Lesley Sovran: Environmental operations leader, Home Depot

My job involves anything that is environmental operations-based.

My job involves anything that is environmental operations-based at the store level. We take care of all 180 stores across Canada. We look at waste and recycling programs, hazardous materials and anything compliance-related involving the Ministry of Environment and its requirements within our stores. Our team makes sure the stores are meeting the standard, doing a good job recycling and managing their programs as efficiently as they can.

I went to the University of Waterloo, where I took the environment and business program, a double major between environmental studies and business.

In high school I took an environmental studies course and instantly knew I wanted to pursue a career in that field. Our teacher talked about how important it is to sell an environmental initiative. There are a lot of schools of thought out there, and people have very different lenses when it comes to the environment and environmental protection – to some it doesn’t matter and to others it does. So it’s very helpful and valuable to pitch an eco-friendly idea and prove there can be a good business case behind it.

Instead of graduating with a BA, I got a bachelor of environmental studies, which I thought would set me apart.

The job I have now is a perfect incorporation of environment and business because I’m working a lot with financials. And being able to put together that business case using all the information that I have from a numbers perspective is really important, but so is understanding what opportunities are out there.

My team works closely with our sustainability team, which is great because we can help drive the sustainability mandate of the company. My university education prepared me to walk in those shoes.

Through the co-op program I was able to get a foot in the door and build a network. I got experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, so I had a good idea of the benefits and challenges for each and a sense of where I wanted my career to go.

Our government has really diverged from a green economy to one that is very resource-focused. Unless you want to work in oil and gas or mining, which I was not at all interested in, finding a job in the environmental field can be a real challenge.

When I came out of university, I was hired right into one of my old co-op positions, working for Waterfront Toronto on their sustainability team. That was a very planning-focused job we were looking at green buildings and green communities.

I ended up getting a chance to travel for three months, so I backpacked through Asia. I really wanted to do it at that time, but when I came back, searching for a new job was really rough.

A volunteer position working with someone teaching a contaminated sites management course led me to Home Depot. I put the volunteer work on my resumé, and those key words “contaminated and hazardous materials” ended up being the reason I got the interview at Home Depot. I did really well in the interview. It’s funny how these little experiences and connections can take you down a completely different path.

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