Environmental Field Tech: ‘Every Project Is Like Completing a Puzzle’

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Julio Dejesus, environmental technician ambassador
'I still enjoy coming to work every day,' says Julio Dejesus of his evolving role at Environmental Recovery Corporation. (Credit: Courtesy Julio Dejesus)

Julio Dejesus knew he’d found the right job when he became an environmental field technician. After working in an unfulfilling job for years, the 33-year-old discovered the satisfaction of problem solving — and making customers happy — when he became a field services technician for Environmental Recovery Corporation (ERC) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  

He worked as a technician for four years before being promoted to environmental services manager.

Why did you get into environmental field tech work?

I was a forklift driver at a warehouse for about 10 years. I did not find the job very rewarding. I did not think there were many chances for promotions that would help me get ahead in life. And I was tired of the same old daily routine, working between the same four walls for eight hours a day.

I had a buddy who worked at ERC. He encouraged me to apply. I did and was hired. I started as a regular field technician, working under a project manager. I had no formal training; I learned on the job. From the first day, I knew this was the job for me. 

What does a typical day look like?

Typically my day starts at 7 a.m. and usually ends around 3 or 4 p.m. Customers usually call in advance to set up a site walk, or to walk through a spill, or discuss a specific project they want done. If the area is contaminated with a hazardous material, we take samples of the contaminated material and submit it to be tested. Whether it’s a hazardous or a non-hazardous job, we work with the customer to figure out a plan to tackle the project.

As I progressed as a technician, I learned how to complete projects from beginning to end. Now I run a crew of 10 technicians, including drivers.

What do you like most about your job? And least?

I love the satisfaction I get from overseeing a project from beginning to end, and seeing the smile on the customer’s face when the problem they once had was solved professionally and in an environmentally friendly way. 

I really can’t think of the thing I like least about my job. Like I mentioned, I’ve worked in this field for five years. I still enjoy coming to work every day.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

You must be an “environmentalist” to work in the environment. Even though I work as an environmental technician, my work doesn’t consist every day of battling global warming or saving the ocean. My field is practical and includes duties such as site remediation, regulation compliance, conducting assessments and evaluations and reporting. 

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

How to sign up sooner! I also wish I would have known how much manual labor is involved. There’s a lot of shoveling.

Why would you recommend that someone go into this line of work?

I think there is a desire in human nature to feel a sense of achievement when completing projects. For instance, every project is like completing a puzzle. There are problems and customers look for us to help find the solutions to their issue. If you like solving problems and completing projects, this job is for you. 

Can you describe one particular moment or day on the job that gave you real satisfaction?

An elderly woman had an issue with an underground storage tank in her backyard. It was mentioned to her that the tank was leaking fuel and was going to cost hundreds of dollars to completely excavate the tank and dispose of it. I used my knowledge and experience to assess the ground and the surrounding environment. I let her know her tank was in good shape and the fuel she was putting in it was in fact staying in the tank. She was very grateful that I saved her money. 

Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?

I want to continue to work hard and be promoted to vice president or to a similar position where I can oversee an environmental services division.

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