In this episode, we speak with Chiara Bangor-Giorgio about her journey from IU Bloomington to her essential role at the Indianapolis Zoo. She takes us through all the difficulties she’s encountered along the way and how she was able to persevere in the end. She also speaks on her future goals and how she plans to get there.
Chiara Bangor-Giorgio is Education Interpreter at the Indianapolis Zoo. Her job is to essentially build a bridge between what people know about the animals at the zoo and what they don’t know and provide engaging conversation with people to inspire them to connect with the nature around them and protect wildlife.
In 2019, due to unexpected challenges that arose, Chiara had to leave the Indianapolis Zoo. Although this was hard for Chiara, she had gained many skills and experiences that would enhance her work when she returned in 2021. In her time away she served in various roles, including research assistant with a focus on global pesticide usage worldwide; assistant manager for Torrid; and Environmental Justice Intern.
Prior to rejoining the Indianapolis Zoo, Chiara served as Geographic Information Systems Specialist at geoConvergence, LLC. “GeoConvergence LLC. specializes in the design and implementation of world-class Geospatial Intelligence, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Space Management solutions by leveraging technical skills in Software Development (SecDevOps), Cloud Engineering, and Data Analytics required to create secure, effective, efficient, and resilient solutions in today’s highly connected network environment.”
Chiara currently resides in Indianapolis where her passion for the environment and wildlife conservation grows each day.
Participate in Themester 2021 — Resilience
Season 5 of All Careers Considered is produced in conjunction with the College of Arts + Sciences Themester 2021 on Resilience. One way you can participate in Themester is to attend a Themester event.
Ricardy: Hey Hoosiers, welcome back to All Careers Considered podcast hosted by the Walter Center for Career Achievement, which is the Career Services Center, that specifically serves students and alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences, at IU Bloomington. We’re on a mission to help you achieve career success by supporting you in the pursuit of impactful experiences, Designing Your Life, sharing your story, and building meaningful connections.
My name is Ricardy Ellie, and I’m an undergraduate intern for the Walter Center for Career Achievement, working with an amazing team of both undergraduate and graduate students, who you will hear from in later episodes of the podcast, a College of Arts and Sciences degree can create so many opportunities you may not have even thought were possible. I’m here to show you that really is the case, by interviewing alumni and hearing each of their stories and how they got there.
Next up in this week’s interview with Chiara, education interpreter at Indianapolis Zoo. Through conservation education, Chiara inspired others to protect nature and care for our world. Chiara graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in geography from Indiana University in 2020. I had a great time learning more about Chiara’s career path, resilience, and how her College of Arts and Sciences degrees have influenced her life. I really enjoyed our conversation and believe you all will find a lot of wisdom in this conversation. Enjoy the episode.
Ricardy: Thank you so much for being here with us today on the College of Arts and Science All Careers considered podcast Chiara. To begin, you have had a great number of experiences, both in research and grassroots environmental sustainability work as a young professional from working as the environmental justice intern as Hoosier environmental council role, Agile convergence LLC and so many more impactful experiences. With that being said, Chiara, would you like to start us off by telling everyone about your current role as education interpreter of the Indianapolis Zoo.
Chiara: Yeah, absolutely. So as an educational interpreter, my job is to build a bridge between what people know about the animals and what they don’t know. And provide engage in conversations with people to inspire them to connect with the nature around us, but also inspire them to protect wildlife and protect nature around us. And um I started at the zoo in 2018 as a seasonal interpreter. I was asked to come back in 2019. And then last year I took off, although being invited back again because of COVID. And now I’m back in 2021, as a part time education interpreter here at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Ricardy: That’s wonderful. Throughout that 2-year gap, I saw you had some other experience through the research assistant and environmental justice intern and you also were a geographic information systems specialist, how do you feel those experiences in-between that time helps you when you came back to be an education interpreter.
Chiara: So those experiences I think helped give me more understanding about the world around us and how we interpret it. So as um the environmental justice intern, for the Hoosier Environmental Council, I worked directly with residents in the Riverside Community in Indianapolis about different health problems that residents were facing because of pollution, because of different um environmental factors or not necessarily factors, but different things that were happening that were affecting people’s health. And that helped me gain a unique perspective on the way other people, not just myself, how they interpret the environment as well as environmental justice.
