Spotlight on our Inspiring Alumni: Maya Yaroskwy
International Alumna Maya Yaroskwy shares her experience of TAU and how it's helped her career in sustainability and the environment
I studied the Environmental Studies and Business program (M.A.) 2015-2016.
The environment has always been a passion of mine. I vividly remember in kindergarten wondering what happened to all the food that we threw away, and single-use plastic has always seemed illogical to me. So when I heard about the TAU program, I was excited to sign-up and take my passion to a new practical and professional level.
Although I've lived in Israel for over a decade, I chose to pursue the TAU International program because I wanted to get to know people from around the world and learn their unique perspectives on the environment and the future of our planet.
I was surprised to learn that, while the program is geared towards an international audience and exposes students to global perspectives, there is a healthy dose of the local outlook on environmental and social issues, derived from the professors' and lecturers' knowledge and expertise regarding the Israeli ecosystem.
"Although I've lived in Israel for over a decade, I chose to pursue the TAU International program because I wanted to get to know people from around the world and learn their unique perspectives on the environment and the future of our planet."
For me, one of the most memorable experiences was a trip to an area of Israel that I thought I was familiar with - the sea cliffs of Herzliya.
I lived in Herzliya at the time (the field trip was literally in my backyard), so when Hudi (Prof. Yehuda Benayahu, the Program Head) told us that that's where we'd be visiting, I laughed! However, I learned more about the marine ecosystem, the beautiful Karkur cliffs, and the often unanticipated implications of construction close to marine environments than I had expected. The experience gave me a new view of my own backyard and educated me on the importance of preservation in the face of urban development.
Another experience that stood out was participating in Dr. Vered Blass's class. She taught corporate social responsibility and sustainability in business, which opened my eyes to the professional career I envisioned for myself when I initially decided on this program. Her lessons fascinated me and Vered helped me land an internship with one of the leading CSR consultants in Israel, which ultimately helped me land my current job.
As Israel's sustainability and environmental fields are developing, I was aware that finding the perfect job for me in these fields might take time. I briefly considered going back to the States or looking for jobs abroad, but my love for Israel caused me to take a closer look at the local ecosystem to see what I could contribute. I was aware that I might need to use my existing skills (which, at the time, were in journalism and marketing) for a while before finding an opportunity to put what I learned at TAU into practice.
My goal going into the program was to become an environmental and sustainability consultant for businesses and my experiences in this program only strengthened this aspiration. I believed, and still do, that real sustainability action can occur only when a business is on board and geared towards making a change, so I wanted to play a role in making that happen.
When I graduated, I envisioned establishing a startup or company that provides environmental solutions for the consumer society. In general, our lives are comfortable, and we have access to most everything that we need, so to me, it only makes sense that we should start thinking about ways that we can also give back to the environment and society in the process. If we don't make this change, progress will remain stagnated. This is still something that I'm working towards and will be happy to share more information on the venture once it's more developed
I currently work for Ernst & Young in their Climate Change and Sustainability Services Division. If there is anything I've learned, it's that good experience is a collection of everything you have ever done, and being able to take the skills and positive experiences out of any job, be it waitressing or working in an office.
The Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS, as we call it) division at EY is one of the fastest-growing consulting services divisions in the company globally. We provide sustainability and environmental consultation to some of the largest industrial and consumer goods companies in the Israeli market and a rapidly growing cohort of high-tech companies. Our services are diverse, and essentially we aim to address companies' requests or requirements as they relate to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues. This can extend from carbon footprint calculations, writing and editing sustainability reports, assisting in addressing investor requests, and aligning with ESG ranking agencies (i.e. MSCI, ISS, etc.), conducting supply chain due diligence in preparation for audits, or working with management to set sustainability strategies and KPIs.
Because we are engaged in such a diverse range of projects, our goals for each client's engagement is a bit different. The overall goal is to help them integrate sustainability and ESG considerations into their regular course of business and help them realize value from this integration. For example, working with some companies to connect their existing business initiatives to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, a few of our clients have arrived at creative ideas for social engagement projects that combine their area of expertise, innovation, and good for the planet and society. These are definitely the most rewarding projects
My degree from TAU is precisely why I was able to gain visibility with a global company like EY.
