Making a Mark: Nicole Whitelaw Takes Leap of Faith for Personal & Professional Growth

February 1st, 2024
Reading time: 5 minutes

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Nicole Whitelaw wasn’t familiar with Brightmark and its work before she stumbled across it during a job search. However, after doing some research to learn more about Brightmark’s mission, it became apparent that her beliefs matched those of the company and that it would be worth pursuing a career.

So Nicole took a leap of faith, moved across the country to San Francisco, and found herself working for Brightmark in the accounts payable department.

But her story is not that straightforward. Nicole had to go to San Francisco and back again to secure a home, a place that felt full of promise.

Born in Canada to parents who understood the value of ensuring they left the world better than they found it, Nicole has a natural affinity for environmental stewardship.

“One of my earliest memories is of sorting recyclables from my mom’s birthday party into those large recycling bins everyone had back in the day,” says Nicole. “That sort of stuck and instilled in me a belief that we have to do our part for the environment.”

At the age of five, her family moved to southern California so that her dad could be closer to his company’s headquarters. It was quite the transition from Kitchener, but it allowed Nicole to get a sense of what else the world had to offer. And Canada was never far from her mother’s mind. Growing up near farms in and around Milverton, Ontario, cows were a ubiquitous part of her life. When they left Canada, she brought that piece of home with her by surrounding herself with cow figurines. It was, perhaps, a serendipitous clue about Nicole’s future.

Nicole remained in the area and eventually enrolled in community college, where she studied nursing for a few years until she changed her major to music management. She matriculated at the University of Redlands when she decided to focus on business and stayed there until moving to Georgia to be with her family.

“I had to take a break from school when my family moved to Georgia,” says Nicole. “But if I hadn’t moved to stay with them, I’m not sure I would have ever discovered Brightmark.”

Nicole finished her bachelor’s degree at Georgia Gwinnett College, with a focus on international business. After her time there, she came across Brightmark on LinkedIn and pursued a job with the company.

Like many before, a future Brightmark employee emerged from Georgia, a state that is near and dear to CEO Bob Powell’s heart. It’s well-documented how the Peach State has influenced Bob’s life, and that sway has extended to employees as well.

After landing a job at Brightmark, Nicole started thinking about her next move. But when she wasn’t working or taking classes, she relaxed by playing a game called King of Avalon. It’s a strategy game where players must build a powerful empire from scratch. Players are also encouraged to join others online and play alongside each other.

Nicole found the game to be a nice way to wind down after a busy day, but something unexpected happened: she met someone playing the game.

“I met my boyfriend while playing the game when we randomly connected,” says Nicole. “We both knew we had an interest in the same things, and it beats trying to meet someone on a dating app.”

They talked for six months before Nicole made a big decision: she would invite him to Las Vegas for her 30th birthday to meet in person for the first time.

After her friends backed out of the trip, Nicole took a leap of faith and decided to go to Vegas with just him.

“It’s the best decision I ever made,” says Nicole. “We hit it off, and we are still together over three and a half years later.”

Nicole now lives in northern California, working in the accounts payable department for Brightmark and spending the weekends with her partner. In a bit of happenstance, most of her role is centered around the work Brightmark does with dairy farms.

On these farms, the cows produce manure, which emits methane. Brightmark captures and extracts the methane and turns it into renewable natural gas that can be used for various applications, such as low-carbon transportation fuel.

It’s not lost on Nicole that cows tend to play a major role in her career after being constantly surrounded by them growing up.

“I think life will try to guide you in the right direction if you let it,” says Nicole. “It’s important to remain open to all possibilities and not get discouraged if your life isn’t exactly what you want at this exact moment.”

Nicole has gone from Canada to California to Georgia, then back to California, a circuitous route, to be sure, but one that has given her the ability to find who and what she loves and build a life she can be proud of.

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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