And then, as a research assistant, I provided a statistical analysis of global pesticide usage for one of the professors here at IU; her name is Dr. Annie Shattuck. She’s over in the Department of Geography. And this project helped me realize usage of pesticides across the world and the different elements of it that end up ultimately like either hurting or either hurting wildlife around there or people that um by consuming these pesticides cause health problems or anything like that. But then even using the decrease of global pesticide usage and seeing the impacts of that. And it was really, it was really, really interesting. And then as, and then as a geographic information system specialist, I worked with a couple of clients such as the Indiana State Department of Education. I worked with the just the general state and I worked with the transportation department as well um developing different geodatabases that could ultimately, house a bunch of different information and some of those projects were just mapping schools in the area.
But then some of those, one of those I ended up working on different tree species in a cemetery. And so that necessarily didn’t that didn’t per se transfer over necessarily to the zoo job, but a lot of the skills that I gained in my GIS specialist job, I can apply to my zoo job and that’s time management, organization and making sure that things are properly in order. And that’s just like something very small that does carry over into my current job at the Indianapolis Zoo.
Ricardy: That’s amazing.
Chiara: Thank you.
Ricardy: So how did they choose you for the study and what motivated you to pick the industry that you’re currently in.
Chiara: So, it all started at a young age. I was very little and I used to go.., so, I’m originally from Philadelphia and probably from when I was four until high school, I would say I had a membership to the Camden Aquarium, the Adventure Aquarium, right across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey. I go there every single weekend and I’d also go to this Philadelphia Zoo a lot. And that really built the foundation of my love for animals. I grew up having dogs and I grew up my aunt is a wildlife rehabilitator so seeing the work that she did, I thought it was amazing. And I knew, starting at a very young age that I wanted to make a difference in the world. I didn’t know how I was going to do that. And even as a child, I was pretty indecisive about what I wanted to do.
Now growing up there’s some kids who are like, I want to be a veterinarian. And now you look at they are vets. Me was a lot different where I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to be a baker, I wanted to be a meteorologist. I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. I wanted to do so many things. But the overall theme with what I wanted to be when I grew up was based in wanting to do good. And how can you do good as a rockstar right? Well, my interpretation of that, I wanted to use that space to let people know that it’ll be okay that life gets better. And now that I’m older and grown, that’s still something that I that I want to achieve in my career.
So with the Indianapolis Zoo, I honestly applied on a whim. I… at the time it was my junior year of college, and I was looking for a summer job. And I saw that the Indianapolis Zoo had some openings. And I saw interpreter. I was like, what’s that? And it just went into detail about educating people, about different species, about conservation and about what they can do to protect the world around us. And I was like, Wow, that sounds amazing. That sounds like what I want to do.
So in 2018, I got the position and I loved it. I loved the people that I worked with. I’ve loved the environment. I loved when I was preaching kind of thing. Practice what you preach is a saying. And that’s definitely something that I, I tried to do, especially when it comes to environmental work and it comes to conservation and it comes to protecting our planet. And so I was asked to come back again in 2019. And I did and it was amazing again. And then last year I took off because of COVID. And I decided to come back this year in 2021 because I realized something was missing throughout the past since I graduated. Until now, something was missing. It was the heart, the passion that I’ve always had.
I felt like few of the different career routes I’ve gone through since graduation just wasn’t there. And I was sort of going through like an existential crisis of who am I, what do I want to do? How, how can I apply my degree and what I learned to the real world and thinking back at all my previous jobs and positions, I realized I really, really loved the zoo and that’ll never change. And so I decided to give my old boss or my boss an email saying, Hey, by any chance you have any part-time positions available. And he was like, actually, we do. I applied, I got the job again and I feel fulfilled. That’s just something that I’ve always wanted in my life when it comes to a job, I want to feel fulfilled. I want to know that I’m doing good in the world. That’s something that I’m doing now. And it’s amazing.
Ricardy: Yes. Thank you. You expressing your love that you have for your job, actually reminded me of a quote, I believe, I’m not sure who it’s by, but the quote was, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” So I really reminded me of how you have a passion for the Zoo.
Ricardy: And also speaking on the COVID, How did that impact your working at the time? Because I know we all had that hard year where some of us miss out on a lot of opportunities. So I was wondering how you got through then, how you were resilient to get through that.
Chiara: Yeah. So I’m not going to lie. It was really hard. I had a couple of job offers that fell through because of COVID, which is heartbreaking because here you are a senior in college or you know for me, my fifth year in college. And you have a job lined up that you really, really want. And then all of a sudden it falls through because of a pandemic, something that you’ve never even thought would or could happen. And it was really hard. I’m not going to lie.
