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Stephanie’s story: at the crossing of Project Management and Sustainability

Stephanie Hold is our inspiring IT Project Manager. Also CSR Environment Co-Manager at Positive Thinking Company Belgium, Stephanie tells us about her atypical professional career.

Hello Stephanie! Over the last few years you have coupled your career as IT Project Manager with the challenges of sustainable development. Could you give us a quick input of what drove you so far?

Stephanie: Well, I’ve been a consultant in Project Management for a couple of years, and I was getting more and more interested in the topic of sustainability. It was a topic that a lot of people were talking about, you read about in the newspapers… But to be honest, I didn’t quite know what it meant. So, I got more and more interested. And the more I discover about Sustainability and Environment, the more complex I realize it is and therefore the more there is yet still to be done.

You decided to get a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development. What were the objectives by doing this Master?

Stephanie: So, yes, in parallel to working, I decided to go back to school and to get a Master’s degree in Sustainable Development. The reason I did this was to understand more of the complex situation around sustainability. The social side, the environmental side, the ethical side.

And it allowed me to better understand all the implications. In particular, how an action on one side can lead to positive impacts, but also negative impacts on another side. So I think that helped me to get a better understanding. Now I can combine my knowledge about sustainability with my project management experience.

Could you tell us about your experience in sustainable development?

Stephanie: I had the opportunity to work in the Not-for-profit called the Better Cotton Initiative. It’s focusing on the cotton supply chain and in particular how to make cotton production better for farmers, better for the environment and better for the whole cotton trade. So that was a great opportunity for me to move out from more traditional office sectors into something that I discovered and that was very interesting.

I had the opportunity also to go into the field of an Indian cotton producer and to understand what the dynamics were. It basically opens eyes to the topic of sustainability.

Can sustainability be integrated into traditional office sectors?

Stephanie: Now that I’ve been in various sectors with sustainability, I can see how those things can be combined. There’s lots of work to do. Businesses are changing. I think things like circular economy and sustainability are not just niche markets. More and more businesses are being forced to integrate them. And for image perspective, but also economical reasons, it makes sense to integrate sustainability into their business practices.

Which role plays an IT Project Manager in a Green Business?

Stephanie: Well, I think it’s because I am a consultant that I can better understand what the constraints and the opportunities are. When I was working at the Better Cotton Initiative, I was IT Project Manager. It was about helping this Not-for-profit to really grow in terms of the various IT tools.

How they’ve been used? How to synchronize, how to coordinate? And how to bring some structure into all the activities they were doing? It was a Not-for-profit that grew very fast. Amazing work being done. And it was about to help coordinate that and in particular their very ambitious goals with lots of data. You need to understand what the motivations are and what the critical activities are, so you can do the best job you can.

Lately, you participated in the European Sustainable Development Week at Positive Thinking Company. Can you tell us about the actions you took during this week?

 Stephanie: In collaboration with the Marketing team, we sent daily topics to our consultants on things that we felt they could act upon. It dealt with food, waste … We tried to branch out with them, thanks to messages on how they can also have an impact on key things, even though there might sometimes busy with clients and projects.

We also organized a presentation on the topic of sustainable cotton production. And I thought that was very interesting because cotton is something that we all wear. Most people don’t realize where it comes from, what the key risks and problems are. So I think it was quite an eye-opener for a lot of people.

What matters most to you in your CSR Environment Co-Manager position?

Stephanie: I think what’s important is to make people realize that you can take easy steps to go towards more environmentally friendly behavior. And there are lots of things that we should be doing not only personally as individuals and a member society, but also from a project perspective. So I’m looking forward to evolving in this. It’s challenging, but that makes sense.

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