Well we're gonna talk about what your real world experience is like. <laugh>, just a minute. Cause you have some great, great experience and great different areas to talk about. But I do wanna talk quickly about your PhD experience. So you went to Georgia Tech, so kind of the exact opposite of state college. You went to Atlanta, very, very large city down south. And I wanted to ask kind of what was your experience like being in both in a much different location, but also, you know, grad school in different disciplines is very different. Uh, I was in education and it's very different than what it's like in stem. So if you can talk about what that was like and what you wish you had known going into a STEM PhD program beforehand that you can share for somebody on that path. Quinta 00:12:57 Yeah, Penn State is very different from Georgia Tech, right? In so many ways. <laugh>, sometimes I feel like Penn State was what I needed, um, when I had it. And then Georgia Tech was what I needed for the next phase. Um, so I loved that Georgia Tech was in, you know, as you said, a bigger city and I was no longer in a position where I was taking, you know, 22 credits a semester. So we had a very strict schedule laid out for us. I think my first semester we couldn't do research, we could only take classes, but compared to what I had been doing, there were very few classes. So I felt like I had a lot of free time. So I loved grad school. Um, I really enjoyed it. I had time to enjoy Atlanta as a city. I had time to really build strong relationships with my classmates, get to know them, and then, you know, start talking to different professors and trying to decide who I wanted to work with and what I wanted to do. Quinta 00:13:48 The advice that I would give, um, to STEM students who are looking to pursue graduate research, it's probably applicable to even non-st STEM students. Um, in the end what was important was, what was more important was who I worked for, not what I worked on. I hope that doesn't sound cryptic. I think that applies to a lot of things in life. The science, I mean, hopefully you're doing something new and you're discovering things and that might sound hard. Uh, what's harder is navigating politics, dealing with someone who's difficult. If you're working for someone who's not invested in your success, that can really make or break your career as a graduate student. So that's why I'm saying pick carefully, you know, even if you end up not working on a topic you're excited about, the fact that you have someone who will support you, will send you to conferences, um, will ensure that your publishing will help you get your name out there, will help you network and find a job when the time comes. That's much more important than being known as the number one person who works on this obscure field. Sean 00:14:46 I think that is very helpful advice and, you know, kind of fits, uh, the who you know versus what you know kind of thing. Obviously it's important to know something, but also the people too. Quinta 00:14:56 Absolutely. Sean 00:14:57 I've always heard at least tangentially that, you know, grad school and certain locations or certain disciplines can be very competitive. But you said you really got to know your classmates and really work with them. So was was that more collaborative than you thought? I, I, Quinta 00:15:08 You know, we worked on such different things that there wasn't, um, I don't know that I ever saw anyone stepping on anyone else's toes. We just, maybe it's the way the department was laid out and what the professors were working on was so different that occasionally there was room to collaborate. But very rarely were we stepping on each other's toes. I mean, I had, um, a handful of people I would always go to to talk to about things. They were not in my lab, they weren't working on the things I was working on. They just un understood the fundamental principles behind what I was doing. So yeah, there was a lot of that going on. I know that I ended up having to use equipment in some other people's labs. So again, the fact that they were very generous with their equipment. Uh, and sometimes I had to obviously adjust to their schedules cuz they were also trying to graduate <laugh>. So honestly, there were times when I'd be, um, in their labs or three in the morning, but again, the fact that they would say, yeah, sure, of course you can come in and work when we're not here. You know, opening up their labs, me teaching me how to use the equipment. Yeah. So it was, um, not, not cutthroat at all, thankfully. Sean 00:16:06 Well that's good and probably going back to what we talked about being a scholar is sometimes you just gotta to ask, right? Like, you know, Hey, can I use your lab? Quinta 00:16:14 Exactly. Sean 00:16:15 You know, you might get the answer if you can use it at three in the morning, but it's still a yes Quinta 00:16:18 <laugh>. Exactly <laugh>. And that means I can sleep all day and then work all night and still get, still get the job done. Sean 00:16:25 Well that's what, that's what counts in the end, right? So exactly Quinta 00:16:28 <laugh>. Sean 00:16:30 So you pretty quickly earned your, your PhD by some standard, you know, sometimes some programs can take seven, eight years. You, you got through in about four years it looks like. And so you got background to job searching again, but this time you had your PhD in hand. So I imagine that helped a bit. Can you talk about what that experience was like once you had that in hand? Quinta 00:16:49 So having a PhD is a good thing, but can hold you back in some ways. Obviously with a PhD can command a higher starting salary, you're more qualified, you know, more things. Um, and I think probably the most important thing about a PhD is you are learning how to solve problems. Not, again, it's less about the specific thing that you worked on and more about your approach to problem solving. I believe at least that's the most important thing I took away from it. So all of that is valuable and employees recognize it and they'll pay for that. I talked about being an international student. Um, so as an undergraduate I was competing with obviously a lot of Americans who had the same qualifications as me. They've taken the same classes and yeah, if I as an employee, I'd rather hire them because I don't have to deal with immigration in order to hire them. Quinta 00:17:31 Um, when you get to PhD level, they're much fewer people, um, in America who have them. So that, that means at least the chances for an international student were higher. You, you are worth the effort, um, at, at that level. So the downside of having a PhD is now you are less, you, are you qualified for fewer jobs? <laugh>, <laugh>, I don't think it's a paradox, right? It makes sense. You've