Catarina Carvalho is on a mission to build a connected and supportive sustainability community of professionals, especially in today’s uncertain times. A 2018 graduate of Columbia’s Sustainability Management master’s program and Business Strategy Manager at engineering and advisory firm Arup, Carvalho recently served as a mentor in the Career Design Lab’s first e-Mentor program for students. She recently provided advice for maximizing SPS’s resources and called on fellow alumni to give back to the SPS community.
What compelled you to sign up as an e-Mentor?
As a student, I was always very engaged with the broad range of opportunities the School of Professional Studies offered to deepen my knowledge and expand my network. During my last semester, I extensively used the resources available at the SPS Career Design Lab and I was also a mentee in the Earth Institute Mentorship program. I benefited immensely from both of them! The success in navigating my career after graduation was by the most part a result of those interactions so I made a point to give back to the school community. A mentorship program with the Career Design Lab seemed to be to be the perfect opportunity to do just that!
What was the most rewarding or surprising part of the e-Mentorship?
In the past, I have noticed that some mentees do not always come prepared to enroll in a mentorship program; that’s certainly not the case at SPS! The e-Mentees have a program structure, clear goals and expectations for the program; they take follow up actions and use their time with their e-Mentors wisely to get the most out of it. This is a win-win for both mentees and mentors.
Companies hire people, not skills; if people at the firm liked their interactions with you, they might create an opportunity tailored to you."
What advice would you give to Sustainability Management master's students seeking to break into or advance in business?
My advice to all students seeking to break into businesses is to be more strategic about the opportunities they are seeking and use all resources available at SPS to help them navigate their careers. Many students tend to have a reactive approach to their career; for example, they see a job post, think it’s a good fit and put effort into applying without much context and previous work done to truly understand the company and the role and how that may — or may not — align with their own goals. I advocate for a proactive approach that is much more intentional and effective. Students should start by researching companies in their field of interest and make a Top 20 list. From there, find current employees in those companies and ask for informational interviews to learn more about their jobs and the firm. I suggest they try to connect with at least three employees per company. Once they think they’ve found a good match, the next step is to inquire about open opportunities. Companies hire people, not skills; if people at the firm liked their interactions with you, they might create an opportunity tailored to you.
An M.S. in Sustainability Management at Columbia University reinforced a standard of quality and forward thinking in my career. As one of the first generations of sustainability professionals, I do believe we have an important role to play in combining science and strategy to better understand and act on climate change, social equity and economic opportunity."
How has earning an M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia enhanced your career?
An M.S. in Sustainability Management at Columbia University reinforced a standard of quality and forward thinking in my career. As one of the first generations of sustainability professionals, I do believe we have an important role to play in combining science and strategy to better understand and act on climate change, social equity and economic opportunity. As an alumna, I have access to a strong network of fellow alumni along with virtually all of SPS’s resources and tools; they help me to keep an edge throughout my career and, more importantly, to really make an impact in shaping a better world.
What does it mean to you to be a member of the Columbia SPS community, especially at this time?
Now more than ever, it is important that alumni and other members of the SPS community step up and help students build and maintain a network of forward-thinking professionals. Staying connected with the SPS community in this particularly stressful and disruptive moment is crucial to the sustainability community, particularly the students. I accelerated my involvement with SPS and make it a point to make time to support the community despite how busy we all are. This is the time to make a difference.