‘Career Conversations’ Podcast: Sue AnderBois ’13, The Nature Conservancy
Sue AnderBois ’13 is a program manager at the Nature Conservancy in Providence, Rhode Island. She is also running to be the next city councilwoman for Ward 3 in Providence, Rhode Island. Prior to joining The Conservancy, Sue earned her MBA at Yale SOM. She has worked in a variety of energy and social impact roles for the State of Rhode Island. She received her BA in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College, where she won a Dean’s Award for service to the community.
About Sue AnderBois ’13
Sue Anderbois ’13 is the Climate & Energy Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy and she is also running for a City Council seat in Providence's Ward 3. She graduated from the Yale School of Management in 2013
Following graduation from Dartmouth, Sue interned for chef Alice Waters, a pioneer in the local food movement and worked for the Energy Foundation for five years before moving back east. Sue's work in Rhode Island began at the RI Office of Energy Resources, where she worked to expand access to rooftop solar and with the Northeast Clean Energy Council pushing for strong climate and renewable energy policy. She helped pass legislation that requires National Grid to source more electricity from wind and solar facilities. In 2016 Sue became the first state Director of Food Strategy in the nation. Under Rhode Island Governor Raimondo she worked with state agencies and local organizations to create and implement a plan to holistically support our local food system. She launched the state’s first collaborative and systemic approach to addressing hunger, co-chairing RI’s Hunger Elimination Task Force with Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
In 2019 Sue returned to climate advocacy as the Climate & Energy Program Manager at The Nature Conservancy. In this role she advocates for strong climate and energy policy at the state level—including helping to pass last year’s Act on Climate legislation. She also work with cities and towns to create concrete plans to increase their climate resilience.
Sue AnderBois (00:02):
For social impact work we think we tend to think like, "Oh, if everyone just cared a little bit more," and that's really not how this works. So, I partly wanted to go to an MBA also to learn more about marketing and communication and take some of the skills from the private sector around how we communicate about things and how we get people to care about things and take action on them and bring those into the social sector and think about how do we get people to take action on things like climate change or action on things like local food systems.
Omolegho Udugbezi (00:31):
Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast in the Yale School of Management. I'm Omolegho a student in the MBA class of 2023. Each episode of Career Conversations is a candid conversation between a student here at SOM, that's me, and a member of the Yale community who's doing something that I'm curious about. Kind of like an informational interview, except you get to listen in.
Omolegho Udugbezi (00:53):
Today's conversation is with Sue AnderBois, a 2013 graduate at Yale SOM. She's a Program Manager at the Nature Conservancy in Providence, Rhode Island. Prior to joining the Conservancy, Sue earned her MBA at Yale SOM. She has worked in a variety of energy and social impact roles for the state of Rhode Island, and she received her BA in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College, where she won a Dean's Award for service to the community.
Omolegho Udugbezi (01:19):
Good morning Sue, thank you so much for taking the time to be with me today. You've had such an impactful career making real change in the energy and the food security spaces. So could you please walk me through your career journey today and share any achievements that you are especially proud of?
Sue AnderBois (01:34):
Awesome. Thank you. And thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be joining you today. Yeah, so my career background to date, in a nutshell. So my background is split between climate... Or it's kind of hybrid of climate and energy policy work as well as local food systems work. And that's been kind of all across the country. So I kind of started off my career at a place called the Energy Foundation, working on climate policy, kind of across the U.S. And then, I went to SOM and then moved to Rhode Island. And here I've been involved in just a number of different initiatives related to climate, energy, local food systems.
Sue AnderBois (02:11):
I'd say one thing that I'm really proud of is I was Rhode Island's first ever, and actually the country's first ever, Statewide Director of Food Strategy. I put together a first statewide food strategy, which is called Relish Roadie, which was really a product of just like a lot of community engagement and a lot of really engaged work with both government agencies and also folks across the state. So, that would be one of the things I'm most proud of.
Omolegho Udugbezi (02:35):
That's amazing. You're such a trailblazer. So, looking through your history, I see that you've majored in Environmental Studies. So, is it fair to say that you've always cared deeply about the world around you? And would you say there's been any one moment that's been especially transformative in your life that led you to pursue a career in environmental impact?
Sue AnderBois (02:55):
Yeah. So I think it's totally fair to say that I've always really cared about the environment and about social issues. I was thinking about this, this morning. Thinking about this question, I can't think of a specific moment and it's actually kind of funny. I was talking with my husband. I didn't really grow up in an outdoorsy family. He grew up hiking and camping and all of the things, and my family was very much not that. But I think it was just a general awareness that just continued to grow, and I really love thinking about things as systems. Which was one of the things I loved about SOM. So I think the more I just learned, the more I saw things, and the more I experienced the world, the more I connected with people, the more I realized how much was just tied back to climate change, tied back to the environment, and food just connects all the things I love most.
