Name: Noelle Arena
Title: Harvest Manager
Alma Mater: University of Florida
1. What made you decide your career path?
I always have loved being outside. I grew up surrounded by trees but was never exposed to forestry in any way. I always wanted to be an actress and focused on that. When I started my college education, I realized quickly that acting just wasn’t a viable option for me. I decided to take one of those personality tests that are supposed to decided what you should do with your life. It said I should be a “park ranger.” I thought that sounded cool, did some research, found forestry, talked to an advisor, and then moved forward on that path. Luckily, I was able to start my career in forestry right after college.
2. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned or experienced within your industry or career?
I have been most surprised twice in my career. Once when I started practicing forestry in Oregon, and once when I moved back to the southeast and continued my career in Georgia. The stark differences between the two regions on the perception of forestry, logging, environmental practices, etc. was almost like living in different worlds. These experiences have really influenced my communications with the communities I work and live in. It has allowed me to be opened minded when listening to others, especially those who are not involved in the industry.
3. What do you feel is important for women landowners to know about?
There are many responsibilities that come with being a landowner, and your decisions will affect future generations. Always know your objectives and goals as a landowner. Be open to different ideas when talking to professionals but stick with your values. Do your research; understand all federal and state forest practice laws and BMPs, know your markets. Regardless of gender, being informed will keep your forests healthy and productive.
4. What is the biggest challenge you think women natural resource professionals face?
The persistent culture that says women cannot work in this industry. Unfortunately, it exists and, in some places, just as much as it did several decades ago. Women have made huge strides in that time, but there is still localized sexism and racism that creates a very uncomfortable environment for women and minorities in this industry. The only way we can eradicate this from our profession, is to have a very honest conversation about it, and approach this with zero-tolerance.
5. What would you say to encourage other women to pursue a career in natural resources?
My career has been more than just that, it’s been my passion and my motivation. If being outside, working with others, being active in your community, and making a difference is also your passion, then natural resources is where you belong. Natural resources is an industry where you will find support, mentorship, and friendship. You will find connections that will last a lifetime. The industry itself is like being a part of a community or neighborhood.
6. What is your biggest attribute that has allowed you to be successful in your field?
My biggest attribute would be my willingness to step outside of my comfort zone to learn, as well as my persistence to speak up and ask for more opportunities. I have worked in 3 different states and 3 different roles in 8 years. Every step of the way, I have learned so much. I have also made some very valuable connections that have led to great opportunities.
7. What is your favorite memory, from your career, to date?
My favorite memory was in a very small, bubble shaped helicopter. The pilot asked for me to do a recon of this area before he began spraying for weeds. The size and shape of the cockpit made me feel like I was floating over the forests. It was very cool to see the world, that I normally see on the ground, from that perspective.