In the fall of 2023, Siobhan Finan, BSc Natural Resources Conservation ’20, was recognized for her exceptional early career accomplishments in the area of corporate sustainability. Based in Whistler, BC, and originally from Vancouver, BC, the Faculty of Forestry alum has played a pivotal role in moving Canada Post towards attaining its waste-diversion goals and developed the crown corporation’s first zero-waste strategy. Siobhan is one of only 30 young Canadians to receive a 2023 Top 30 Under 30 designation from the Corporate Knights, a media and research organization focused on the sustainable economy.
What drew you to study towards a BSc in Natural Resources Conservation at UBC?
After transferring into the Faculty of Forestry from the Faculty of Science at UBC, I quickly discovered that I had found the right place. I really loved the built-in flexibility of the program, which gave me the opportunity to study other topics as well as apply a science lens to forests and concepts surrounding sustainability. I also appreciated the appealing learning environment with smaller class sizes.
What skills from your UBC Forestry degree do you apply at your current job?
Something that I deeply appreciate about my undergraduate degree at UBC Forestry is the breadth of disciplines covered. By the time I graduated, I had studied courses in the social sciences, economics, the computer sciences, sociology as well as psychology. This interdisciplinary exposure gave me a well-rounded perspective on concepts of sustainability. The capstone course that focused on presentation work and communications skills parlayed well into my current role, which involves regular presentations and ongoing communication with team members. Combined with gaining professional experience during my degree program, the skills I gained allowed me to feel very confident stepping into the corporate world fresh out of university.
How did you become a Manager of Real Estate Sustainability with Canada Post?
My introduction to the Canada Post work environment began as a Real Estate, Environment and Sustainability Summer Student while I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at UBC Forestry. Then, a full-time role as an Environment and Sustainability Specialist presented itself when I was graduating in 2020. Since securing that job, I worked my way up to an Advisor of Real Estate Sustainability and now my current position.
What is your advice to UBC Forestry students interested in pursuing a career in sustainability?
Firstly, get as much professional work experience as you can as early as you can. Particularly in this day and age, it may be less about figuring out exactly what you want to do, and more about taking the first job that you find interesting. Learn what you like, what you don’t like and then make your next move. This approach can be less intimidating since you are only looking a couple of steps ahead, or maybe five years down the road, instead of focusing on jumping into something for the long-term right off the bat. Read about the net-zero carbon transition and circular economy to help you learn the terminology and speak the same language as prospective employers. Also read different sustainability reports to keep up-to-date on the trends in different organizations. Connect with or follow people on LinkedIn who you admire or whose career paths you would possibly like to emulate.
When hiring summer students, I often favour applicants with professional experience. Important skill sets that I look for include project management, communication and Excel skills. Hot tip: Canada Post usually begins recruiting summer students in January or February, including positions in the area of sustainability.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to get outside in any way that I can during my spare time. My favorite sports now are skiing, mountain biking and surfing. I was a member of the UBC varsity volleyball team, which was a fantastic experience that made my extracurricular life very rich. We won two national championships. The sport also introduced me to my partner, who was a member of the men’s volleyball team and now competes on the national team in Poland.