But in the time being, I had to do what I had to do to meet financial needs. And that’s just something that in reality, sometimes you just have to put, you know, food on the table. You need to make enough money to put food on the table. And you can work on putting, putting the stones down in the path to your, you know career. Yeah. So for me, I ended up working a whole bunch of different part-time jobs. And so with COVID, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get really into the career path that I wanted right, right after COVID and I was feeling ashamed. I was feeling sad. I was feeling down. And something that I kept in mind was that I know there’s more to me because recognizing your own strengths and your own dedication you heart to doing, at least for me, and the sense doing good in the world. I knew there was more. And so I was patient. And really I kept trying to focus on the good. So for example, or for example, I would say if I had a rough day at work and I was working at the time, a retail manager at a store.
And I would come home and sure it was a yucky day, but I came home to my cat. And it’s the simplest like littlest things. And you know, for me, my cat was a beacon of joy. He is a beacon of joy. He makes me laugh. He is super funny. He meows a lot. And then also keeping, keeping hold of these little things that give you pleasure, that give you a sense of not necessarily purpose or meaning, but like, very similar to like purpose or meaning. So holding onto those little things and knowing that it’ll get better was something that really helped me be resilient in the moment. Because when you keep applying for jobs and you keep getting rejection after rejection, you start to think to yourself, what is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? You talk to people, you talk to alumni. And for me, I know and with the Walter Career Success Network, everyone always talks about networking with alumni. And I was doing that. I was reaching out to people and they’re saying all your all your doing the right thing, you keep doing it.
But I kept getting job rejection after rejection, after rejection. And it came to a point where I was just so fed up like what am I doing wrong? And that was kind of like the break of my, of my existential crisis, of what am I doing, who I am, and thinking and really going back to my roots, figuring out what I love. That is what helped me get into my career, my field of study, but also kept me being resilient. Because then from there I have a networking with people that can help me get to where I want to be and building those relationships, building that network, laying down the stepping stones to get to where you want to be. So that’s basically what I’ve done during COVID. And that’s kind of how I’ve kept the ball rolling. Now I’m not gonna say, I’m gonna say like, yes, it was hard. It was really hard. There were a lot of times I wanted to give up. But knowing that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or I guess like knowing that there’s a rainbow after the storm was something that helped, kept me going.
Ricardy: Yeah, awesome. So what are some skills that you would think are most crucial to succeeding in your career.
Chiara: So I think communication is a really big one. When you’re an educator like myself at the zoo. The primary aspect of your job is communicating with people and knowing how to tell a story. And because I talk to people every day and there are varying of ages, so you can talk to maybe a three-year-old, four-year-old. But when you’re talking to someone who’s in their 70s or 80s, all about the same thing.
You have to learn how to cater your story to different clientele. Because there are people of different ages, different backgrounds that you don’t know about. But you want to make sure that’s accessible to whoever you’re talking to. So communication is really a big quality that I think is beneficial in my field. Also, another thing is obviously time management organization and also being versatile and adaptable in situations. So things are always going to change. And so you need to be, you need to know how to adapt to situations vast Johan, you need to know how to think on your feet. But you also need to know that There’s going to be a schedule. You have a time limit to go from one place to another. So that’s something that’s also very important. But I think the biggest quality that is the most important is passion and is heart. And is showing that you’re dedicated because you love what you do, you know what you love, and you’re confident in your ability to get that message across to other people. So those are some qualities I think are beneficial.
Ricardy: Awesome, And what do you say is the proudest moment in your career thus far?
Chiara: Oh man, my proudest moment of my career, that is a really great question. So at the zoo, like I mentioned, you talked to a lot of people. And this is pretty miniscule, but this is something I’m really proud of. I have been taking some online ASL American Sign Language lessons and kind of trying to see what I can learn. Some like fast signs that can be easily applicable. And i’ve, I’ve always, I’ve known the ASL alphabet since kindergarten. So recently, I was with our crocodiles and alligators and talking about them to some guests. And I had a guest come up who, two guests one was hard of hearing and one was deaf. And there was like a translator there for them. And while I was talking to them, I was signing to them. Oh, this is my friend, George or Louis or Carl who are three of our alligators. And I was saying, Oh, this is my friend. They like chicken for example. Or they, you know, the, they’re they like certain things. And the fact that I was able to communicate with them on that level. Seeing the spark in there, I especially because the kid was like 10, seeing just the joy and the excitement and the shock that I was signing to him, it meant the whole wide world to me. It really did. And that’s something that I’m really proud of because I put the work in. And obviously not every guest that you have is going to be deaf or hard of hearing. But for those little times that you do get that you’re able to communicate with them the same way you’re able to communicate with other guests who are of hearing. So that’s one of my most proud, that’s one of my proudest moments. There’s a lot of other ones, but I’ll save that for later.