become more specialized. So they're few people who need that level of specialization, right? Um, so that means that you have to be a lot more careful and thoughtful in the jobs you're applying for cuz you just, you don't qualify for a whole lot more of them. And I think that's fine. I think part of looking for PhDs, you kind of want those types of jobs, but you have to keep that in mind, <laugh> as you're looking. Sean 00:18:12 I think that's helpful to share with students for sure. Um, especially if you're, you know, not looking at academia, right? Like you're looking in industry and knowing, yeah, there's this big difference in those kinds of searches. Quinta 00:18:22 Yeah, absolutely. And there are just some industries that don't need a PhD. So again, think about where you wanna go and what you think you're going to be doing with your PhD. I I really just did it again because I, it was expected of me <laugh> a choice. Um, but also I was just, I wanted to be called doctor. I know that sounds really shallow. And then I was just very curious. I, I liked research, I wanted to do more of it. I wanted to learn more about chemical engineering before I, before I felt like I was done with school. So yeah, for me what came after didn't matter as much, but maybe for some people it does. So consider Sean 00:18:55 That. Well you heard it here first <laugh>, you know, speaking of first your first roles were, you know, it's funny you talked about your thesis here in the honors college was about viruses, proteins, but you ended up in oil and gas out in Texas, in Oklahoma. How did that happen? What, what drew you to that space and what was it like going from, you know, the labs in Atlanta to the oil fields out <laugh> in kinda the, uh, the, the Permian basin, if, if you will, if I got that term right, you know, out, out in Quinta 00:19:27 Texas. Well said Oklahoma. Yeah. Another funny story. And that's the thing about life. You know, life throws all these curve walls at you. And I, I didn't see that coming either. I was thinking I was going to work on pharmaceuticals. When I, when I was at Georgia Tech, my thesis was also very heavily focused on proteins. But I did an internship while I was in grad school and I worked, uh, interned with ConocoPhillips in their labs in Oklahoma. And honestly, one of the things I enjoyed about it was just how, how much simpler it was to work with oil and gas. Proteins are so finicky, if you change the temperature, they behave completely differently. If you change the, the concentration of whatever you are using the pH, they're just very, very, very particular. And when you're doing a PhD and you need to repeat experiments to prove that what you're seeing is real, that's a nightmare. Quinta 00:20:13 <laugh>. So as I was interning and all I had to do was crank up the oil, you know, the heat, and then the same thing would happen over and over. I'm like, oh, this is great. And so when, when they offered me a job and they offered me a job in 2008, 2009, which if you guys remember, there was, um, it was a bad time in the world, right? There was a recession. I, I had classmates who had jobs rescinded. Um, it was tough to even get interviews. So I interviewed a few places, but this was like the one firm offer I had and I knew that I liked them and I liked the job that I did for them. So that's how I ended up in oil and gas was because I interned and I saw that that was, they different from what I wanted to do. It was also really, really interesting. Sean 00:20:50 Do you have any advice for students who are looking to work in energy, specifically in oil and gas? Whether on the engineering side or maybe some of the other parts like supply chain or finance or any other parts that go into getting it out of the ground refined and into your house, car, truck, et cetera? Quinta 00:21:08 Sure. Um, and again, <laugh>, yes, a lot of um, stuff comes from oil and gas materials. Pharmaceutical, you, it's a long, long, long list. Yeah, this advice probably applies to people who are trying to work in other fields as well. I'd say the number one thing we've kind of hinted at networking, you have to know people. Um, when you're in grad school, you have the opportunity to go to conferences, you know, summit, like present your work, talk to people, talk to grad students in other places, get to know, obviously your advisor would get to know other professors as well. You know, when I was job searching, it wasn't just my advisor who I was going to for recommendations, it was other professors who I'd built up a good relationship with. Even if they weren't on my committee, they were aware of my work because, you know, by virtue of our friendships, I'd kept them up to date. Quinta 00:21:57 I, you know, going, I didn't realize how important that was going to be, but it is. Those people also have connections with industry and they can send job offers, sorry, send job postings to you. Um, I also recommend interning when I got to Georgia Tech, for some reason internships were not popular. Like not too many students in my department were doing them. And again, being an international student, I knew how important that was because once you get your foot in the door, it's not just that door that's open for you. Other companies see that and they think that you're valuable. So that company thought that this person was worth taking a chance on, then maybe we can do that too. Um, also the fact that you've interned means that you kind of have some idea of how the real world works. Like you're, you, you are going beyond just academia and they feel that they have less to do to train you or to bring you up to speed. I used to hire, um, for some of these companies, um, once I started working. So this was also the thought process. So yeah, definitely recommend getting to know people. Definitely recommend internships. Sean 00:22:56 That makes a lot of sense. I imagine essentially you're, what you're saying is, you know, if you have that even just an internship experience, you're l you're less risky proposition for the business. Quinta 00:23:06 Absolutely. And again, it's, it's a of like free training. Um, if I'm looking to hire and you've worked for another company, well they've kind of already trained you so I can benefit, you know, my company can benefit from that. We haven't invested in you but you, we can gain from other people's investments. So it makes you just look more valuable and as I said, opens the door. Not just for the company that you work for, but other companies as well. Now the company we work for, they feel like you're less of a risk, less of an unknown. People know you generally, people don't mess up too badly. Bombay intern, cuz again, you're an intern, you don't, you're not expected to know things. As long as you're curious