Saturday, December 24, 2011

Growth in the green jobs sector

The San Francisco Bay Area hasn't been hit as hard by the economic downturn as some parts of the country, but even here it's felt. Large companies have been continuing the trend of periodic layoffs, and many smaller ones are struggling.

One area, however, is growing here, as well as throughout the United States: green jobs. According to an article this week in U.S. Green Technology, in recent years green jobs grew at a much faster rate than the rest of the economy. A report published earlier this year showed that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was instrumental in this growth, helping to create or preserve nearly 1 million green jobs, while laying the foundation for more.

What does it take to get a green job? In addition to learning about sustainability, it's important to have professional training in existing fields. After all, companies offering green jobs need all kinds of professionals -- and that, of course, includes project managers. A recent PM Network article elaborates on the role of project managers in sustainability.

The SF Bay Area PMI chapter is a great resource for professional growth in both project management and sustainability. The Chapter offers a variety of networking and educational opportunities to help hone your project management skills. And our Green Project Management Seminars provide insights into specific green projects and programs, as well as information about education in sustainability. Follow this blog to stay informed about the latest Chapter sustainability programs.

Those of us living in the Bay Area are lucky to be at the center of the action; San Francisco is one of the top cities in the surge in green tech opportunities. So if you're considering making the transition to a green job, you're in the right place. And if you'd like to learn more about educational opportunities in this area, stay tuned for an upcoming post about our recent seminar on green education and green jobs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Sustainability Certificate Program at City College

At our last Green Project Management seminar, Kelle McMahon of the Green Science Academy told us about the importance of green education in getting a green job. Now there's one more choice in the menu for green education in the SF Bay Area: The Sustainability Certificate Program at City College in San Francisco.

The program is designed for working professionals, business owners, or students working toward a degree who wish to understand and apply sustainability concepts to their educational pathways or careers. It can be completed in two semesters or over several years.

For more information, contact  Peggy Lopipero-Langmo at

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Green education, green jobs, and you

Our November Green Project Management seminar will cover the importance of green education in getting a green job. It’s important for project managers to be familiar with current legislation and how it affects the overall supply chain. As we move toward stricter standards and globalization of products and services, we must be informed about how products are harvested, manufactured, and distributed throughout the globe. Kelle McMahon, CEO of the Green Science Academy, will show us how the landscape of the job market has changed, making project management skills even more valuable -- in fact, vital -- in today’s job market. She will explain how the skills she developed as a PM helped her build a company that supports the triple bottom line: people, planet, and sustainable profits. Moreover, she will explore how you can transfer your skills to a job in a green industry, as well as showing how green education will differentiate you from other professionals in the marketplace. If you’re thinking of moving into a green job, this workshop will be perfect for you.

To register, visit the PMI event page.

The Green Project Management Seminar Series is co-sponsored by Keller Graduate School and the Project Management Institute San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. The seminars are held on the third Saturday of each month from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon PDT, at Keller Graduate School’s Daly City location. For details and registration information, visit the PMI SF Bay Area Chapter website at or

Monday, October 24, 2011

A game-changing energy solution: The Laser Inertial Fusion Energy Project

50 years ago, people said fusion energy was 50 years away. John Post of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore thinks they were right. As he explained at our October Green Project Management Seminar, that means we’re on the brink of an exciting new chapter in energy generation.

And not a moment too soon. Energy demands are increasing as our supply of non-renewable energy sources is dwindling. And our current energy supply is about 90% carbon based. Renewables are important but for now a thin wedge of the power we’re using, and transmission and distribution are challenges.

Post feels that our solution to this energy situation needs to be:
  • Affordable
  • Environmentally clean, safe, sustainable
  • Nearly inexhaustible
  • Possible with technologies and materials available today
  • Non-geopolitical
  • Non-proliferant – that is, not conducive to creating and proliferating weapons
  • Compatible with the existing grid infrastructure
  • Timely enough to make a difference and meet the energy demands of 2030 – 2060
Sometimes, it turns out, the answer is right in front of you. Fusion is what powers the cosmos, so we know it works — it’s just a matter of getting it to work in the lab, a challenge akin to putting rubber bands around water.

How does this work? It involves taking some hydrogen from water, filtering out the heavy water (water with an extra neutron), baking it for a few billionths of a second at 200 million degrees F, and converting mass to energy. We’re talking a lot of energy -- one liter of heavy water has the energy of more than 2 million gallons of gas. Each fusion energy plant would prevent 7 million tons of CO2 from being released into the air.

