Enviri Women: Melanie Frohriep's Story
Can you talk about your years of experience in the industry and how you got started?
I started in this industry, entirely by accident, 23 years ago. I always anticipated working in criminology for the FBI as a criminalist or profiler; however, while I was still in school, I was hired on the spot for a night job at our Detroit site. The position required me to work in the lab, and ironically, it turned out that I was allergic to the substances I was working with. I then moved into the office, working in materials management and EHS, and eventually worked my way to become the site's General Manager. While in this position, it became clear that I had a true passion for EHS, and just recently, I was promoted to my current position of Director of Regulatory Affairs, where I get to exercise this passion further.
What does your day-to-day look like?
Much of the work I do is handling urgent regulatory matters and interpreting regulations for Clean Earth and its customers. I am involved in compliance projects, conference calls, and subject matter expert approval requests. I have a strong understanding of all parts of the business, so I am often thrown into various projects. Right now, my role also involves a significant amount of travel.
Is there a misconception people have about your position?
People think you are not involved in day-to-day operations once you reach a certain level in your career. However, I often interact with my former site, the Detroit facility, for testing and compliance. I’ll help when I can and assist with fixing errors myself. There is a misconception that directors are out of the loop, but that’s something I make sure isn’t the case.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far?
My promotion has been rewarding but bittersweet, leaving the team I had worked with for most of my developmental years. Being nominated as a Steering Committee Member of Enviri Women was extremely rewarding because, in our male-dominated industry, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of women serving as a voice for others. Lastly, the friendships I have gained over the years have made my career rewarding. My coworkers are family members because they have seen me develop throughout my professional career.
Do you have a fun fact about yourself?
I will always sit down and watch The Godfather whenever it is on TV. It is one of the few things that can stop me and grab my attention.
How do you enjoy your time outside of work?
I love spending time with my nieces and nephews. I also enjoy cooking, reading and shopping. I have recently taken up a hobby of furniture refurbishing.
What habits do you have that keep you going?
I always try to take a walk in the middle of the day. Even on calls, I try to get up and away from the desk. I’ve implemented this for my health and to find a stronger work-life balance. I would also say learning not to sweat the small stuff. I have the personality of a perfectionist; I used to go back and analyze my whole day to figure out what I did wrong and what could have gone differently. This mindset is damaging, so I stop whenever my head goes there.
How do you empower other women in our industry?
I empower women by listening and providing an ear to those who need it. I use the relationships I’ve made to introduce other women in the business to leaders that can help advance their careers. I want to be a resource for women to ask questions and further advance their careers. I have had team members approach me and ask about moving into a career in marketing or finance; I make sure I am putting them in touch with the right people in the Company. This is one of the most significant ways to empower women.
How do you think we should encourage the younger generation of women to join the waste industry?
People believe our industry is about garbage and trash, but it stretches beyond that. People need to understand what our business and industry truly entails. Ted talks, round table discussions, and communications on social media are crucial to getting the word out that this is an industry where women belong.
What advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?
I would tell my younger self to listen more, talk less, and be more patient with myself.
What can be done to further improve the participation and progression of women in the recycling and waste industry?
Women's participation in our industry will happen naturally as more women enter our industry and business. Right now, we have women leaders who serve as great role models in our business; Mindy Rath, Kellie Vigil, and Lauren Anderson come to mind as women who have paved a path for others. The more women who enter our business, the more women we will see in leadership roles. I want to be considered one of the women that pave the path for women in this industry.