and you try, you generally will get an opportunity to come back. Sean 00:23:43 I think that's really insightful there. Quinta. But eventually, you know, you, you had a good run it looks like in oil and gas, but then you kind of made a pivot. And the way I I would sum this up as an external party is you went roar in a direction of education and policy. Is that a fair assessment, Quinta 00:24:02 More policy? The education just, I didn't look for it, it just became a part of it. Yeah, <laugh>. Sean 00:24:07 So, so how, how did that find you then and tell us, tell about your, what your pivot was because you went from being like an in the field engineer to the policy side of things. How did that happen? Quinta 00:24:17 Story of my life. Um, I, I got an opportunity and I took it, uh, yeah, to be more specific. Oil and gas is up and down and up and down. When I started working for ConocoPhillips, I was doing research then I, I transitioned into like business actually picking out where you would drill. Eventually oil prices went down and I was given the option of either moving to Alaska or being laid off. And I decided that I'd been with the company long enough and I was ready to try something new. So, um, I took the opportunity to, to go think through what I wanted to do with my life and I decided that I wanted to do things that are meaningful. And so I started up this company and what I was doing was working with entrepreneurs in different parts of Africa, providing energy and water solutions for, you know, for their businesses, but in a way that was sustainable. Quinta 00:25:05 Cause I could see a lot of unsustainable solutions being thrown at them. So considering what, what they needed, what they really needed in doing that work, I started to see that they were making such a huge difference in their communities and started to wonder why government wasn't more involved in what they were doing. Cuz they were, you know, like hiring people. They were, they were just, they were doing really good work. So that government interested in policy and I had no idea, you know, how to make that a part of my work. So I, I took a couple years off, I got the opportunity to come to Washington DC and work with the US government. So I worked with the Department of Energy, um, and then I worked with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is another government agency and they do international development. And yeah, I learned a lot about international energy policy, I learned about domestic policy, I learned about, you know, how government works, how government interacts, you know, within itself, but also with the public. Quinta 00:25:57 And yeah, after my, my time was up with them, I took all of that knowledge back into my work and then I was, I was able to, I think I was able to, to be more of an advocate for my clients. So that's how the transition happened is I was, I just saw a space and I learned what, what I needed in order to fill that, that gap. And I had to say, as an engineer going through undergrad and grad school, I never knew that policy was an option for engineers. I, I dunno who I thought was an option for, but I was sure it wasn't for, for me. So that's certainly something I wanna throw out there. Um, apparently it doesn't matter what you're studying, if you want to work in policy, you can, like, there's, there's room in government for every kind of discipline. So if that's something you, you hadn't considered before, start thinking about Sean 00:26:44 It. And I imagine being a subject matter expert on something probably helps in that space, right? Quinta 00:26:49 Absolutely. So that, that does help to direct where you end up, um, in this space. So I currently don't work, um, with government, but I do work on policy issues. So that means when government is putting out policies that are tied to clean transportation, especially, you know, I weigh in my team ways and we look at the proposals for the rules that the government is putting out and we run data and models to try to determine what those proposals where, where they will take us, right? Are we going to regime's, greenhouse gases, reduce pollution as they're claiming to the extent that they're claiming that we will, what does it cost the average person? Are we going to end up seeing savings or will people have to spend more on, you know, transportation? We, we do all of that. Um, and we are able to do that because we, we are engineers <laugh> and then, you know, I work with policy analysts as well and they're the ones who can read the language and tell us exactly what it means. So we need both sides. So yeah, definitely a subject matter expertise can, can help you figure out where you can play in the policy space. Sean 00:27:47 And I, I wanna go back to something you said, you know, you started a business out of this, you have your own little consulting firm that you work with different clients primarily you said in Africa and you said sustainable. And I want to point out like not just in the Eco Green Sensee, but sustainable has a broader context, right? Like you want to be able to keep funding going, you want to have business processes and those sorts of things. So you are an engineer by trade. How did you go about teaching yourself to be an entrepreneur and a business owner? I Quinta 00:28:13 Probably learned on the job, I learned as I went. I think some people from the time they're five years old, they know that they want to own their own business. That was never me <laugh>. Um, I started a business because again, I saw a gap. Like I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn't find the people who were doing it. And so I just decided to create it. There were a lot of bumps, especially in the beginning because I, I really had to learn a lot of things very quickly. Um, I've talked about networking. I didn't have the right networks in place. I'd worked for one company, it was an oil and gas and um, that's now where I was trying to go. So I didn't know anybody in this space where I was trying to go. So setting up business processes, I think working for a big company like Cono Phillips had certainly taught me a lot about setting things up and some, in some of my positions with the company, I'd been like a project manager, program manager. Quinta 00:28:58 So at least I had a good idea of how to lay things out and frankly didn't, getting a PhD taught me a lot about project management and program management. So I actually think it's a really good idea too. Even if you wanna be your own boss to work for somebody else for a while, let them pay you to learn, then you can take those learnings into your own thing. And actually while you're there, if you know what you wanna do next, you can take time to create the network that you need before you need