Women of Harsco: Allison King's Story

Allison King Clean Earth

How did you get started in the industry?

It all started for me with my love of chemistry. Senior year of high school my family moved to Singapore where I attended an American school with incredible teachers. One teacher in particular, my chemistry teacher Mr. Johnson, was inspirational and really instilled my love of chemistry. I attended Texas A&M University, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, soon discovering the difficulty of classes and coming to the realization that I probably wouldn’t enjoy the career path of a bench chemist. I switched my path to pursue a degree in marketing, and a minor in chemistry, still fulfilling this passion. I was the only woman in my B.S. program when I graduated, which ended up being a useful experience when I started my career with Ashland Chemical as one of the few women Sales Representatives. After putting in hard work, I became the first woman to be a District Manager in the entire company, and was transferred to Tulsa, OK. At the time, and because the company generated waste, they were under the impression that they had to permit all their distribution facilities with a Part B permit. From this, I brought to the table the idea of leveraging our permits to store waste. This idea had incredibly lucrative results and high margins for the company. Because of this innovation, our site ended up being the first ever winner of the EPA’s Environment Excellence Award for Region 6, awarded to only one company in the state each year. During my time with Ashland Chemical, the company won this award four times. It was at this point that I fell in love with the waste business.

How did you get to where you are today at Clean Earth?

During my stay in Tulsa, OK I served on the Governor’s Council for Environmental Excellence for a couple of years, and then had a good friend of mine who was running the environmental business for Ashland Chemical, ask me to take over the vacant role in Garland, TX overseeing operations in 11 states including three TSDFs. This role consisted of many different responsibilities including sales, compliance, operations and customer service. After my husband became ill, I left the company to be with my family. Eventually I started my own firm and wrote waste analysis plans and marketing plans for my customers. I’ve held many different positions since then: District Manager, Corporate Account Manager, Sales Manager, Customer Service Manager, Direct Sales Corporate Account Manager and VP of Sales and Marketing, through my return to Ashland Chemical and with other companies. At a certain point I stopped working completely to mourn the death of my husband and sister. I thought that I wanted to retire – that was short lived!  A position became open with Clean Earth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I accepted the offer to join the CE family. I now serve as a Regional Account Manager for Clean Earth, responsible for the growth of our accounts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, west Texas and New Mexico.

What is the most interesting part of your role?

We are working with and listening to customers, collecting information to then provide sustainable solutions. We are doing important work that needs to continue. Being in this industry gets in your blood. You get this feeling that you are truly helping people and educating them. You want to make the world better through giving people options and providing solutions.

What has been the most rewarding moment of career?

A few come to mind; I was honored to win the President’s Award in one of my previous roles. I would also say getting my certification as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHHM) was rewarding because it required industry knowledge and passing a difficult test. Lastly, being the first woman in a management position was rewarding in that I could be a role model for other women sales representatives. I spent a lot of time with them to help them succeed because I really didn’t have that.

What environmental organizations are you involved in?

I have a certification as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager and was the first person within Ashland Chemicals to get that certification. I have served within the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management (IHMM) as the chair for four years. I am on the Hazardous Materials Society (HMS) board serving as the Vice-Chair. I am also a part of Women in the Environment and was involved in their grass roots founding 12 years ago. Most recently, I was appointed to the Green Board for the City of Irving.

Do you have a fun fact about yourself?

I have a couple; I have been to 54 countries and all seven continents. My goal is to visit 100 countries. I have both ridden an ostrich and jumped off the highest place in the world, in South Africa.

Do you have routines or habits that keep you going?

I pray every morning and evening and I am a part of a wonderful church with a strong women’s group. All of this really fulfills my spiritual needs and keeps me going. I also am blessed to have a wonderful family, friends and work family who support me – I could not do it without them.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I love to grill and want to learn how to smoke meats.

How do enjoy your time outside of work?

I enjoy traveling, reading and spending time outdoors whether its gardening or going for a walk.

How do you empower other women in our industry?

Firstly, I maintain my involvement in organizations that aim to foster growth in women. I think starting with young women and girls is crucial; I really applaud the partnership that Women of Harsco has built with the U.S. Girl Scouts. I was a Girl Scout too, where I learned many life-long skills! Similarly, I think there is a lot of opportunity for mentorship or internships with college-age women pursuing a degree in environmental studies.

What advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?

I would tell myself to stop and smell the roses, especially at times when I’m overwhelmed, and take advice from some of the people who share my career path. My dad was a huge mentor for me, and gave great advice:

1) Do not let the mean people get you down

2) Do the best you can do

3) Listen to people who have gone before you and learn from them

4) Learn something new every day and don’t be afraid to try new things

5) Learn from your own mistakes and own them

6) Always have shined shoes…it’s the first thing people look at!

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