A Glimpse into Public Service: A Passion for the Environment- A Conversation with Juanita Baldwin, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

 I recently spoke with Juanita Baldwin, SHRM-CP, PHR, from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the regulatory agency charged with protecting the environment for the beautiful State of Texas. TCEQ’s mission at the state level is similar to the work performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the federal level. She shared with me helpful tips and strategies for job candidates who are searching for internships or full-time employment, as well as advice on what the TCEQ looks for in potential candidates.

Juanita has worked for 25+ years in the human resources profession in both public and private sector positions. Her career at the TCEQ has spanned 18 years; she currently serves as the Education and Outreach Coordinator in the External Relations Division.  Essentially, Juanita is charged with growing and scaling their paid, full-time summer internship program, The Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program (MLEIP), by identifying external sponsor companies who are interested in hiring summer interns. Juanita described the key difference that she has found between the public and private sectors. In her experience, the public sector provides employees with work-life balance and state’s total compensation is enhanced by a strong benefits and retirement package.


Her primary advice to students preparing to launch their careers is to focus on developing interpersonal skills/traits including- initiative; adaptability (go-with-the-flow); work well as a team player; curiosity; and the ability to follow instructions with an attention to detail.  These skills enable candidates entering the workplace to be viewed as bringing value to their position/employer.  Most entry-level positions at TCEQ require, at minimum, an undergraduate degree; thus, the agency overall employs a highly educated staff. Additionally, professional certifications such as a Professional Engineer (PE) or Professional Geoscientist (PG) licenses have helped job applicants meet the requirements of specific higher-level job postings.


Another key aspect of successful interviewing that Juanita emphasized is for candidates to be skilled in behavioral interviewing techniques. Specifically, behavioral interview questions are when interviewers ask how you have handled a specific situation in the past and not how you would handle a potential scenario in the future. In her experience, behavioral interview questions are important because responses to these questions provide a glimpse into the candidate’s past performance, which is a good indicator of the candidate’s future performance on the job.  Of course, every interview will also include technical questions specific to the job itself.


Additionally, Juanita emphasized the importance of making your own career path decisions so that you increase your job satisfaction when you launch your career journey.  Her final piece of advice is to be intentional and thoughtful in what you career path(s) you explore, even if these change over time. This way you can learn more about the fields and jobs you like in a purposeful manner.


To learn more about the TCEQ, please go to: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/

For information on the Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program (MLEIP), check out:  https://www.tceq.texas.gov/jobs/mickeyleland

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