it. So learn from my, learn from my Mistakes. <laugh>. Sean 00:29:24 So Quinta, we were just talking about your career in the field as an engineer and then you moved into this policy direction, but you decided to challenge yourself a little bit further and you added some additional letters beyond PhD to the end of your, your name. For those of us who aren't quite as familiar, I'm sure some listening probably know what these are, but can you explain what PE and P M P are at the end of your name, how you earned those and how they've added to your career? Quinta 00:29:53 Sure. Um, so PE stands for professional engineer and it's basically a certification that engineers can get. You don't have to for most jobs. Um, but I chose to because I needed it in order to register my business as an engineering firm in Texas. So the purpose of that is just to make sure that you don't have unscrupulous people pretending to be engineers and signing off on plans. It's, it's, you know, tight to safety and protecting the public. It does help, uh, in some firms p people do get paid a little more or they get more, um, responsibility if, if they have a PE after their name. PMP stands for Project Management Professional. Um, so that's another certification. This one tied to managing projects and it's something a lot of us already do in our jobs, but if you're, if you're looking for a job that requires you to manage a lot of projects, sometimes that will be in the job requirement, um, as a preference. Quinta 00:30:42 So it just signals to people that you know, you know how to structure projects, how to keep track of different metrics including like budgets and times and you know, how to engage all the different stakeholders who could participate in a project. So I got it because I was working in an organization that really valued it and honestly once I got it, I understood how the organization worked because they had really patterned everything they were doing after this framework that PMP set up on. So it is very useful also adds to, you know, the salary bottom line for a lot of jobs that require Sean 00:31:11 It. Well I think that's a win-win, right? You have the extra salary, you have the extra learning and you know, folks who've demonstrated that these are great ways to go about doing things. So, and even if you're obviously probably PE is probably limited to engineering, but PMP is something that a lot of folks can do outside in business consulting and even kind of the humanities driven jobs, right? Quinta 00:31:30 Absolutely. Anybody, um, in any profession can get a PMP because as you know, every profession will have projects and they need to be run a certain way in order to be successful or at least in order to generally guarantee success. So yes, anybody can get it. Sean 00:31:45 So how did you actually go about that? Is there, like, for both of these, for the PE and the p p, are there courses? Is it just like, buy a book and study? Tell us about that. Quinta 00:31:53 Right, so I think everyone is different in how they learn. My fear with these two, because they're the PE especially, is really difficult. <laugh>, I know people who've had to take it more than once. My fear was I'd have to do it more than once cuz I just <laugh> did not want to spend the time and energy repeating it. So what I did was, I, I took courses for both. The PMP was pretty quick. I think it was maybe four or five day course, but I, I took time out from work and they were happy because again, they really valued the PMP for the PE certification. My goodness, I must have studied for four months and I did a course and I wanna say it probably lasted about a month. And then, yeah, self-study alongside that and I still felt unprepared. I obviously I passed, but I, I do recommend, you know, sitting down and letting somebody explain these things to you. I'd been out of school for quite a while by the time I took that. So I needed to, you know, get a refresher on all the fundamental engineering principles. So yeah, go let somebody digest things for you and then you can go study on your own. You don't have to take the test right after that. But because everything was fresh on my mind, I decided that was a good time to Sean 00:32:58 Do it. Now Quinta, you're currently at Consumer Reports, so obviously the next answer you give is going to be your personal opinion, not reflective of them, but that's a company that most everyone listening probably has heard of but maybe aren't terribly familiar with, like how you actually go about, you know, reporting on different products for consumers. So just give us a little insight onto what you do there and, and like how you decide what Washing machine is best or what car is the most fuel efficient or different things like that. Quinta 00:33:26 Thank you for setting up the disclaimer. I'm here of my own Accord <laugh> and not on behalf of Consumer Reports or CR as I will refer to them from now on. Yeah, um, CR is a really cool organization divided into three major parts. The first part is the part you've kind of alluded to testing arm. So we test products, household appliances, cars like sunscreens, you know, just all the things that consumers use. Um, and then we have a content arm. So we have reporters, we ha you know, pool write about the testing that we're doing. Uh, we create rankings. So you know, if you wanna buy, I don't know, washing machine, you can go to our website and uh, you'll see a list of different washing machines and we'll explain why some are better than others, right? We'll actually rank them. So the content arm will put out those rankings on our website. Quinta 00:34:12 Uh, we have a, we still have a print magazine because some people still prefer that. And then the third part of the organization is where I work and that is the, I would call it the social impact arm. So I am a policy person, I lead a team that does work on sustainability policy and we do all other kinds of policy as well. So this means that we engage with the government, um, when the government is putting out rules and standards and policies and proposals, um, tied to those, we will go in and look at what they're proposing and we will, you know, I have engineers and policy analysts who I work with. And so they'll take what the government is saying, they'll collect data, they'll build models, run them, and then tell the government, oh this is great. This rule will actually do what you're saying it'll do or it doesn't go far enough or what we think it should be. Quinta 00:34:54 It doesn't go far enough for what you are saying you want. And, and then we'll tell them why it's falling short or we'll have suggestions for how they could make it stronger. Um, all of that to try to, you know, save consumers money, reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, it's