Omolegho Udugbezi (03:45):
Yeah, of course that makes sense. Thank you for sharing that. So, looking at the Nature Conservancy, I see that one of their priorities is to quote, "Tackle climate change". So how does your day-to-day work drive towards this huge mission? And if you feel comfortable sharing, how do you work towards this in your personal life?
Sue AnderBois (04:03):
Yeah. So, at work I focus primarily on climate and climate resiliency work. So the Nature Conservancy, we're just like this giant global nonprofit and have offices in all 50 states and are in almost 80 countries around the world; and have recently pivoted to... Somewhat recently pivoted, to include climate change as one of our top priorities. Our traditional work has been more in land and water conservation. So our mission statement is to conserve the land and water on which all life depends. Which is just like a crazy mission statement, but realizing you can't really do that in the face of climate change.
Sue AnderBois (04:42):
So, I do a lot of state level policy advocacy work and policy development work. And then, I also work with cities and towns to do climate resiliency planning and help cities and towns across the state become more climate resilient. And then, in my personal life, totally happy sharing that I feel like, I mean, one is that I've dedicated my career and all the things I do in my private life to working in climate change and food systems for the most part.
Sue AnderBois (05:07):
And I also feel like individual action is really helpful, but really using that to drive systems change is really important to me, and what I do with my personal life. Also, just doing stuff in your personal life makes you feel like you're really doing the work, because a lot of this is bigger things that take long periods of time. So, I've been vegan for about 25 years. I just replaced my really, really old Honda Civic. It was like 15 years old and had 250,000 miles on it. I just replaced that with an EV, which I was really excited about. I have solar on my roof. So, when we moved into our house, we replaced all the lighting with LEDs. So, it's good to do all those little things... And those aren't little, those all took time and energy, but yeah, but also working towards some of the bigger systems change is important to me.
Omolegho Udugbezi (05:59):
I love that. So what I'm hearing is that you're making these small, not so small, changes in different aspects of your daily life and working towards this bigger goal. And I think for people who may be listening to this, they can maybe take inspiration from that. Which is, you don't have to do everything all at once, but you can perhaps try eating less meat one day, transporting yourself in a more sustainable way. So, that's really great advice. Thank you. And just digging a little bit deeper into climate resiliency, so this is a phrase that I'm personally not super familiar with, so I just quickly Googled it as we were speaking. Could you just speak a little bit more to what that means in your day-to-day work, what that looks like for the state of Rhode Island, and how people can research climate resiliency in their day-to-day lives as well?
Sue AnderBois (06:41):
Yeah. So when I think about climate resiliency, I think of knowing that there are different pieces of climate action and some of that is mitigation. Just how do we prevent the worst of what could be coming? And the other is more this holistic resiliency of, okay, we know it's coming, how do we best prepare for some of the impacts and get ourselves ready now? And so, resiliency is totally different in different places. It's really kind of thinking both short term and long term. So, some examples would be, I'm working on some state level policy that would really help direct solar and other types of development away from forested spaces, for example. And so, what we're saying is, as the climate changes, we're going to be even more reliant and need more open space, need the forest and open space to do all sorts of things like filter our air, filter our water, provide important habitat for animals.
Sue AnderBois (07:36):
It's really important for our own mental health to have open space. It does all of these things. And right now we're seeing a lot of development, both in terms of just regular old development we've always seen, but also renewable energy development and tearing down our forests. And that's not just here. That's everywhere that's happening. And we're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, that's a little short time." If we want to actually be resilient to climate change, we have to really double down on some of these natural systems.
Sue AnderBois (08:01):
In Rhode Island too, for folks who haven't been here before, we are mostly coastline. Look at us on a map, we're very small, but we're almost entirely coastline, and we've got little islands and we've got little pieces jutting out. And so, sea level rise is hitting us really fast. And it's something you can measure. You can measure it with rulers and yard sticks at this point. You can see the change in our water and see it creeping up. So some other forms of resilience entail things like managing storm water, managing for more intensive storms that are coming, recognizing that the water is encroaching, and taking that into account as we repair roads and bridges.
Sue AnderBois (08:45):
And then, also just thinking about, "Okay, well in 30 years, in 20 years, what do we want our cities and towns to look like?" What will the world maybe look like and how do we want to be getting around? So, are we building bike paths? Are we building more walkable streets, or are we just doubling down on car based infrastructure? So, all of that in my mind goes toward resilience and how we're more resilient in the face of climate change.