To succeed, the NIF Laser Inertial Fusion Energy (LIFE) project has to get more energy out of the reaction than is put in – or achieve ignition. Currently the process is at the break-even stage. But Post believes we’re looking at NIF ignition in 2012, a first-of-a-kind plant in the early 2020s, and significant market penetration in the 2030s. Although it’s been a long road, and there have been some crackpots on the journey, Post is not alone in thinking we’re close to achieving the goal. In fact, some are starting to see the LIFE project as competition, a good sign. And Secretary of Energy Steven Chu says we will get to the goal and should be planning for that.

At the seminar, Post involved attendees in a lively discussion of the project’s challenges, many of which are familiar to project managers:
  • Perceptions and change management: Most people aren’t aware of fusion energy or how close we are to achieving it, especially since the LIFE project has been declassified for just a short time. Many people have negative associations with fusion energy and mistakenly compare it to our current nuclear energy. So public education and outreach will be important to the project.
  • Competition: We can mitigate this by working with other countries, as we have done with such projects as an international space station.
  • Cost of market entry and timeliness of commercial deployment: Post believes there’s an opportunity for public-private partnership, and while government sponsorship is important, fusion energy should not be funded by the government. The current economy is an issue, but only $5 - $8 billion is needed to build the first plant -- not a lot of money for this sort of endeavor. And we might be able to repurpose existing sites, such as Three Mile Island, which already has the necessary infrastructure and heat source and is nearing its end of life.
  • Stakeholder engagement and competing stakeholder interests: It’s important to determine what motivates different stakeholder populations and appeal to that to get their support for the project.
  • Staying within budget and on schedule -- an issue for any project.
The list goes on -- but being aware of challenges goes a long way toward addressing them, and the October seminar attendees were privileged to participate in helping identify potential issues for this project from a fresh perspective.

For more on the LIFE project, visit the LIFE website.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sustainability exercise: Eliminating company-provided bottled water

One characteristic of our Green Project Management seminars that keeps them so engaging is that they all provide some level of interaction. At our September seminar, on Adobe’s journey to sustainability (more on that in the previous post), Global Sustainability Manager Meera Ramanathan presented the group with this exercise:

You are tasked with eliminating bottled water from your company’s campus in a year. Many employees are excited about the change, and an equal number are not. The CFO is not convinced of the cost benefits. How do you structure your project to ensure success?

Seminar attendees came up with these suggestions:
  • Do research, get feedback, engage people on ideas so that ideas can come from them.
  • Do a benchmark to see where you stand in relation to others, see if you’re the first or behind others and let employees know where the company stands.
  • Employees might mistakenly think the bottled water at the office is cleaner than their tap water at home. So it’s important to educate people that this is not the case -- and it could be a good idea to get deals for them on filters for their homes, so they don’t need to take home water bottles.
  • Provide alternatives: the company can provide filtered water, cups, and metal water bottles. Could provide pitchers for visitors, since some people might be concerned about how to get water to their visitors.
  • Compare costs of the alternatives to what you were spending on plastic bottles. Also think about recycling and trash costs.
  • Engage in consistent communication and education of stakeholders.
  • Think about how to roll out the elimination of bottled water. Could do it in phases, give employees metal bottles, make it a competition.
  • When the change has been made, go back to the CFO and show savings.
  • Ask for feedback from resisters.
In fact, seminar attendees noted, in many ways a project like this follows the same methodology as other projects -- but it may have a strong emotional aspect. So education and change management are especially crucial.

After we’d discussed our ideas, Ramanathan told us how was it done at Adobe:
  • One weekend, the company added water filtration systems, with a note on top of each filter communicating about their benefits.
  • Bottled water was concurrently reduced by 50%. Employees didn’t realize there had been a reduction, because they still saw some water. At the same time, there was constant messaging to let people know the change was coming. Each month, the amount of bottled water was reduced.
  • The company gave employees canisters and added cups in the break rooms. These could be used for guests and left for janitorial staff to deal with.
  • Messages were sent to all employees explaining what was being done, and feedback was solicited.
  • The company incentivized employees to make the change by stocking fresh fruit where bottled water had been. The caf├ęs provided fruit-flavored water.
  • And of course, the CFO was convinced of the benefit when he saw the savings that were realized from making this change.
Although there had been some resistance, by the first week of the program all but 15 – 20% of the naysayers were excited about it. Specific issues still had to be addressed -- for example, some people wanted only room temperature water, and the water from the filters could be a bit cold. These people were encouraged to simply wait till their water got warm enough. Before long, even they had adapted. And many employees appreciated that the company had responded to an issue that was brought up initially by employees.

