NRECA Women in STEM: Rachel Volmert

Rachel Volmert, Contracts Specialist, Finance, Grants and Contracts, NRECA

Job Role: Contracts Specialist

Department: Finance, Grants and Contracts

Explain a little bit about your career at NRECA. What is the core function of your current role and how does it support the mission of the organization?

Working with the members.

I started my career at NRECA as the International Finance Intern. I returned the following summer to intern in the same department and accepted a permanent position, which I started immediately post college graduation.

My role as a Contracts Specialist supporting NRECA International is to administer the management of grants and contracts from cradle to grave. This involves preparing the financial sides of proposals we submit to bid on grants and contracts, as well as supporting the projects we win in many ways (especially financially) throughout their execution and closeout. By supporting NRECA International’s work, I help support our Global Commitment and promote cooperatives around the globe.

How did you get here? Has your background always been in STEM fields, or was it something you discovered later in your education or career?

I have always been a little nerdy. Almost every subject interested me, but I joined the Math Club in middle school and competed across the state. At one competition, when my male classmate was awarded 8th place in Algebra, my teacher turned to me and said she was sorry I didn’t place, assuming I wouldn’t place above him. I ended up in 1st place. Doubt – and the assumption that I couldn’t do as well as my male classmates in math or science – pushed me to succeed. I continued to love math, and though I stopped competing, I began to tutor statistics and economic courses through the learning center at my university, which helped me to refine and nurture my love of math. While studying for degrees in finance and economics I was fascinated by using equations to explain and predict economic and financial forces.

How did you become interested in your area of expertise?

It allows me to work with people who enjoy making a difference.

One side of what I do connects to my interest in finance and economics, and the other meshes well with my other two degrees, which are in international studies and Spanish. I knew I wanted to work in the area of international development, specifically on the finance side. I have been interested in business since high school, but as I started volunteering more and more, I shifted my focus from for-profit businesses to non-profit businesses.

In college, I was the director of our campus food pantry. Seeing the need in my own community, I knew the job I chose had to have an impact in alleviating some of the pervasive poverty affecting society. If my seemingly middle-class county had 1 in 5 people facing food insecurity, then the plight of those in less developed countries had to be in extreme need of being addressed. NRECA International helps further the goal of global electrification. Without access to electricity, rapid economic growth is hindered. Providing reliable access to electricity is a start in correcting global economic inequality and I am grateful to have a part in it.

What is your favorite thing about your job and NRECA?

I love the culture of NRECA and the values NRECA and NRECA International stand for and support. I would not have come back twice if not for the amazing people and the wonderful work that is done within our organization.

What inspires you?

The idea of working for an organization that cares about positive impact it can have, and not the bottom line.

What does it mean to you to be working in your current field?

It means a lot to me that I have been able to start working in the field I want to spend my career in as my first job. I know that non-profit, international development work is where my heart is, and it means a lot to be a part of it.

If you had a piece of advice for someone who wanted to explore a role in tech or another STEM field, what would it be?

Your ability to learn difficult concepts allows you to be successful in this exciting field. School is the hard part, applying what you have learned is the fun part.

I would say, think outside of the box as to what a role in a tech or STEM field means. Being an engineer or chemist is fantastic, but they are not the only roles in the field. The field is wide ranging and there are so many opportunities to explore. Also, don’t let anyone hold you back, including yourself. Believe in your abilities and don’t be afraid to venture into a new field to find your passion.

Read more NRECA Women in STEM profiles