Omolegho Udugbezi (09:09):
That makes so much sense. Thank you for explaining that a bit better. So you mentioned a couple of policies and I'm curious to know at the federal level, what you think currently the most promising policy is that will really move the needle on the climate crisis?
Sue AnderBois (09:23):
Yeah, I'd say two things. One is I've been really heartened to hear President Biden use the phrase, "Climate in all policies." I think for a long time we've been kind of silo-ing climate say, "Okay, well, we're going to work on the green economy, or we're going to work on climate change," but really it's in everything. So as we build out new housing, are we making sure it's maximally efficient and connected to clean and renewable sources of energy? As we're thinking about transportation, is it clean? Is it just doubling down on car based infrastructure? How are we incorporating that into all policies?
Sue AnderBois (09:55):
So one, I think that, which is huge. And the second is, I'm really excited to see that the Department of Transportation under Secretary Buttigieg, who is my age, which just blows my mind, is really trying to focus or at least talking about focusing federal transportation money on not just car based infrastructure. Thinking about how do we build out more bike and walkability, how do we build out public transit? How do we build out Amtrak and things like that? So, that we're not so reliant on cars. Someone the other day for State and Regional planning referenced building out high ways is kind of our equivalent of oil pipelines. It really is just like doubling down on oil based infrastructure. So, seeing that kind of policy change happening from the federal level at the Federal Department of Transportation, that's huge.
Omolegho Udugbezi (10:51):
Yeah, definitely is huge. And speaking of politics in general, you recently announced that you are running to be Providence's next City Councilwoman in Ward 3, which is amazing. So, please share with me what made you decide to run for office and what's top of mind for you during this campaign?
Sue AnderBois (11:07):
Yeah. So I am running for city council here in Providence to represent the amazing Ward 3. The election is in September, or the primary is in September, and very excited. Some of the things that helped me decide to run... Honestly, there's just a lot that needs to get done and it's not getting done. And I'm someone, I love collaboration. I love working together. I love this city and there's just some really amazing things about Providence. I'm not originally from here. I moved here after SOM and I've just really fallen in love. I've gotten really intimately involved in the communities, but we have some really big challenges, and I just don't see us tackling them head on and just know that I'm the right person to kind of jump in there and start figuring some of this stuff out with the other council members.
Omolegho Udugbezi (11:58):
Amazing. All the best for the primaries and onwards. I'm sure you'll do great. Okay. Speaking about SOM, how you moved to Providence after SOM. What advice would you give to any current SOM students who are hoping to pivot into working in social impact ways?
Sue AnderBois (12:14):
Yeah, I would say to do it.
Omolegho Udugbezi (12:17):
Sue AnderBois (12:18):
Get involved. So, one thing that I find working in social impact space with an MBA is there aren't that many of us. There aren't a lot of MBAs in this space. There are people with law degrees, there are people with policy degrees, there are people with just undergrad degrees, but there's not a lot of MBAs. And it's really a skillset and a way of looking at things that is really, really useful. And a lot of the work that maybe you did even before SOM, you could really easily translate that into a career in social impact. So I would say, yeah, do it, and let me know how I can help.
Omolegho Udugbezi (12:55):
Amazing. Thank you. Okay. Let's take a step back. Big question. Why did you decide to attend SOM for MBA?
Sue AnderBois (13:04):
Yeah, so I decided to go to SOM for two reasons. One was... Or just to get an MBA in general, and then SOM was the right place. So, I had been working at a place called the Energy Foundation and we worked... The Energy Foundation funds climate and clean energy advocacy across the country. And I was realizing two things. One, was getting to see this breadth of different teams and all these folks who were applying for grants. Just a lot of different effectiveness levels in organizations and a lot of different ability to get things done. And I was like, "Wow, if I really want to be effective in my career, I want to learn more about management. I want to learn more about teams. I want to learn more about strategy." How do we really get things done in an efficient way? And I thought, based on research and things, getting an MBA would be a great place to get some of that knowledge.
Sue AnderBois (13:58):
And second, I felt like for social impact work in climate change or food systems, how we communicate about things is incredibly important. And sometimes we think that if we just get people to care a lot, they're going to take action. That's not actually how it works.
Omolegho Udugbezi (14:19):
Sue AnderBois (14:20):
I didn't buy an iPhone because I really care about iPhones. I bought it because I need it and everyone else had that, and this just became a part of what my life is. Or, I don't eat Oreos because I'm really passionate about Oreos. It's just like, that was the cookie that was on my shelf and whatever. It's really embarrassing that I had Oreos here, but it is what it is.
