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I recently sat down with Maryline Daviaud Lewett, who earned her MBA from Presidio Graduate School in 2006, to talk about how her career path and journey to impact came into alignment and intersected with sustainability. We had a wide-ranging, fascinating conversation.

Nineteen years ago

In 2002, Maryline Daviaud Lewett had already installed solar panels on her home and significantly reduced household waste, but her tech-industry job wasn’t connected with her passion for environmental and social responsibility.

Then she heard about Presidio Graduate School. “I remember seeing ‘systems thinking’ in the curriculum descriptions, and I wanted it!”

Maryline earned her MBA in Sustainability Management from Presidio Graduate School in 2006 and realized that she’d never again have to settle for a job that didn’t align with her values.

Jump to today

Now, Maryline directs business development for Black & Veatch’s Transformative Technologies, accelerating the adoption of zero-emission transportation via distributed infrastructure through clean technologies including electric and fuel-cell vehicles, renewable-energy generation, and energy storage.

To make things happen, every day she practices critical and holistic thinking—connecting the dots at multiple levels. “This was a mandate at Presidio, and I was shown how it applies in the real work.” Systems thinking not only is beneficial, she explained, but it also develops a creative mind.

“You can talk about green and clean tech, but we must consider the social implications of not having any gas tomorrow, or of having heavily polluted air in critical areas such as California’s central valley.”

Not in her LinkedIn profile 

After we discussed her career, I asked Maryline to share an aspect of her success that she’d never publish on LinkedIn.

“After high school I could have gone into mathematics or creative fields. I am left-brain/right-brain balanced.” Maryline is strong both analytically and methodically, as well as creatively and artistically.

Her career success is built as much on her understanding of and comfort with new technologies as her ability to develop and sell creative “win-win” projects. “I run the full process from first contact with the customer through to booking a technology-based contract and being on the execution team,” she noted. “When the project is finished and both the engineers and customers are happy, it’s extremely enjoyable to me. My success with this full cycle owes in part to my holistic view in life.”

Creative convincing for corporate change

“At Black & Veatch, we build desalination plants and wind-and-solar farms. Even so, until two years ago we were still building coal-fired plants in various parts of the world,” she shared. Maryline felt horrified.

At a meeting of B&V’s workforce environmental group, of which Maryline was a member, she spoke up saying that the company should “walk the talk” and stop serving the coal industry. Plus, because at B&V all employees can talk to the CEO about topics they feel strongly about, she expressed, “You can’t claim you’re working on solar and sustainability and still build coal plants.”

The workforce environment and sustainability group, comprising employees from a wide range of company functions, sets strategies to achieve sustainability goals in five, 10, and 20 years.

The coal sector had been a revenue maker for the company. Typically, this would slow the possibility of change. In a recent public announcement, B&V withdrew completely from coal plants built worldwide.

You just go

Regarding Maryline’s talent for making important and sometimes dramatic changes in business and technology, she said, “Once you make a decision, you just go. I have always been green (down to putting cloth diapers on my children) and I also know technology. Presidio absolutely brought the two worlds together for me.”

Fast forward 

I asked Maryline to imagine a future year when she’s at the conclusion of her career, and to articulate her legacy. “I’d say that at the heart of my work I’ve participated in the transformation to zero-emission transportation,” she shared. “The light- to heavy-duty vehicles industry will have adopted full-electric and fuel-cell hydrogen technology for the transportation of people and goods. I contributed to the combining of renewable-energy technology with the electrification of transportation.”

Looking to follow in the footsteps of impressive alumni like Maryline to achieve your career aspirations and fulfill your own legacy? Learn more about our MBA, MPA, Dual Degree, and Certificate programs, and then start a conversation with us!

About the Author / Pamela J. Gordon

Pamela J. Gordon is managing director of PGS Consults, the management consultancy at Presidio Graduate School, where she matches our faculty’s and alumni’s sustainability thought leadership with organizations’ needs for profitable, responsible solutions. A supply-chain and sustainability consultant for decades, she wrote the book "Lean and Green: Profit for Your Workplace and the Environment," and teaches the course "Management Consulting Skills for Sustainability Professionals."

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