What’s it like breaking into industrial hygiene these days? We tracked down past winners of 3M’s Industrial Hygiene Scholarship Program to find out.

In a nutshell, these young IHs seem prepared for the realities of the ‘90s. They’re independent, flexible, and open-minded. They come to the job market armed with broad, general educations. Most include marketing and psychology as necessities for IH careers.

No Generation X slackers here.

Finding happiness

For Kimberly D. Tum Suden, a career in industrial hygiene is about finding balance. No 80-hour work weeks for her to get that sterling title. The one she’s had since 1989 is fine: senior industrial hygienist for the Walt Disney World Company in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. You see, at home, Suden has a three-year-old and one on the way. She keeps up by going to bed early, having someone to clean the house, and a helpful husband.

Her career has taken her from a very mature industry to one of the hottest. After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1987, Suden started with a job at a refinery. By "being in the right place at the right time," she landed in the Magic Kingdom. She says it took her a while to get used to the ways of Disney, where employees must remain behind the scenes. That subtle approach is a far cry from the rougher world of refining.

But Suden is happy, which is, after all, her goal.

Enjoying consulting

In her third year as a consultant and first year for the Galson Corporation in New York, Maureen Malachowski feels she hasn’t found her niche yet. She never thought she would go into consulting. But the struggle to find a job after getting her Ph.D. in 1993 from the University of Michigan proved tougher than she expected. Through local AIHA connections, she found consulting and, as it turns out, enjoys the broad spectrum of her work. Her work at Galson has been 70 percent environmental and about 30 percent industrial hygiene.

Since the start at Galson, Malachowski also taught night courses at the State University of New York (SUNY) School of Public Health and now tutors. Her advice to students: Be flexible. With restraints on OSHA and regulatory bodies, the job market is not as good as it used to be. "The key is to have the background to be adaptable," she says.

Focusing on behavior

"Industrial hygiene is a profession that keeps challenging me to expand on a wide range of skills," says Catherine Cull, CIH, CSP, treasurer for the local AIHA section, a member of the wetlands committee in her town of New London, Conn., and senior safety and health supervisor for U.S. Pharmaceuticals (USPG) at Pfizer, Inc.

She’s getting it all in before going for her long-term goal -to sail around the world. Earning an MBA and getting into more policy issues are also on the long-term list.

But for now, she’s hot on reinforcing employee behavior. Her industrial hygiene philosophies are based on such reinforcement -behavioral modification is not the right term, she says. Employees need to understand and become aware of how their choices impact their personal safety. It’s a question of providing employees with the tools they need to make choices that help keep their workplace safe, she says.

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1990, Cull started at Olin Corporation. Pfizer snatched her up and she’s been there since 1994. She divides her days between walking the plant and working in her paneled corner office, dealing with issues as they arise.

Respecting workers

John Flores II, who just graduated with his masters degree in industrial hygiene from the University of Utah, was on a three-day interview in San Diego when we talked to him. This is how he would explain his philosophy behind practicing industrial hygiene to a potential employer: Workers aren’t dumb or stupid when it comes to safety and health, they just need experience and explanations. And Flores likes to talk to them on their own level; command-and-control hierarchies aren’t his style.

His approach probably reflects his background. At age 18, Flores didn’t want any part of college. So he followed others in his family and became a roofer. That was when he first noticed safety, or the lack of safety, on the job. Later, Flores enrolled at Utah State University, a little confused about career plans. With some direction from an IH professor, he started on the path that now finds him knocking on doors for interviews. Until he finds that full-time job, he’s keeping close to workers and the hazards they face by working part-time in a Utah open-pit gold mine.

Getting involved

Jane Nowell, industrial hygienist at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif., has a broad vision for industrial hygiene -one that goes beyond plant and national borders.

As the community relations officer for the local AIHA section, Nowell believes strongly that IHs must present themselves as competent experts to the community and the media. As the government attempts to cut back on regulations, industrial hygienists and other professionals will have to support local businesses with information and guidance on health and safety, she says. Nowell practices what she preaches when it comes to getting the word out by contacting local news groups to offer technical advice on issues such as indoor air quality.

Her interests and long-term goals extend to the growing industry in Tijuana, just south of San Diego. There are already tremendous overexposure problems that need attention, she says. You get the feeling she’s going to do something about it.