Sue AnderBois (14:39):
But I think for social impact work, we tend to think, "Oh, if everyone just cared a little bit more," and that's really not how this works. So, I partly wanted to go to MBA also to learn more about marketing and communication and take some of the skills from the private sector around how we communicate about things, and how we get people to care about things and take action on them and bring those into the social sector; and think about, how do we get people to take action on things like climate change or action on things like local food systems? And then SOM, I just loved the Businesses and Society mission. I felt like I wouldn't necessarily have fit in at other business schools in the same way, and I really like the core curriculum that everybody had to take a little bit of everything. I'm a systems kind of thinker, so I really appreciated that. And it just felt like SOM was the best fit for me.
Omolegho Udugbezi (15:27):
That makes sense. And as someone who is passionate about Oreos, I'm glad that you had a box there just as a prop.
Sue AnderBois (15:36):
[crosstalk 00:15:36] at the end you get Oreos. I'm like, "Oh, okay." I can handle this.
Omolegho Udugbezi (15:40):
So, what were some of your favorite classes here at SOM or some of your favorite professors that you remember?
Sue AnderBois (15:44):
Yeah, so some of my favorite professors, actually, I just saw one this past weekend. It was great, but I really like, there was a class called, Mastering the Art of Influence and Persuasion with Zoe Chance, loved that. I still love her. I just read her new book that she just released. So, I still follow her on social media. I really liked the class, and I don't know if you guys still take this, but during the first semester with Amy Wrzesniewski about... It was just called Careers, and it helped you think through what you might want your career to focus on and what role careers play in your life.
Sue AnderBois (16:17):
Your career's not the only thing in your life, but also how do you think about your career and things like that? So those were two of my favorites. I also, at the time, I didn't love the Negotiation class with Barry Nalebuff, but I'd say I think about it all of the time still. So, it definitely had an impact on me and the growing the pie thing. I feel like I use that phrase once a month. So, at the time I wasn't that into it, but seems to have actually-
Omolegho Udugbezi (16:43):
We just finished Negotiations and you're right. I think about growing the pie all the time in my everyday conversation. Thank you for sharing. So were you involved in any student government positions or in any clubs?
Sue AnderBois (16:55):
Yeah, so I did a bunch of stuff when I was at SOM. So I was part of the Net Impact Club and then was a co-chair of Net Impact, my second year. I got involved in the Board Fellows Club and was a fellow on the board of the Massaro Community Farm, which is near campus, but not in New Haven. I was a tour guide. I did a couple other things. I did a little bit of work with CBEY, The Center for Business and the Environment. We did a webinar series on clean energy once. But yeah, did a bunch of... And I loved that about SOM, that you could get involved in a bunch of different things and try out the things you were learning, while you were doing it.
Omolegho Udugbezi (17:32):
Yeah. You can get involved in everything. I think that's something, I'll definitely tout to anyone listening, which is, you can try something new every semester and still have so much to try. So, I totally relate to that. Would you say that you came to SOM to pivot in your career?
Sue AnderBois (17:48):
Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily say that I was pivoting, but I think I was filling some gaps in my experience. I really wanted to try... As you were just saying, there's so many new things to try, so I wanted to try out some new things. I thought at the time that I was going to pivot from doing more climate energy policy stuff to more food and food systems based work, but I actually, I just continued to do both things and find them to be both fairly interrelated. So, yeah, it wasn't really necessarily to pivot, but really wanted to fill some gaps that I knew I had.
Omolegho Udugbezi (18:21):
That makes sense. Okay. Let's take a few questions just in closing. So if you hadn't come to business school, what do you think you'd be doing now?
Sue AnderBois (18:30):
I'm actually not sure. I would be in Providence. I was thinking about this and I know I'd be in Providence. My husband is here. He's a professor at Browns, so we would've moved here, but it really did open up a lot of opportunities or help me better prepare me for the next things that were coming. So, maybe I'd still be in a similar line of work. I'd still be doing energy work or climate work, but I would definitely have a different... I definitely now have a different perspective on how I'm doing it, and I think I'm a more effective advocate. I don't think I would've gotten my job as the Director of Food Strategy, because I remember that I heard, I wasn't in the room for this, but our governor at the time was also a Yale Alum and she liked that I had gone to SOM.
Omolegho Udugbezi (19:17):
Sue AnderBois (19:17):
She's like... Choice between two at the end, she was like, "Oh, I do like this." And so, maybe things would've turned out differently there. Yeah. So I'm actually not sure, but it definitely has opened up a lot of doors and it really also helped me land here in Rhode Island because we moved here initially for my husband's job, and I was willing to try it out and see if I liked it. Which turned out I did obviously, but the first people I met were there's a small but mighty crew of SOM Alum here. And they were just welcoming and introduced me to people and showed me the different parts of town, all the things. So, it was really helpful.