Ricardy: That’s amazing to be able to connect with other people that you never thought you’d be able to. So acquiring that skill really did help you
Ricardy: And then if you have to describe yourself as an animal, what would you be and why?
Chiara: This is an amazing question. I’ve thought about this a lot and I would be an octopus. And here’s why. I think they’re super underrated. I grew up as very much the underdog. I had people tell me that I wasn’t good enough and that I’ll never amount to anything and I’m not smart and I’m not this, I’m not this. And here I am 24, feeling real successful with my career, knowing what I want to do. And it’s kind of like one of those things where I’m actually really smart. Despite what people told me. And octopus octopi, I think that’s the plural word, octopi. Something like that. They’re, they’re really smart and I feel like a lot of people underestimate them. And they’re also fun and they’re squishy and I think they’re really cool. So that is, if I read it well, that’s, that’s what I would be.
Ricardy: Awesome. And as far as your geography degree and the College of Arts and Sciences,
Ricardy: How do you feel that it’s helped you into where you are today?
Chiara: Oh, man. I honestly give a lot of credit to everyone of the Geography Department as well as here at IU for helping me become the person I am today. And that’s simply because before coming to IU, I had a very limited perspective of the world and being in the College of Arts and Sciences, taking a whole bunch of different classes, as well as being in the Department of Geography. I’ve gained such a broader perspective that has helped me Adjusted Life has, has helped me get rid of or get rid of some of the biases that I used to have and recognize that stuff and myself and, you know, applying what I learned during my undergraduate career to what I, what I know now has been monumental in my own personal growth as well as career growth. And it’s been incredible, like looking back where I was a couple years ago to where I am now. I legitimately thank all of my professors that I’ve had, all of the people that I’ve met at IU who have helped me gain this perspective. And obviously, my perspective isn’t limited. You know, it’s not can… What’s the word?
Chiara: Confined. Yeah. It’s not confined to one thing or oh, I know this stuff and that’s it. No, I am constantly willing to grow, constantly willing to learn new things. And I give a lot of that credit to IU and what I’ve gained or what I’ve learned.
Ricardy: Awesome. And last question, what advice do you have for IU students and their undergrads that are looking to find something that they love as much of you found that you love?
Chiara: That’s a great question. I think trial and error. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Did I think I would want to be as, as a child, did I ever imagine myself being an educational interpreter or heck, even wanting to become a zookeeper and scooping up poop for my day job, right? No. I never thought. Well, that could be a possibility for me to an ever thought. That could be something I could do.
And after putting myself out there trying new things, I figured out, wow, this is what I love with, this is what I want to do. And so, my biggest piece of advice, force, excuse me, for students, is to try new things. And don’t limit yourself. Don’t limit yourself, don’t confine yourself to the box that society puts you in because it’s okay to change your career path. You know, when you’re 30, for example, It’s okay to try a different job until you find something that you like. Because I feel like a lot of the time with societal constructs.
There’s this very, there’s this path that we’re expected to take, right? So it’s like we go to high school, we go to college, we get a job after college, we find a partner and we get married and we have kids. And that’s it. And in reality, that’s, that’s not it. That’s not how life works. Things happen. Sometimes it might take us longer to get from one, one part of our lives to another part of our lives. What if we don’t even want to take that path? What if we don’t even see ourselves funding up like that? That’s okay.
And so, by figuring out, by trying new things, and figuring out what you want to do. It allows you to find what you like and be passionate about what you like. And don’t worry about what other people think or any societal norms or pressures that people put on you. It’s not worth it because what matters the most is your happiness and it’s your life. So do what you love, try new things. Because who knows you might, you might end up loving something you’d never even thought could be a possibility. So keep that in mind and try to find joy in every little day things. And I guarantee you, it’ll make everything a whole lot easier.
Ricardy: Thank you so much for the great advice. Chiara, if any students have any questions they want to keep up with the amazing things. The amazing way you are changing the world. How can students go about doing so?
Chiara: Yeah, so you can find me on LinkedIn. My name is Chiara Bangor Giorgio. It’s hyphenated. It’s pretty long, but I promise I’m there. You can find me there. You can reach out to me, send me a message, add me back all that kind of great stuff. You can also add me on the Walter Career Success Network. I’ve actually talked to a couple of students on there recently because they’ve reached out and I’ve provided some assistance and some help. I am very much one of those people and I’m one of those alumni that I am willing to help if no matter what way possible. If you want advice. Sure. If you want a good recipe, sure, I’ll give you a good one. So really, that’s those are the two best ways to contact me.
Ricardy: All right. Thank you so much and thank you for joining us on our podcast today. We appreciate it.
Chiara: Thank you so much for having me.