Alumni Spotlight: Isabelle Heilman

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Isabelle Heilman
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Alumni Spotlight: Isabelle Heilman

Isabelle Heilman (UCSD GPS, ‘19) spent her time growing up in Arizona playing outside and watching her dad as he worked for the Federal Government. It’s no wonder that she has combined both to drive her to a career in public service as a Programmatic Project Analyst working in the Sustainability Performance Division at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“My dad is a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he prompted me to consider a career in public service,” Heilman says. “He has worked for the government almost my entire life and has had a fulfilling career.”

“Environmental stewardship was a strong pillar of my early life at home and school. I went to college knowing I wanted to study something related to the environment and when I found a major in Environment, Economics, and Politics it seemed like the perfect fit,” Heilman explains.

Even as she was thinking about graduate school, Heilman knew she wanted to work in the Federal Government and credits her Robertson Fellowship for pushing her to pursue the work following graduation.

“I had wanted to work in the Federal Government before applying for graduate school, but the Robertson Fellowship pushed me to pursue federal service upon graduating,” Heilman says. “The stipend during the summer helped support me through an unpaid internship at the State Department. The internship confirmed that I was interested in a career in federal service and set me up with the experience needed to receive a Presidential Management Fellowship at the Department of Energy upon graduating with my Master’s.”

As part of Heilman’s capstone class, she had the opportunity to combine a lot of skills that prepared her for her current job at the Department of Energy.

“I took a capstone class which was essentially a team consulting project for an electric vehicle rental company. The assignment required policy research, project management, and client management skills which have been critical for me in my current job. I highly recommend grad students try to get consulting experience where they tackle a policy problem,” Heilman elaborates.

Now that she is working full time in the Federal Government, she can continue to build on her love for the outdoors.

“Since I work at the Department of Energy headquarters, I have a portfolio-level view of all the sustainability and climate work across the Department. The National Laboratories of the Department of Energy are performing groundbreaking science and pushing innovation for energy technology. I am so excited to support the climate projects across our Labs helping DOE accomplish our mission more sustainably,” Heilman explains.

And throughout her time in the Federal Government, Heilman has been surprised by how different agencies can operate sustainability programs in such different ways.

“While I was a Presidential Management Fellow, I was able to do a developmental rotation in the Office of Sustainability and Climate at the U.S. Forest Service. It was surprising for me to see how different a sustainability program could be, given that all government agencies have the same requirements. I learned a ton and brought back some new ideas for my team at DOE,” Heilman recounts.

Heilman recently joined RFG and other alums to lead an Earth Day Careers in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability discussion where she talked about public service and entering into this important field. Heilman encourages anyone who wants to pursue a career in public service focused on sustainability or climate change to check out sustainability.gov.

As Heilman notes, “You can see all the agency plans for sustainability and climate change adaptation, as well as videos of the federal sustainability speaker series (including Dr. Bill Nye!).”

And for those looking to enter into public service, Heilman encourages patience.

“The hiring process in the government can be difficult and slow. If you want to work in government but are having trouble getting in the door, be persistent and try to leverage your network as much as possible!”