Omolegho Udugbezi (19:57):
That's great. What I'm hearing is that everyone should just go to SOM. It's a great school to go to. I agree. And what's one piece of career advice that you would have for anyone who's thinking about attending business school?
Sue AnderBois (20:09):
Yeah. I would say one piece of advice for anyone at business school is just, there's no one dream job, or at least for me, there hasn't been one dream job. There are different things you can do in different parts of... Different skills you can use and different aspects of jobs that you'll really enjoy and things that you will enjoy less. But for the most part you'll grow and you'll change and the world will grow and change. And so, there's no... I think a lot of people are like, "I have to get that dream job right after I graduate. And it's so important that I get 'the' job." There's no, "the" job. Any job you get will teach you something.
Sue AnderBois (20:44):
And if you realize, "Oh wait, this wasn't the one for me," you learn something, you move on. It's fine. Yeah, and I think there's a lot of pressure of, you have to find the right thing, the perfect thing, and then stay there. And that's just not really how the world works right now. So yeah, I'd say, feel a little less pressure about that and just be willing to experiment and grow and see your career as part of your life, but not necessarily your whole life.
Omolegho Udugbezi (21:12):
Great. Thank you for sharing that. And if our listeners want to follow you in your work, where is the best place to find you?
Sue AnderBois (21:19):
Oh yeah, please. And reach out anytime. So you can follow me on Twitter, which is just @anderbois, A-N-D-E-R-B-O-I-S, or my website is sueanderbois.com. But also feel free to reach out to me any time. I have a weird last name, so it's easy to find me. Sue.anderbois@Gmail.com, please feel free to reach out anytime. Generally, if you just Google AnderBois it's either me or my husband.
Omolegho Udugbezi (21:48):
Find you either way. Great. Thank you. And do you have a favorite book or podcast or resource that you'd like to share with our listeners?
Sue AnderBois (21:59):
Yeah, so many. So I love reading. There's so many books that I'm just like, "Oh, you need to read this." I'd say right now, I actually... I mean, you guys are at SOM now, so I almost don't want to say this, but Zoe Chance's new book, which I'm looking at right now, "Influence Is Your Superpower" is the last book I read. And I just really, really... I really loved it. And so, especially, if you can't get into her class, you can kind of feel like you were in her class. And what else am I reading? I have a little list. I keep everything. And another one I just really love which I'll recommend is "Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet." I would definitely check that out. That's a really good one.
Sue AnderBois (22:36):
And in terms of a podcast or something, I love the Ezra Klein podcast. He's with the New York Times now. He used to have his own, The Ezra Klein Show, and I just wanted to be really smart and he asks really good questions and it always ends with asking the person three books that they'd recommend. And I feel like a quarter of the books I read, come from his interviews or that question at the end.
Omolegho Udugbezi (22:59):
I definitely need to check that out. I have Zoe's book on my list. I think I need to bump it up based your new recommendation. Okay. So final question. Is there anything that I didn't ask you, but you'd like to answer?
Sue AnderBois (23:12):
Yeah, I guess I kind of mentioned this, but one thing that I would want to point out to folks at SOM is really... Utilize is the wrong word, but the SOM Alumni network is fantastic. And so, definitely don't forget to lean on other SOM-ers. Like I said, when I moved here, I didn't know anybody. We moved here for my husband's job and I was actually initially a little grumpy about it, and literally knew zero people. And I called Brian Daniels, class of '10 and Seth Magaziner, class of '10, and they were both here in Providence, both doing just amazing things. Seth is now our State Treasurer. He's running for Congress and they both just were like, "Yeah, let's get a drink. Let's introduce you to everyone we know and help you figure out where you want to live and all the things." And it was just so helpful even just from a human perspective of just, I don't know this city, where do I get breakfast?
Omolegho Udugbezi (24:02):
Sue AnderBois (24:04):
And when I decided to run for City Council, I called Seth who obviously runs for bigger offices than I am, but it was so helpful to know that I had other SOM-ers here who were willing to chat and good friends. So, definitely if you're going someplace, if you're moving to a new place or even if you just want to check out a career, the alumni network people are so great.
Omolegho Udugbezi (24:23):
It's amazing. I'm glad I have that to look forward to. Okay, thank you. That was everything for our questions.
In this podcast series, SOM students sit down with alumni for a series of candid conversations about career paths, industries, opportunities for MBAs, and discussions on various career topics including work-life balance and creating a meaningful impact in business and society. This series is produced by Yale School of Management.