Embrace Your Weird

woman in red dress in front of open stairwell I recently celebrated my five-year anniversary with Mead & Hunt and, for me, the cliché “time flies when you’re having fun” could not be truer. I am proud to work at Mead & Hunt for many reasons: my incredible, talented colleagues; our unique projects and clients; employee development opportunities; principled leadership; and company values and culture that align with my own code. However, the top reason I love my role with Mead & Hunt is that I can be my authentic weirdo self here.

“I don’t mind being called a weirdo. There are a lot of people in hip-hop who are probably never going to do what I do.” — Nikki Minaj

At Mead & Hunt, I can be the type of oddball who is thrilled to receive text messages with photos of airport trash cans and recycling bins from colleagues, friends, and family on a regular basis. I can be the eccentric consultant that stops short during a facility walk-through to ask about partial toilet paper rolls or to get my photo taken with a garbage can washer or nifty liquid collection station. I can spend an entire week in the basement trash room of an airport during a desert sandstorm (true story) and come out more energized and closer to my project team than when we went in.

“Anything you can imagine, you can create.” — Oprah Winfrey

brunette woman in white jumpsuit My professional life dedicated to the unique and unexpected topic of airport garbage was only possible because of my role model, Laura Morland. Laura “leaned in” when I described my thesis on waste contracting during a new employee onboarding dinner and told me about a federal requirement for waste planning at airports. Laura looked past the strange and seemingly irrelevant nature of my research, recognized my potential, encouraged me, and directed me toward a constructive use of my passion for trash. Because of this, my trajectory was forever changed and I’m eternally grateful.

The seed that was planted by Laura continued to grow as I became more and more comfortable sharing my knowledge and confessing my interest in waste management planning. About a year after learning of the federal requirement, I had an inkling that this weird fascination was a valuable service to the industry, so I wrote a small business case for waste management planning at airports. Amy Squitieri, a second key figure to my story, patiently reviewed my business case and provided her insight and guidance. We saw a lot of parallels to my own journey in Amy’s experience growing an interest in “old bridges” into our cultural resources service line. She made me feel like there is a place for all kinds of quirky interests at Mead & Hunt—and a place for quirky people, too.

In the time since that first business case, my incredible manager, Kate Andrus, has backed efforts to expand our capacity to serve airports and other facilities that want to reduce the environmental, social, and financial impacts of their waste generation.

Together, we developed a safety protocol for waste stream composition studies (“waste sorts”). Kate and several other brave souls have demonstrated their belief in this service and my passion by suiting up and digging next to me during waste sort activities. I can’t think of a clearer or more disgusting demonstration of encouragement from one’s leadership and teammates. We’ve also developed a long-range business plan with an eye on the changing markets and other industry disruptions. It blows my mind that this strange thing I hardly stop thinking about is being integrated into our company’s planning and projections for the future.

“The formula of happiness and success is being actually yourself, in the most vivid possible way you can.” — Meryl Streep

I’m so thankful for the leaders and clients who have embraced my passion and given me the opportunity to see how far we can reach. The ability to explore every corner of my kooky interest is the single largest factor to my happiness at Mead & Hunt, supplemented with 1) the opportunity to mentor new professionals, especially those looking to find their niche, and 2) meeting and getting to know and work with the offbeat, nutty, wonderful, giving people that found a place here as well. I hope everyone finds the professional fulfillment and sense of empowerment I have when I’m working to fight airport trash. As Meryl Streep also said: “What makes you different or weird, that’s your strength.”

Morgan Turner, TRUE Advisor

About the Author

Morgan Turner, TRUE Advisor, is passionate and knowledgeable about the four R’s of resource management – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Re-Buy. Morgan’s infectious interest in moving materials up the waste management hierarchy drives her to design small tweaks and larger initiatives that public or private facilities can implement to reduce waste generation and increase landfill diversion.

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