fantastic. Uh, and so in my arm of the organization, we definitely do use data from our testing arm, right? Um, a lot of what my team does, for instance, is tied to cars. Like we love EVs because they have zero tailpipe emissions, so no, no emissions coming outta the tailpipe. And so we actually test cars in our test track in Connecticut. Some of them are EVs and so we can use some of that stuff in our advocacy. The end goal is really to protect consumers, make sure that we provide information to government that gets the best outcome for consumers, as I said, in terms of reducing costs, in terms of reducing pollution, in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sean 00:35:42 So essentially what it might be fair to describe you as a watchdog, right? But for both corporate and for government, like you're trying to protect taxpayers and consumers and make sure that faults are honest in what they're saying they're providing. Is that fair? Quinta 00:35:55 Absolutely. Wow. Very well said. We are a watchdog. We're looking out for the consumer trying to make sure that corporations are not taking advantage of them, trying to make sure government is really doing its best to take care of them. Sean 00:36:06 Yes. That is awesome. You, you said you have a website, obviously the magazine is probably your OG publication so you can check out all the great work that Quinta has done, uh, that's fed into that content from, from the policy side there. And speaking of that policy, I think one of the really cool things that you shared, um, I saw on LinkedIn a little bit before we recorded this in winter 2023, you do a lot of writing and speaking and you've been even called on as like an expert witness type testimony role for the White House and the house representatives. What is just generally, without getting into like the specific policy, but more of like what is that experience like? Like how do you get picked to come testify on, on a policy piece for, for that level of the government? Quinta 00:36:50 Yeah, that's one of the things I really love about this job because again, that's where a lot of the decision making starts, right? So you wanna be in the room, you wanna be able to advocate for consumers early. Certainly when the rule comes out we can weigh in, but if we can even start to present data on exactly what consumers are dealing with, what they need, what they're saying is holding them back from being able to adapt clean technology, then yeah that makes everyone's life easier. Um, it was really an honor yeah, to be called upon. And I think we do a lot of analysis, as I've said, not just when rules are coming up, but even in between cuz we're really trying to understand, you know, what consumers need. We publish a lot of that stuff and it's all public and free and when we publish that we do try to make sure that key people have access to that information. Quinta 00:37:33 Oh, they know that it's out there. Um, so we do a lot of networking as well, <laugh>. So I, you know, my team and I were always talking to people about the stuff they, we were doing even before it's complete. We're working on this report and you know, we hope it'll be out in two weeks. And so I think that's, that's really why, um, these offices came to us. You know, the, the House select committee and the climate crisis did ask us to testify. They wanted to know, um, the Inflation Reduction Act, how does it help consumers? And so again, we'd done a lot of work around that. So we're able to throw together written comments and then I was able to go in and testify and you know, in the room there are always people speaking against what you're pushing for <laugh>. So being prepared to counter that with actual data that we had was very valuable for, for that committee. Quinta 00:38:13 And then, yeah, the White House, you know, was, is very interested in electrifying things, uh, for a lot of reasons, including, again, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas loops, but also there's so many cost savings attached to, um, running things with more efficient appliances and um, electrical appliances are often more efficient. So yeah, being able to be in the room and contribute to the conversation and there were people there from the business world, there were other advocates there, but I was in, in the rooms that I was in, I was the only consumer voice. And so it's really rewarding that, you know, like the White House recognized that the House recognized that it's necessary for somebody to be in the room who's advocating on behalf of consumers in a way that other organizations can't. Sean 00:38:51 That is really helpful as a consumer. I appreciate that and hopefully our listeners do too. So it's interesting a lot of what you've talked about. Um, this isn't one of the questions I had on our, on our pre-list, but kind of building off of what you said, a lot of what you've talked about is, you know, hey, we're going to introduce this new rule or here's this new product. Do you ever go back and like look at a rule five or 10 years later or a product five years after launch and see if it held up to what was intended And you know, you can project what a bill might do to regulate x, y, or Z topic, but do you ever go back and check? Quinta 00:39:25 Yeah, some of the analysis we are doing are looking back over like the last decade or the last two decades. The thing is that a lot of times the rules are not, well a lot of the rules we're working on now at least, uh, don't necessarily go beyond like three years, five years. Um, they're often updated periodically and obviously we're pushing for them to be stronger every time they're, you know, updated. So yeah, the answer is yes. Um, I think it's, it's very important for us to understand the impact of what we're doing. So we do look backwards and try to quantify, try to make sure that we are moving in the direction that we want to be moving in. The government is moving in the right direction. So yes, we absolutely Sean 00:40:04 Do that is great cuz oftentimes you hear, oh this is going to add this many jobs when we open this place, or this is going to reduce this many tons of carbon and you know, or this will reduce your tax burden or this will raise your tax burden and it's so it's great that you're going back and actually like, Hey, was that, was that right? Like, did that actually happen? So I think that's really helpful. And again, you can check out all of Quinta's teams work at the Consumer Reports, um, publications. That's right. Switching topics a little bit, obviously you live in the DC area, you're working with the government, you have your own private little consulting firm that you still run, you're working for cr you're a very busy person, right? And even just trying to find