Making a Mark: Coming Full-Circle Leads to Career Purpose

May 20th, 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

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When Brightmark Director of Technical Development Katie Chapman and her husband, Chris, take evening walks with their kids on the greenway behind their house, it brings to mind her upbringing as a kid whose parents encouraged her and her siblings to embrace nature.

Katie and her two sisters spent loads of time hiking and backpacking through national parks, which led to trips to places like Ecuador to experience different biomes to see how climate change was impacting other parts of the world, and appreciate diversity in all its forms.

For a group of kids growing up east of San Francisco, these trips were an introduction to the world they couldn’t see or experience during their upbringing, so their parents made sure they had an opportunity to get outside of their bubble.

“My parents always encouraged us to experience the world through nature, whether that was trips to national parks or international trips,” says Katie. “I’d like to think that rubbed off on me and my siblings and has leaked into how we live our lives.”

It does seem to have made an impact, as both sisters work in the STEM field, just like Katie.

Katie’s middle sister works on projects to design harbors for remote villages in Alaska. Her youngest sister works on environmental projects.

As for Katie, she supports business development from a technical perspective, working on food waste projects while managing all RFP processes for new projects on the RNG side of Brightmark’s business.

“I didn’t love the idea of a long college career when I went away to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but I knew I wanted to work in the STEM field because I enjoy solving complex problems,” says Katie. “I also chose a career where I wouldn’t have to get a master’s degree. I wanted to get into work right away.”

Katie began her job search seeking out companies with a startup attitude, and her first career step saw her working on anaerobic digestion projects. It was still an early time to be working on food waste, so it didn’t give her the exposure she wanted right away, but it got her foot in the door and showed her what the industry was looking for.

She worked with that outfit for seven years before leaving for greener pastures. Her new role with an engineering company saw the employee number go from 15 to 500,000—a significant jump that saw more opportunity but left her wanting to work for a company that embraced the entrepreneurial mindset but didn’t have the restraints of a smaller company.

When she heard of Brightmark from one of her former colleagues, she decided to solve this career problem on her own and investigate the fit. It turns out that Brightmark fits like a glove. Not only because everyone within the company is in lockstep when it comes to working toward one goal—to Reimagine Waste—but she was able to carve out a role working specifically on food waste, which seemed to her to be serendipitous.

“If I’m being honest, my first job in anaerobic digestion probably happened too early because the infrastructure wasn’t yet in place,” says Katie. “By the time I got to Brightmark, it was ready to take off, and now diverting food waste has the support it needs to work.”

Food waste has long been a problem in the United States. Americans waste 60 million tons of food every year, and food waste is the largest component that takes up space in landfills. Clearly, the time is now to start tackling this problem.

“It does feel like my career has come full circle now that I’m at Brightmark and working on pressing matters with a whip-smart and optimistic team,” says Katie. “We need to figure out what to do with the food waste we generate, and I have no qualms about saying Brightmark is going to figure it out.”

Four years after a global pandemic, Katie feels like she’s in a good spot and ready to embrace the future, but she is just now coming out of survival mode.

Her twin boys were a year old when COVID hit, but they were six months old when she started working at Brightmark. It was a whirlwind of diapers and firsts as she navigated this change, but she’s always been good at change.

Katie and her husband have lived in Germany and Utah during his time in the Air Force, but they eventually found their way back home after leaving their home to see what the world had to offer.

“Sometimes you find yourself making your way back to where you came from, but you first have to take a circuitous route to get there,” says Katie. “I wouldn’t have the same sense of fulfillment I have now had I started right away, so I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to explore other opportunities to really figure out my purpose.”

Man posing for professional headshot
Brad Marley

Brad is a lifelong storyteller who helps companies find their single source of truth. He works with brands in tech and sustainability to identify their most impactful narratives and ensure that messaging is weaved throughout their storytelling efforts. Brad brings more than 20 years of storytelling experience to bear as he helps Brightmark make its mark.

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