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Erin Reilly, Haas MBA ’04,  leads green marketing at Google where she’s responsible for driving global engagement with Google’s work in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green products. She’s also worked as Senior Director of Yahoo! for Good, the company’s social responsibility department, as well as at Nike, Business for Social Responsibility, and the environmental engineering company Tetra Tech EM Inc.

Power of Business to Help the Environment

When I applied to Haas, most people thought “environmental business” was an oxymoron. But I saw a perfect union. Growing up in the Northwest and hiking every Sunday, I have always cared deeply for the natural environment. As an adult, I think capitalism is the most powerful force in our world today. My career is focused on using that power of business to help the environment.

My jobs prior to business school were heavy on the environmental side and lighter on the business side, so at Haas, I focused on the nuts and bolts of finance and quantitative areas. I wanted to know about ROI, NPV, or “target audience,” so I could be comfortable with the language of business decisions.

The Thread of Social Responsibility at CRB

For me, the Center for Responsible Business (CRB) wove the thread of social responsibility into nearly every class I took. It ensured positive impact was part of the conversation, and it attracted a strong core of students committed to improving the world through business. The CRB was also instrumental in how I landed my first job after Haas. While working on a CRB project, I met someone who eventually ended up being my boss at Yahoo!

Advice to Current Students

Speaking of jobs, here’s my advice for current Haas students:  Be creative and open-minded about the positions you take, especially when you’re looking for a job post-MBA.

Maybe some of you will be lucky enough to get your “dream job” as the first role in the social responsibility field. But for me, at two key times in my career, I took positions that didn’t look ideal on the outside, but that had a lot of promise.

One was working with hazardous waste regulations (not exactly a sexy topic), but I really clicked with the team and company, so I took the job. Within a year, I was working in ecological areas. Or another example – I took a job after graduating with my MBA that was only an internship, but it was with a company that was growing a ton and reached hundreds of millions of people. Within a few months, they converted me to full-time in a role I considered “a dream job.” So take some risks and trust that with your skills and smarts, you’ll turn that into a job you love (eventually!).

Recipe for the Ideal CSR Position

My recipe for that ideal position includes a few ingredients. First, I’ve worked in companies that fundamentally believe in positive environmental and social impact. For instance, at Yahoo! and Google, I didn’t need to build a “business case” because it was part of their DNA. I could focus on inventing and executing projects rather than convincing people.

Secondly, I love working in companies where I can scale the positive impact. With the enormous number of people who use Google, I’m motivated to find ways to turn those connections into environmental good.

And thirdly, in my role, I get to understand what captures people’s attention, what prompts them to take action. And when we turn that action toward helping the environment, I feel great at the end of the day. To me, it means more generations will walk through the natural environment feeling as happy as I did when I was a kid hiking in the North Cascades.