time for this was a bit of a challenge, you know, going back, uh, trying to squeeze into your busy schedule. I really appreciate. So how do you find any kind of sense of balance that you, uh, and what do you do to be a person and not just this consumer advocate that students just obviously Schreyer scholars, they take on a lot. How do you find balance and what strategies can students employ in their own lives? Quinta 00:41:07 Yeah, it's been tough. I think I've had to become very strict with myself and just put very strong boundaries in place. So I do not work after five <laugh>. I try to do a normal, you know, nine to five. Some days I do have to start earlier. Sometimes I, you know, you have calls with people in different time zones, so eight to five at most. And then after that I just walk away from the computer, I walk away from this part of my home or I walk away from the office and I just do not look back. Uh, it's hard because there's, you know, there are things on your mind and you know, if I, if I could just send that one email, then everything will be set up by the time I, and I always tell myself it'll still be here in the morning. Quinta 00:41:42 As I said, I have a team that reports to me and I think in trying to make sure that they're set up well, I've learned how to take care of myself cuz I was very bad with <laugh> these boundaries that I'm talking about. But, you know, I never want them to be working after hours. And so, you know, there are these little things that I'm, I'm making sure are good for them. And I was thinking, well what about me? And why am I telling them, you know, why am I so afraid to send 'em an email after five? Cause I just don't want them to be reading my emails. And then why am I sending emails after Five <laugh>? And so yeah, in trying to take care of them, I think I've learned a bit better how to take care of myself. So honestly, if, if I feel like I'm tired, then I just, I won't take on the additional things I'm talking about now after my work with Consumer Reports is over because now I could switch to doing my own thing, right? <laugh>, I have my company and uh, just, there are some days when I'm like, well no, I'm, I'm tired and I think it's okay if I don't do this right now, again, it'll still be here tomorrow. Deadlines are often presented as really, really urgent. They rarely are in the grand scheme of things. You always look back and you think, wow, that really could have waited. So that's my rule for myself. I don't work weekends, I don't work after hours and the work is really always there when I get back <laugh> in the morning. Sean 00:42:47 So you talked about leading a team and you know, obviously you're a trained engineer by trade. How did you go about learning how to be a manager and a supervisor? Quinta 00:42:57 Well, I'm smiling because I've, I've, I've had such a mix of managers over over the years and I think I learned the most from the bad ones what not to do, <laugh>. I really think that's what it boils down to. I just, I think about some of the things I went through and I just never want anyone else to feel like that or deal with those things. I do start from the standpoint of everyone being a human being and I don't ever want anyone to be worse off because they've interacted with me. And so, as I said, my team, for instance, like the work-life balance, very important to me we're people. So if I'm leading the team and I I give them the impression I care about something, then they will focus on those things, right? So I try to give the impression I care about the right things so that they're not yeah, going out of their way to do things that again, are, are not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Quinta 00:43:45 So you didn't send an email today, that's fine. Just send it tomorrow, send it on Monday, or you have to go to the doctor. Okay. I mean, I don't need to know <laugh>, I don't care about your minute to minute, hour to hour. We're all adults. So as long as you're doing the things that you need to do, I'm happy. And if for some reason we can't accomplish those things, let me know ahead of time and we can work, we can work it out. Yeah, I, I think it just boils on to treating people like human beings and I would like to believe my team is happy. At least they tell me, they tell me that they are <laugh>. Sean 00:44:13 Well I think that's solid advice whether, you know, you are a student listening and this is something that might be helpful for a club. You lead your th committee or as you get into your career and you are asked to start leading teams in your workplace. So definitely solid advice no matter what industry you are in. Um, and I think that's something we could all do a little bit more of is leading with being people. And speaking of people and your time away from the office, Quinta, you shared that you are quite the traveler obviously both for work and for personal. And that fits in with our value obviously of building a global perspective. So for students who want to travel once they have, you know, a full-time job and they can choose to go anywhere on their vacation or for students traveling abroad in a study abroad program, what is your best travel tips and maybe a favorite travel story that you could share from your ventures to again, how many countries has it been Quinta 00:45:05 <laugh>? I think about 61 the last time I counted <laugh>, maybe 62 now. I guess three pieces of advice. Number one is travel light. Yeah. I used to be the person who would travel with one big suitcase, one small suitcase. Right now, it doesn't matter if I'm going away for a week, a month, a year, I'm taking one small suitcase that will always be on the plane with me and a backpack where I put my electronics. And it turns out you really don't need that much stuff. That happened for a lot of reasons. If you've ever traveled to a place and your luggage get left, be got left behind. That's one of the reasons that happened to me <laugh> enough times and just dealing with the stress of all going to the airport every day to see if your luggages arrived, takes away from the fun of enjoying the country that you were trying to enjoy. Quinta 00:45:46 So that's the first piece of advice. The second is, I always try to fly direct if possible. It's more expensive. We think about the value of your time. Um, the potential for things to go wrong increases if you have multiple stops. So now I will just cough up the extra however much so that I get to where I'm going in the least amount of time. And then the third piece of advice is just be open and when you, you know, when you get to the place that you are going, you know, you probably have maybe a strong plan in place or maybe a loose plan in place, but I always found that, um, opportunities come up and I don't