You’re right on time for our monthly spotlight! We interviewed Brittany Lange, the ECO Impact 2021 EPt Award Winner, and got the chance too learn about her career journey in some more detail and we’re so excited to share with you.
What led you to pursue a career in the environmental workforce?
Prior to my professional career, I spent a lot of time travelling and experiencing different places and cultures around the world. Some of the experiences I had overseas are really what drove me into the environmental sector and helped me find my passion for protecting the natural environment. I carry that forward in the work I do today and the need to make a difference here in my community.
I would say meeting my spouse 8 years ago and his encouragement and support really challenged me to be the best version of myself I could be and to chase my dreams. Going to college and university as an adult attempting to alter my career path absolutely changed my life for the better and gave me the confidence and knowledge that led me to where I am today.
I have been working in the local government for almost 5 years now. Prior to working in the environmental workforce, I spent 10 years in the hospitality industry as a restaurant manager. When I finally decided to change my career path, I started working part-time at the Regional District in a more junior/technical role and the rest of my time was spent working as a projects coordinator for a local Conservation Program implementing projects for biodiversity protection and advancing environmental protection. While balancing those two jobs, I was studying and completing my Bachelor of Environmental Science Degree at Royal Roads University. I also hold a Diploma in Environmental Management from Okanagan College.
Can you tell us about your current position?
My job title is Environmental Planner at the Regional District of Central Okanagan. Typically, my day-to-day involves working with residents, developers, Provincial and Federal government, Indigenous communities, and other environmental professionals to navigate the legal and regulatory framework surrounding environmental protection and land use planning.
I work with different stakeholders and landowners on best management practices for sustainable development, mostly in rural areas. I also work very closely with different provincial ministries on flood and drought planning, emergency management, and implementation of environmental regulations. I am responsible for issuing environmental permitting, and I often am in front of the Regional Board or other municipal Councils presenting information on different proposals and projects from flood management to climate change projections.
How has the EPt Designation helped your career?
I have been an EPt since November of 2019 shortly after my graduation from Royal Roads University. As soon as I was eligible to get certified, I did. I always knew I wanted to have a professional designation and EPt fits well with what I do. I am also pursuing my Registered Professional Planner (RPP) designation through the Planning Institute of BC.
Employers want to see a professional designation. The EP designation also holds some excellent ethical values that will help you in advancing your career. Being an EPt member has connected me with like-minded individuals, opened me up to various training opportunities to expand my knowledge, and given me milestones to strive for in my career. I would say winning the ECO Impact Award this year has certainly helped advance my career. Since receiving the award, I have had a number of political constituents, environmental organizations, and other EP members reach out to me to collaborate and connect on various projects.
What motivates you in your career and what are some of the challenges you face?
While I am still relatively new in my professional practice in the environmental sector, I feel that I have been able to make a substantial impact in my field in only a short period of time. Through my work in building relationships, finding new ways of thinking, and collaborating to advance environmental planning at a watershed level, I feel I have demonstrated the importance of creativity and innovation in my career, and this is what motivates me to keep going, even though it is tough work.
As I mentioned before, I started my professional career working for a local conservation program collaborating with different partners on some really great projects like identifying key wildlife corridors, developing source water protection studies, and public outreach on the importance of protecting the foreshore. But one of the projects that I am really passionate about is the “Okanagan Lake Responsibility Planning Initiative” and my dedication and involvement with this project is a big part of why I was nominated for and won the ECO Impact Award.
To be honest, I have found it is quite difficult to be a female in the environmental workforce. I find that some of the cross-disciplines that I work with often don’t respect women in decision-making or leadership roles. I have had to find ways to overcome this, especially because I am relatively new in my field. Confidence, perseverance, and being well-educated within my area of expertise has helped me deal with this challenge.
What are some of your goals?
I want to encourage collaborative decision-making processes with Indigenous and non-Indigenous levels of government to create new policies and practices for stronger environmental protection leading to meaningful and lasting systemic change.
Personally, I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. In the past, my spouse and I have done a number of multi-day treks including the West Coast Trail, but I really want to see more of the Pacific West Coast with ‘boots on the ground’. I have a number of career-related goals I want to achieve, but I find that hiking and committing to being out in nature can often be just as challenging of a goal to set.
Do you have a mentor? What advice would you give other professionals about mentors?
Yes, my current manager Todd Cashin has been extremely influential and helped me grow as an individual and in my career. Todd was in my position 15 years ago and helped shape the environmental planning portfolio throughout Central Okanagan. Todd is my biggest supporter but also my biggest critique. You have to be able to take credit where it is due but also learn to take constructive criticism and implement that in your day-to-day and learn from it. Also, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of ‘how things were done in the past. I would also encourage young professionals to start creating their personal portfolio as soon as possible. Create a hard copy binder that you can start keeping a record of your accomplishments, even if it’s a research paper you were particularly proud of, a project you worked on, or volunteer experience. Your resume will always evolve, but as you get into more senior leadership roles you will be able to show all of what you have accomplished along the way and not just list years of experience.
What’s in the future for your career and the environmental sector?
What’s next… well, there is a lot of work to be done still in terms of environmental protection, watershed planning, and advancing Indigenous reconciliation. I am very grateful to be able to do the work that I do, and I look forward to being a mentor to other young professionals in the future. People are finally listening to the science and relying more on the advice of environmental professionals and traditional knowledge keepers. I am seeing a big shift in the environmental sector starting to collaborate more and breaking down those silos between sectors and also working from an ethical space when it comes to cultural awareness.