Specifically, I took part in the Business concentration program and took courses with Dr. Blass (mentioned above) and other great professors, including a super inspiring guest professor from Brown University. In studying with Vered, she encouraged me to reach out to one of the leading CSR consulting firms in Israel, where I contributed by providing marketing and social media knowledge, not just applying the specific environmental topics I learned in my studies. I worked closely with the CEO and the rest of the team, and, as a result, when I finally applied to EY, my references made me stand out. Of course, creative thinking and knowledge of best practices from the program also significantly contributed, and without a doubt, the full range of topics that I was exposed to in my studies helped form a solid basis for consultations with my clients.
"My degree from TAU is precisely why I was able to gain visibility with a global company like EY."
Strengthening ties with TAU
I recently participated in a program webinar with the Porter School of Environmental and Earth Sciences for prospective students. The program coordinator, Lee, reached out and asked all the alumni who would be willing to participate. I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to give back and share a bit about my experiences. I think it's important to encourage more people to study environmental topics so that the discussion remains informed and enriching. This TAU program is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to get the full picture on these topics and choose the best direction for you.
"Israel is the prime place to study environmental issues because everything here is still developing. There are so many ways to be engaged and new avenues to pursue here, so it's the perfect breeding ground for those with new ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit."
Advice to Prospective Student
My first piece of advice to prospective students thinking about applying was 'do it!'. The program not only gave me the professional and technical skills that I needed to pursue my ideal career - the social and out of classroom experiences were important to my experience here in Israel and in growing my network.
My second piece of advice would be to come ready to be surprised and with a bit of patience. I remember that some students were thrown off by some of the topics that we had to learn, but in retrospect, I think it's important to hear all of the perspectives and understand all of the areas that environmental topics are reaching. It's important to remember that committing to a Master's degree means you are ready to focus on a particular field, and you can't be an expert without the complete picture!
The last piece of advice was to do with the Israeli experience. A lot of family and friends back home were surprised to learn that Israel even offers these kinds of educational programs, and wondered why I might learn in a country with greater expertise. To that, I would say that Israel is the prime place to study environmental issues because everything here is still developing. There are so many ways to be engaged and new avenues to pursue here, so it's the perfect breeding ground for those with new ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit.
Advice to Future Graduates
I would say take advantage of the opportunities, like the internship, one-on-one engagement with professors, lecturers and other extracurricular activities, the field trips, and, most importantly, the chance to grow your network. As mentioned, the internship helped me get my current job and develop a valuable network of contacts that have helped me out professionally (and personally) along the way.
The other piece of advice would be to keep believing in your dream. It sounds cheesy, but I can tell you that five years ago, most people thought that making businesses sustainable was a joke. Now they understand that it's directly tied to the bottom line, and investors, banks, and governments support this assertion. So whatever it is you want to achieve with a degree in sustainability is possible as long as you are willing to work hard!
"...take advantage of the opportunities, like the internship, one-on-one engagement with professors... the internship helped me get my current job and develop a valuable network of contacts that have helped me out professionally"
Currently, I'm focusing on delivering the best service to my clients so that we can get through this challenging time with the same results and value given at the end of the process. However, I am also working on several personal projects in the sustainability world tied to shaping consumer attitudes, developing accessible products and services, and, overall, making sustainability a mainstay in the residential environment.
My future goal is to do for the home unit and individuals what I currently do for companies and larger organizations. Just like nature, if all of the pieces aren't working together towards the same goal, it will never be achieved.
I'm balancing my time between entrepreneurial aspirations, career, and my personal life, as well as time for surfing!
Long-term, I'm hoping to play a part in the sustainable startup revolution, meaning the future of the high-tech world that is driving towards helping more people achieve economic and social equality, and also environmentally good and shared value.