An unexpected benefit was that this project led to looking at other ways to save more money in break rooms. The company is considering cutting down on sodas and is now buying bulk juices instead of individual bottles. And healthier options such as oatmeal and soups have been introduced. This is just one small example of how one sustainability project can engender others and lead to more benefits than originally expected.

Note: Although I am an Adobe employee, this posting is my own and doesn't necessarily represent the position, views, or opinions of Adobe.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Adobe's journey to sustainability

When it comes to business, sustainability initiatives must consider ROI. The good thing is that when sustainability is built into a company, you save resources and therefore money, and that makes it easier to justify more sustainability projects.

Adobe Systems is a good example of this principle. As Global Sustainability Manager Meera Ramanathan explained to our September seminar attendees, Adobe’s steps to sustainability have always been promoted by looking at ROI, something that’s been easy to show. The company’s San Jose headquarters, for example, has initiated 85 sustainability projects (from lighting retrofits to energy savings), costing a total of $2.1 million -- and these have resulted in $1.5 million in savings annually, plus $475,000 in rebates. Given the continued nature of annual savings, this is a huge ROI.

In spite of this focus, while other projects might be driven by finance, Adobe’s sustainability projects have been driven by a concept of change, with finance coming into the picture later. An example of this is double-sided printing. Employee interest led to printers being set to default to double-sided printing -- which ended up saving a lot of money as people used less paper.

This example echoes the sustainable principles of Adobe’s founders, who set out to create a paperless system. And this was just one small step: sustainability at Adobe really got going in 2001, when Governor Gray Davis asked large companies to cut down on energy use. The company proceeded to systematically assess and reduce its energy use, and to track every business activity to see what could be reduced.

This led to a number of sustainability initiatives:
  • LEED certification for 10 Adobe buildings. This was one of the first initiatives and a good basis for many others: if you make a building sustainable, the operations within it will be sustainable. And LEED provides a helpful framework for a company to follow, with guidelines that help formulate a plan.
  • Alternative energy initiatives, such as wind turbines and fuel cells in the San Jose office.
  • Electric car charging stations at some sites.
  • Energy conservation (sub-metering allows the company to see and address spikes).
  • Waste diversion (99% in San Jose).
  • Water conservation.
  • Green procurement and cleaning.
  • Employee-initiated projects such as e-faxes and elimination of bottled water.
Most of the projects have developed in this way:
  • Someone has an idea to conserve resources or change the status quo.
  • The idea grows as more stakeholders become involved.
  • Budgets and plans are proposed and developed.
  • A timeline is developed.
  • The idea becomes a project.
The LEED project used this methodology, which has been replicated for the other green projects:
  • The project began with a stakeholder meeting to set the scope.
  • Task assignment followed, with specific tasks -- for example, it was specified that landscapers procure plants that were not just drought-resistant but also native, and janitorial staff were asked to use green cleaning products.
  • Education and communication is the most important aspect of sustainability projects, which tend to require an extra mindset shift to engage stakeholders. In this case, landscapers needed to learn how to take care of native plants, and that involved adopting a different way of thinking. Janitorial staff had to be trained in green cleaning and educated about the benefits to their own health.
  • Individual project plans were created with scope, timelines, resources, and budgets.
  • Auditing by a third party is also helpful in green projects. It can be a very simple check in some cases, perhaps even done by the CFO -- this helps determine if it’s a good project to continue with and helps get more people on board. For the LEED project, the U.S. Green Building Council did the audits.
The key things Adobe has learned about sustainability projects is that they must be accompanied by inherent behavioral changes, and constant communication must happen for their continued success:
  • Educate teams early about desired results -- this helps them work together better.
  • Address concerns immediately so they don’t linger and fester. It’s especially important to address the concerns of resisters first; once you do that, they can become the project’s biggest champion, and everyone will follow them.
  • Communicate favorable outcomes of each step constantly.
  • Put out lots of meeting notes. Sustainability projects can often take a long time, so it’s good to keep people informed as you go.
  • Ensure all stakeholders know exactly were they are within the project and with respect to each other.
  • Assure everyone they are an equal partner in the initiative.
  • Address any concern immediately via a revised timeline, budget, resources, etc.
  • Keep the project on schedule and, if possible, under budget.
How do you show your programs are working? Metrics, it turns out, are not just helpful in identifying potential projects. Ramanathan explained how tracking all projects, costs, and ROI is essential in showing what you’ve done, both to yourself and to others. In an era of rampant greenwashing, having data to prove you’re being green gives you more credibility. And Adobe has shown that they’re serious about sustainability, and about sharing what they’ve learned -- as was exemplified in this seminar.

