I work as the coastal-state federal relations coordinator for the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP). It's a long title, but my job is fairly straightforward: I work with federal agencies to make sure that the agencies' actions, or the projects they permit, comply with the laws and policies that govern Oregon's coastal resources. The program I work for, the OCMP, partners with local governments, state and federal agencies, and other stakeholders to ensure that Oregon's coastal and ocean resources are managed, conserved and developed consistent with Oregon's statewide planning goals. As the coordinator for this program, I'm the primary point of contact with federal agencies to ensure that federal licenses, permits or projects affecting the coastal zone are consistent with the OCMP. I also help the public and other agencies understand our program and requirements, and keep the program up-to-date by working with our federal, state and local partners.
I've always loved playing on the beach and have found some of my favorite places along the coast. In high school I took a marine science class that piqued my interest about what was beyond the beach, and that interest continued through college. The key factor that pulled it all together was a fellowship I accepted after law school working with a state agency to establish the first system of marine reserves in Oregon. Through that experience I realized I really like working on the policy side of the equation, managing ocean and coastal resources so that future generations can enjoy them as much as I do.
As a coordinator who works with local governments, state and federal permitting agencies, and applicants, I have the opportunity to interact with a broad range of people. I also enjoy working on a variety of different projects and learning new things on a constant basis. My work is largely driven by the projects that federal agencies are undertaking or permitting, so in any given week I may work on projects ranging from wave energy development to dredging a navigation channel to building a new wastewater treatment plant.
I spend a lot of time inside and in meetings. During the Oregon winter I'm thankful for a desk job, but come summer it's hard to be in front of a computer all the time when the sun is shining. Luckily I'm able to get out in the field occasionally.
I like to get outside. I enjoy hiking, biking, skiing and kayaking. I also like to lose myself in a good book and cook up delicious food.
My parents are my heroes. They started and still run a family business and have worked incredibly hard to create a company that supports its employees and community.
Take a variety of classes and get as much practice writing as you can. Having a strong science background will help you understand the physical effects and technical merits of projects, having a good understanding of government and the law will give you a solid basis for deciding if policy work is the right path for you, and strong writing will come in handy no matter what you decide to do. Also, don't get too bogged down in charting out an exact course. You'll probably have to learn a lot of new information on the job no matter what career you end up in, especially one that pulls together so many different disciplines, so one of the most important skills you can cultivate is learning how to learn -- get in the habit of asking questions, thinking about what makes things work, and paying attention to the people and things around you.
Career opportunities in my field are probably holding steady. Because our coastal areas provide so many opportunities for recreation, research, industry, tourism and a myriad of other uses, there will always be a need for coastal managers who can bring together various parties to make sure proposed projects meet a state's coastal management policies. That being said, state and federal budgets are increasingly tight and people wanting to start in the field of ocean and coastal policy need to be ready to start out wherever they can -- volunteering is always a good way to meet people and gain necessary skills.
Hard to tell, but I hope it still entails working with fun, dedicated people.