MENTORSHIP SPOTLIGHT: A Values-Based Foundation for a Career in Climate Adaptation

Mentee Alli Wenman is an Outreach Specialist at the UW-Madison Arboretum, where she manages a project aimed to develop the skills of local advocates involved in healthy stormwater action through outreach, general education and formal training, and small grant awards. Alli holds her B.S. (’16) in botany and her M.S. (’21) in environmental conservation, both from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She joined ASAP in June of 2021 and has been most active with the Professional Opportunities in Adaptation member-led group. 

Mentor Dana Brechwald currently leads a team at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, a California State agency, that seeks to find creative solutions for region-wide adaptation planning along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The team’s mission is to increase collaboration, provide resources to amplify capacity, elevate a collective voice to funders and legislators, and answer hard questions so cities and communities don’t have to do it themselves. Dana has previously worked on disaster recovery, earthquake, and wildfire planning. Dana’s approach to her work is to identify commonalities and multi-faceted solutions, demystify new ideas, and support the people working in this space so they don’t feel overwhelmed or burnt out but instead empowered to create a better future.

What Alli and Dana Have Accomplished

Alli and Dana are exploring personal values, how they show up in the workplace, and how being aware of one’s values can help them throughout their careers. Dana has helped mentor teams through values workshopping before, and was able to help Alli think about and articulate her personal values by sharing useful articles and workshopping scenarios planning. As a young professional in her adaptation career, articulating values is helping Alli frame experiences more positively on her resume, better inquire about company culture, and provide more mindful responses to interview questions. 

The two have also spent a chunk of time discussing the job search. As she considers her future, Alli is learning more about job titles and career paths and planning for a successful job search. The two have focused on creating a strong resume and cover letter. The most valuable lesson Alli has learned is to describe herself using terminology based on the skills she wants to cultivate and not limit herself based on her current title.

Conversations about values have led Alli and Dana to discern between two types – professional values and personal values. After talking about personal values, they transitioned to discussing professional values by reading ASAP’s Living Guide to the Principles of Adaptation. The Living Guide explores values and fundamental principles for engagement in adaptation. Being able to discern between – and articulate – the push and pull between personal and professional values has helped Alli better plan for a future with a healthy work-life balance and not lose sight of what’s important. Being in touch with one’s personal and professional values has specifically helped Alli better define boundaries that will help her thrive, what is most important to her, and what she is willing – or not willing – to sacrifice along the way.

What Alli and Dana Think About Each Other

As a graduate student, Dana did a ton of informational interviewing (and maybe more importantly, reflecting on what she learned!) As an introvert who finds informational interviewing tough, Alli admires the effort that Dana put into this process and appreciates Dana sharing the wisdom that she learned from this time in her life!

Alli had a past career as an auto claims representative and Dana loves how she’s mined that job – as well as other life experiences – to show how her skills and expertise shine through no matter what field she applies them to. 

Thanks to both for sharing what they’ve learned!

Learn more about the ASAP Mentorship Program.