necessarily go with all of them cuz you also have to be careful and, uh, think through things that are happening. But, um, some of my best adventures have come about because of something that I hadn't planned, but I got an opportunity and, you know, I was, I felt comfortable enough to, to take that chance and enjoy that experience. So absolutely try to be open. Good advice for life in general. Sean 00:46:35 Absolutely. And I think your point about the trade off between time and money for the direct flight, I think that applies to a lot of other things in life, especially as you move up in your career and sometimes you may look at things in that cost benefit just a little bit differently, you know, in terms of maybe I spend a little bit more but it buys back time. Quinta 00:46:53 Exactly. Exactly. What's your time worth? Sean 00:46:55 So that is, that's your advice even for outside of traveling. So take that. I think so take that and use it as you will now, Quinta, I wanna pivot to the wrap up questions that I asked everybody here on following the gong. These are kind of reflective of your whole career and the first one I always like to ask you is, what would you say is your biggest success to Quinta 00:47:13 Date, other than getting invited to the White House? Cuz Wow, I'm still <laugh> reeling from that one. Um, you know, one of the things that I did with my consulting firm was I helped to start a university in Senegal. And I don't know why that is something I keep coming back to. I'm so proud that I was involved in that venture. I mean, this was a few years ago, maybe five years, six years ago now. And the fact that the university is still standing, there are students, you know, who are just starting their first year and, and all of that is because of an effort that I was involved in. Uh, it just makes me so proud. So that is one of my, I think, greatest achievements. Sean 00:47:48 Well, I think that one's great and your pre, you know, I think you could have picked either one of those, honestly, <laugh>, I think those are both great. But on the flip side, at some point you made a mistake or had some situation that was a transformational learning moment. So could you talk about kind of the flip of that and what you learned from that experience? Quinta 00:48:04 Yeah, you know, switching from the oil and gas industry to working for myself. So as I, I mentioned I left oil and gas because I was laid off and I knew it was coming and, and all of this stuff, but it just gave me time to pause and think about my life. And I kept thinking back over what I'd done in the six years that I'd been with that company and honestly couldn't put my finger on anything that I was super proud of. So if you'd asked me the question about my greatest achievement back then, I really didn't have anything. And that just scared me, you know, because I, I really wanted to be able to leave a positive mark on the world. So I think that moment sometimes it did, it did feel like I failed again, even though I knew that the layoffs were coming. Quinta 00:48:43 I chose not to move to Alaska, but not having a job, you know, it, it does for an adult, it's, it's like, well what am I doing with my life? But, you know, in the end it worked out because I took the time to think about what I did want out of life. And as I said, I wanted a positive impact. I wanted that if I got asked what, what have you done that you're proud of, that I would have, you know, a string of things I could talk about. So that's why I started my business and that guides everything that I do today. It's why I'm in the job that I am in today. Um, cuz I'm really thinking what's the impact on, on people's lives and would I be proud to talk about this work? So that was a, a defining moment for Sean 00:49:16 Me along the way. You've probably had quite a few mentors and also mentored a few folks. How do you approach mentorship as both the mentor and the mentee, and what advice do you have for students in that specific arena? Yeah, Quinta 00:49:28 In general, I would say you probably need more than one mentor because you need different types of mentors. So as a woman, I've had, you know, I've been mentored by women in management. I've had technical mentors, right? So I'm, I've usually been a technical person and I've been mentored by people who that's been there big part of their career. But there are, you can also have informal mentors. I remember I had one who I would meet with them about once a month and really I would just go to his office, sit across the table from him and we would gossip. It feels like gossip now, <laugh>. But you know, it was, it suited his personality because he was just the type of person who knew everything that was going on and then he could contextualize things for you. So maybe I saw that somebody got a promotion or they left our part of the company, he could explain to me why that mattered and he could explain to me why that was a great thing or a horrible thing or, you know, he really helped me understand the company. Quinta 00:50:14 He helped me understand the business, you know, just the industry because of the things that he taught me. I think everybody needs also that kind of mentor. And then peer mentorship is a thing. I know when I was at Penn State taking the senior design class, I think it was Professor Edwick was his name, he told us about having a stupid question, buddy. I think that's how he framed it. Peer mentorship is a nicer way to say probably, but you know, like he wants someone who you can go to and say, okay, they explained this, but I understood none of it. Like, can you discreetly walk me through it? What does this mean? You know, um, everybody needs that. In terms of how to relate with your mentor, I would say time is just such a precious commodity for everybody. So I always really hate feeling like I'm wasting anyone's time. Quinta 00:50:53 So there are some mentors where I would go in with a pre a pre-prepared list of questions. So, you know, if you're dealing with someone who's very busy, try to at least have one question that you guys can talk about. Um, try to try to be clear about the structure of your relationship when you ask them to be your mentor. Um, can we meet every month or can we meet every other week? I mean, you, you guys come up with whatever makes sense for you, depending on what you need from them. And then, you know, define the relationship I'm looking to develop in this area. I'm looking for someone who can help me understand this. Because they also, sometimes people don't understand how good they are in something <laugh>, but if you help them understand the thing that you're trying to get from them, then um, it helps everybody understand what they're getting out of their Sean 00:51:29 Relationship. And speaking