Zach Woogen ‘15, who was head of EnAct during his time at PDS recently returned to the Great Road to speak with the club about his career path. A recent graduate of UC Berkeley, he now works for Strategen as a Senior Analyst where his job is “to help people solve problems.” Strategen works with different organizations trying to implement strategies around clean energy.
Woogen’s interest in environmental issues started because “I like to go outside, it's pretty simple.” Early on his relationship with environmentalism was cyclical in nature: “It was this constant pattern of learning about new issues and then becoming very frustrated and discouraged by the fact that nothing was happening.” His solution was to join EnAct, the student-led club that focuses on environmental activism on campus and in the community. Woogen gave particular credit to Liz Cutler, the School’s Sustainability Coordinator and US English teacher. “Liz was great and pushed me, which I hope she is doing for some of you. She encouraged me to do things outside of the PDS community that were related to environmentalism and I became quite the little activist.”
The students asked when Woogen knew he wanted to be involved in this field. “In a really broad sense it all started at PDS, where I started to think about bigger issues, like my future and the environment. I knew that I always liked to solve problems, which I assume many of you do as well. PDS instilled that value in me.” Woogen admitted that he was not very thoughtful before coming here, but credited the teachers at PDS with pushing him to think about himself, consider his skills and interests and intentionally reflect on what he wanted to do. In this community, he was given the opportunity to explore many interests on a deep and meaningful level and forced to think outside the box, a skill he believes is critical for success. All of these factors led to the realization that he wanted to be involved with environmental issues.
Given his passion for the environment, as well as his interests in math and science, Woogen decided to pursue engineering at UC Berkeley: “I thought this would be a way for me to act on my passions and make a difference with more concrete skills.” However, after some reflection, he decided to switch his major to Environmental Economics and Policy. “I studied economics and I learned how the systems that we have, whether it be in the energy space or other environmental sectors like fishing and logging, interact with the policies we have created.” Woogen was driven by the question: “How do we take these policies and implement them through our systems?” His role at Strategen taught him how to communicate his views and feelings: “I had this internal frustration and fire but I didn’t know how to translate those into actual actions that people could follow in a path to actual success.” His current work taught him how to create meaningful change by developing concrete strategies to help organizations become more sustainable.
Woogen left the Upper School students with an important message: “One person cannot solve these problems. I talked a lot about my journey, but my journey does not mean anything unless we all embark on journeys in which we can work together.” He encouraged the students to reach out, to spread awareness and to build connections: “bridging the gap and having intergenerational conversations is really what we need now.”