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Q&A Sep 8, 2023

Women in Sustainability: Q&A with Kayla Brown

Get to know Kayla, a laboratory supervisor and regional sustainability champion based in Vancouver, Washington, U.S.

In 2022, Laboratory Supervisor and seven-year Jacobs veteran Kayla Brown was recognized by the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association with the 2022 Laboratory Analyst Excellence Award. With her dedication, hard work and desire for continuous improvement, Kayla approaches her work at the city’s wastewater treatment plants with sustainability top of mind, creating a more sustainable future for her client, the community she serves and hundreds of her colleagues.

What does a laboratory supervisor do?

As a laboratory supervisor, I provide laboratory protocol management, staff support and general guidance. I ensure the lab at the city’s wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) meet their air and water discharge permit requirements as mandated by state and federal entities. I also help find opportunities for our staff to engage with the community, such as beach cleanups and education surrounding the water work that Jacobs performs.

What sparked your passion for sustainability?

Honestly, elementary school! Learning about the 3Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — sparked something in me and I’ve felt passionate about preserving our environment ever since. I grew up immersed in the outdoors, spending most of my summer days on the Columbia River, which, ironically, the WWTPs I work at now discharge to.

How are you creating a more connected, sustainable future for our clients and communities?

Jacobs manages the day-to-day operations of two mid-size WWTPs. We remove pollutants from the water daily to ensure that safe water is being discharged to the river. One of the WWTPs just won an award for 100% permit compliance with our discharge permit for five consecutive years.

I‘m passionate about wastewater because of the impact it has on environmental protection. Seeing the percentage of pollutants removed from our water is inspiring. We truly do amazing things every day!

Additionally, I volunteer as a regional sustainability champion for our Operations Management and Facilities Services (OMFS) team. As a champion, I communicate with our projects in the Northwest and assist with their sustainability efforts. Together we find ways for our OMFS projects and staff to be more efficient and serve as environmental stewards in the communities where we work.

Why do you think it’s important for Jacobs to embed sustainability into our culture and strategy and how do you achieve this?

Sustainability is what we do! We can always find more efficient ways to do the work required while serving our communities. With sustainability there is always room for improvement, and I’m happy to see Jacobs taking that task to heart.

Do you have advice on how others can incorporate sustainability and climate response into their work, regardless of their role?

There are sustainability teams or representatives at our offices and project sites. I encourage people to get involved with their company’s version of a sustainability team and share ideas to make meaningful change together. And if your project or company doesn’t have a team like this, start one!

What has been your proudest moment or project?

When I started with Jacobs in 2016, I wanted to implement a recycling program for the nitrile gloves we used for collecting and analyzing samples at the WWTP. I researched a few solutions and recommended the information be shared with other project leaders as they could likely benefit from the same program. A few weeks later we created a program where any of our OMFS projects could participate. Today, more than 90% of OMFS project sites recycle their nitrile gloves, removing thousands of pounds from the landfill and giving new life to the products we use to protect ourselves on the job.

“We can always find more efficient ways to do the work required while serving our communities. With sustainability there is always room for improvement, and I’m happy to see Jacobs taking that task to heart.”

Kayla Brown

Kayla Brown

Jacobs Laboratory Supervisor

Tell us about how you discuss sustainability and sustainable solutions with our clients?

My client is forward thinking and has very ambitious climate action goals, which makes encouraging sustainability easy. Recently we participated in a Strategic Energy Management cohort in concert with local utilities and energy experts to reduce our electrical usage in our day-to-day operations. This engagement led to additional opportunities to reduce our electrical consumption with upgraded capital improvement options.

What do you enjoy most about being part of #OurJacobs?

The communities that Jacobs has created for employees, such as the Jacobs Employee Networks. I am on the steering committee for the OMFS chapter of the Jacobs Women’s Network, which gives me access to knowledge, resources and discussions I wouldn’t have elsewhere.

What are your top tips for having a career in sustainability?

People should have an open mind about what sustainability means! There are numerous avenues of sustainability in the workforce and it may not always have the same name.

How are you being more sustainable in your day-to-day life?

My family chooses to source local sustainable food, including from our own backyard. We grow veggies and fruit and feed our backyard chickens from any food discards.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

Outside of the job, I am a wife and mom to three busy kiddos! We enjoy getting outside to camp, fish, hunt, take care of our dogs, horses, chickens and garden on our little hobby farm.

Want to learn more about sustainability and climate response at Jacobs?

Explore our latest climate response work