of, you just mentioned one professor, but are there any other professors or friends or advisors from your scholar days that you want to give a very quick shout out to? Quinta 00:51:38 Absolutely. I love Professor Sydney, so Dr. Andrew Sydney was department head for Chemical engineering when I was there. He's still with Penn State, but not department head anymore. He was so very patient with me. I did my, um, senior design project with him. I did a summer internship in his lab. He's fantastic. So definitely wanna give a shout out to him. But also, um, a shout out to Derek Steele. Derek Steele and I were sort of classmates. We started out at Penn State McKeesport together, which is now Greater Allegheny. We moved up to the main campus at the same time we were roommates even for a while. We went through a lot of the same chemical engineering classes together, and we've stayed in touch ever since. Uh, absolutely one of my favorite people. Sean 00:52:14 Awesome. Now as we're wrapping up our time, there is obviously a lot I don't know about engineering and about sustainability and policy or even just, you know, I'm a white man, you're a woman of color. Is there any final piece of advice for students that I just didn't know to ask from my blind spot in these areas that could be helpful that just didn't come up already in our conversation today? Quinta 00:52:39 Sorry, I wrote it down because I really didn't wanna forget <laugh>. All right. So the advice I would give students, um, I know sometimes it's hard. You're in the middle of a, you know, situation and you just feel like you need to achieve the goal that you're there for. But take time to smell the roses if you can. My college experience was so very different from my grad school experience because in grad school I did stop and my experience was much more enjoyable because of that. Now, it wasn't probably possible in college for me to do that, but if it's possible at all, you know, take the time to enjoy where you are. College is so unique, there's really no place like it. Once you're done with college, you go into the real world. You don't have that same kind of community, those same kinds of experiences. Quinta 00:53:22 I mean, think about all the cool and famous people who come to campus to speak or perform, you know, it's just harder to, to be in that kind of place in the real world. Um, I've already said this, be open to new opportunities. Um, the fact that I'm doing the, the job that I'm doing today, I have the company that I have today, all of that came about because I, I dare to try a new thing because I saw an opportunity or opportunities were brought to me. And instead of just saying, well, no, I've never done that, I, I thought through it and I thought I would try. And then finally I would say, absolutely, you have to network and you should network. No matter where you are in college, you should, because again, you are with people who are in, you know, different disciplines and studying different things from different places. Quinta 00:54:03 Uh, you don't know where everybody's gonna end up. And building strong connections with people means that when you run into each other later in life, you can continue to work together. Or actually those people could provide new opportunities for you that you wouldn't even be able to imagine today. Definitely when you get out into the real world and you're working, continue to network, I've seen the, I've, I've seen what happens when you don't have a network. You, you're really, you are rolling a, a boulder uphill you, not that it's impossible to succeed, but it's just so much easier when you have, you know, people around you who can support you and bring opportunities and, um, teach you things. Um, so absolutely network. Sean 00:54:37 All of that is really solid advice there. Quinta, if a scholar listening wants to connect with you in network with you in that vein, what's the best way that they can connect with Quinta 00:54:47 You? Very nice connection. <laugh>. So I'm on LinkedIn, um, so yeah, I, I know you're going to share the link, um, hopefully to my LinkedIn on the, on the description of the podcast. Yeah, I'm happy to connect with with anyone who wants to, and then we can start there and we can, you know, take things out of LinkedIn if, if people need more of a connection or conversation with me, always happy to connect with people. Sean 00:55:10 Fantastic. Thank you for that. And finally, this is our traditional last wrap up question here on the show. If you were a flavor of Burkey Creamery ice cream, which would you be? And most importantly, Quinta as a scholar, alumna, why would you be that flavor Quinta 00:55:27 <laugh>, maybe a death by Chocolate <laugh>? Why? Well, because it's, it's not just one thing, right? You have chunks of chocolate chips, you have chunks of, I don't know, chocolate cake. You have the chocolate ice cream itself. You have, uh, I, I think I'm probably, not that I'm unique in this aspect, but I feel like I'm very layered and, you know, you will meet the engineer and you'll meet the advocate and you'll meet the traveler and you'll meet the author and you know, the scholar, right? Um, so I, yeah, I, I think Death White chocolate definitely has a lot of things going on and, and so suits me. Sean 00:56:03 I really love that answer. That is, that is a really good way to look at it. I think we've had one or two death by chocolates before, but that is definitely a different take on it. So I appreciate that. Thank you, Quinta, thank you so much for joining me here, sitting in front of your 20 19, 20 20 outstanding scholar alumni award hanging proudly on the wall behind you. I love, love seeing that. I'm just like looking at that throughout our conversation, <laugh>. So that's really cool to see. Thank you so much for hopping on here and talking all things engineering, sustainability, consumer advocacy, and a little bit of travel and a lot of great advice along the way. So thank you. Quinta 00:56:38 Thank you so much. This was such an honor. It's been a pleasure chatting with you, Sean. *GONG SOUND EFFECT* Sean 00:56:50 Thank you Scholars for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Schreyer Honors College Emergency Fund, benefiting Scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise.psu.edu/schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe, like, or follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the College on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events, and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or are a Scholar Alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following the Gong, please connect with me at [email protected]. Until next time, please stay well and We Are!

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