Note: Although I am an Adobe employee, this posting is my own and doesn't necessarily represent the position, views, or opinions of Adobe.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Green PM seminars off to great start!

Our Green Project Management Seminar Series has gotten off to a great start! The series, co-sponsored by PMI SF Bay Area and Keller Graduate School, features 3-hour interactive seminars presenting case studies and discussions of fascinating projects involving sustainability.

First three seminars

We kicked off the series in July, with a seminar that explored Walmart’s journey from corporate social responsibility pariah to a uniquely influential player in the green economy. Bay Area sustainability strategist Mikhail Davis discussed Walmart’s commitment to sustainability, from his vantage point of having been one of the consultants who helped them in that effort. He provided fascinating insights into how going green has not only energized Walmart and encouraged innovation, but has also had far-reaching effects throughout their extensive supply chain -- making the world’s largest retailer the most important company in green business.

At our August seminar, project manager Pete Marsh recounted the challenges of managing a $1.6M project to build a telecommunications site in a state park on a remote island. One of the primary deliverables was an off-grid PV hybrid electrical system. The complexities included dual customers, myriad stakeholders, challenging logistics (how many projects have to clear goats from a grass strip runway?!), a complex environmental assessment, and a distributed project team. After his in-depth retrospective of this complex project, we held hands-on breakouts focused on areas such as stakeholder engagement and risk analysis, to crowdsource better outcomes.

As we saw in the seminar on Walmart, even the most unlikely businesses have been embracing sustainability. What does this effort look like at a modern software company? In September, Lakshmi (Meera) Ramanathan, Global Sustainability Manager, explored the challenges and opportunities encountered on the road to sustainability at Adobe Systems. She went beyond detailing the company’s long list of sustainability initiatives to delve into how projects came to light, the project methodology and process used to realize them, and the behavioral changes required to make them work. And she showed how the perspectives of both employees and management changed as they found that sustainability is not only practical and sensible but can also be a lot of fun.

Seminar 4: A Game-Changing Energy Solution: The Laser Inertial Fusion Energy Project – 15 Oct 2011

At our October seminar, John Post of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (which won PMI’s 2010 Project of the Year award) will discuss the fascinating Laser Inertial Fusion Energy (LIFE) project. LIFE continues the advances made by NIF, addressing the challenges of meeting our society’s demand for safe, secure, environmentally sustainable energy, and proposes a game-changing solution: fusion energy. Though recognized for decades as a solution with great potential, fusion has long been considered too immature to implement. That’s changing now, and we may be on the brink of an exciting new chapter in energy generation. As a long-standing PMI-SFBAC member, John Post will not only describe this massive project but will also involve the audience in crowdsourcing solutions to some of the vexing challenges they foresee. To be a part of this groundbreaking development, register here.

Keller Graduate School Sustainable Management MBA Program co-sponsors these events.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Keller - PMI SFBAC Green Project Management Seminar Series

This post introduces the Chapter's first green initiative, the Green Project Management Seminar Series. It's designed to address a broad range of topics, in interactive workshop style. We hope many of you find it interesting, and look forward to your ideas for other events focused on sustainability!

The business world is starting to see the benefits of sustainability in all aspects of operations: facilities O&M, the supply chain, business operations, and more. We’ve all heard stories about enterprises going green, and now more and more companies are finding that being more sustainable not only helps their bottom line but also improves their brand reputation and their employees’ health and satisfaction. A recent MIT Sloan report notes that most businesses are anticipating “a world where sustainability is becoming a mainstream, if not required, part of the business strategy.”

Project management is already concerned with reducing costs, increasing value, and protecting scarce resources — all practices that fit nicely with being green. So it’s no surprise that businesses and project managers are incorporating green practices and considerations into many projects, not just those in a sustainable industry. All projects affect the environment somehow, and a project manager can help mitigate that by considering the environmental effects of a project and also of the deliverables resulting from the project.

Join PMI SFBAC and Keller Graduate School for a series of 3-hour interactive seminars presenting case studies and interactive discussions of fascinating projects that involve sustainability. Seminars take place from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon PDT on the third Saturday of each month, at the Keller Daly City campus. For details and registration information, See the PMI SBAC events page.

Keller Graduate School Sustainable Management MBA Program co-sponsors these events.