Updated: Jan 25, 2019
My first "Women Spotlight" is going to my dear friend Shawn DeRome. I met Shawn while she was still in undergrad at the University of Georgia and I was in my last semester of grad school. We later met up again when she was interning in my town one summer... below you can read more about this amazing forester and woman.
Name: Shawn DeRome
Title: Business Development Analyst
Company: Rayonier, Inc.
Alma Mater: The University of Georgia
1. What made you decide your career path?
"Like most folks in this business, I’ve always loved spending time in the woods enjoying God’s creation. When I realized that I could make a career out of what I loved that combined sustainability, logical economics, and an office in the woods with the greatest people in the World, I knew I had found my calling."
2. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned or experienced within your industry or career?
"The lack of understanding from the public. It amazes me that there are so many people who don’t appreciate how much good active forest management does. The environment, the communities in which those forests work, and the urban populations who use these forest products every day should understand the benefits. It’s one of the reasons why I feel passionate about being a part of this industry. We all have the opportunity to not only help the forest industry, but the entire future of our natural resources through education."
3. What do you feel is important for women landowners to know about?
"There are tons of resources out there! Any state that has managed forestland will have a forestry commission, association, Society of American Foresters chapter, or other groups to help you find your way. Don’t be intimidated, everyone starts somewhere and women tend to get more respect than you might expect because we are all working towards a common goal. Educate yourself and have confidence in your position. No one doubts a woman with true and justified confidence."
4. What is the biggest challenge you think women natural resource professionals face?
"We tend to assume that asking questions will make our comments less valuable, when really it’s the opposite. Some men may feel intimidated by a woman in the woods, so there’s always a fine line to walk between respect and intimidation. We have to have excellent people skills to know which type of person you are talking to and how to best communicate with them to find the balance."
5. What is the biggest challenge you think women landowners face?
"The fear of being taken advantage of, which causes us to miss out on proper management of our land when time is of the essence. If you are uncomfortable with a consultant or a timber buyer, they probably aren’t the right one to be working with. Look up or call a local forestry group to see what your options are."
6. What would you say to encourage other women to pursue a career in natural resources?
"You will never regret it! There are unlimited career opportunities in natural resources. You can be an educator, a field worker, a researcher, a number cruncher – heck, even a blogger! People in the industry want to see you succeed and the resources to do so are abundant. It’s like any other profession. If you know your stuff, take pride in what you do, and are thoughtful of your actions, you’ll excel and enjoy every minute of it."
7. What is your biggest attribute that has allowed you to be successful in your field?
"During my college days, I made a conscious decision to be as extroverted as possible. I took advantage of every opportunity that I could to network and get new experiences under my belt. I mingled with people from all sides of the natural resource spectrum – wildlife, policy, recreation, education, research, and the too-often-forgotten agriculture. It’s important to have a broad understanding and appreciation of what drives the whole field of natural resources. Maintaining as many of those relationships as possible is very important to me and the future of my career, as well as the benefits it can add to my employer. I’ve also taken a lot of risks throughout my career that have challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and continue to grow."
8. What is your favorite quote?
"Non Sibi Sed Aliis – Meaning, “Not for self, but for others”. The Latin phrase was the motto on the old colonial seal used by Georgia’s founding trustees. It reminds me that everything I do is not for myself, but is to help others and to serve God. We all want to leave this world with confidence that we had a positive impact on others and are leaving it a better place than we found it, as others have done before us. It’s the whole premise of sustainability! As a wife, daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter, coworker, friend, or mother, this motto holds true."
9. What is your favorite memory, from your career, to date?
"I have spent my entire life enjoying the beautiful woods of Georgia. At my first job out of college, I expanded my range to North Florida. Now, the company that I work for owns land across most of the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. On a work trip to visit our land base in Washington State, I found myself sitting on the side of what I would call a mountain. A logging crew was working on the hillside across the valley from me. It was a rare crystal clear day out there, no humidity, and 75 degrees. I could see the bay in the distance. The thick moss on the forest floor and dense trees out there make the forests eerily quiet and dark. A man who has been with the company for over 40 years was sitting next to me, telling me about everything we could see from where we sat. He pointed to a valley and told me that if we looked hard enough, we may be able to see an elk or two. It was the perfect work day. I gained a new love for a completely different type of forest while learning from a man who had seen (almost) a full rotation of that particular stand. Seeing a stand harvested, replanted, and harvested again in the South is much more common (but still exciting for our veteran peers) than out West because of the slower growth rates out there. This man knew that he would be retiring that year and was trying to squeeze out every last bit of knowledge, appreciation, and enjoyment that he had for his career as a forester. He was passing it all along to me. That’s what being in natural resources is all about."