Paving the Way by Serving the Industry
Being an arborist wasn’t Christie Bryant’s first choice of career; however, she did know she wasn’t the type of person to work indoors, “I knew that I didn’t want to work a desk job,” she said. “I also knew that I always loved plants.”
Bryant started her green industry career as a landscaper in Atlanta, Ga. U.S., with a degree in environmental horticulture. Unfortunately, Bryant’s time as a landscaper was shortened when, in 2007, Atlanta suffered from a drought. The drought was followed by the economic collapse of 2008, which, according to Bryant, made working in the landscaping industry difficult.
“It became a very hard industry to get and or keep a job in,” Bryant said. “So I went ahead and applied for and took my arborist certification test just to boost my resume without ever really thinking I would work in the tree industry. It was just something to make my landscaping resume look better in the face of a hard economy.”
After becoming an ISA Certified Arborist ®, Bryant found herself volunteering for an event called Replant Ringgold, a community outreach initiative that sought to help communities replant trees lost during a storm. It was at the event where Bryant’s career path took a turn for the better.
While at the event, Bryant met the former vice president of Downey Trees, Rusty Lee. “We got to talking, and we talked the whole way home that afternoon,” she said. “The next thing I knew I was interviewing for a job in the tree industry. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Since then, Bryant has gone on to run the Tree Healthcare division at Gunnison Tree Specialists, earn the Tree Risk Assessment Qualification, serve as a consultant at her own company, Speaking for Trees, and become the first female president of the Georgia Arborist Association (GAA).
The GAA is a group of tree care professionals that aims to advance arboriculture education and practices as well as advocate for the protection of Georgia’s trees.
“When I first came to the Georgia Arborist Association everyone looked at me like I had two heads,” Bryant said. “Everybody was over the age of sixty, and everybody was a man.”
After being a member for some time, Bryant was asked to participate on the GAA board, but she knew a lot of thing would have to change.
“When people walk in the doors they should feel like its homecoming at their Sunday church,” she said. “We need to make people want to come back here and I feel like I really have made that happen. Since then we’ve seen the membership increase and we also have a lot more credibility than we used to have in the industry.”
Throughout her career, Bryant said she has approached her profession with the same mindset, “service to the industry.”
“I encourage everybody out there to go serve your industry because you cannot get unless you’ve given back,” she said. “If I hadn’t given so much to this industry I’m convinced I would not be where I am in my career today. It’s all about service.”
Although Bryant said she felt as though she had to work twice as hard because she had twice as much to prove, she also said that it was worth it because it means she gets to do what she loves every day.
“I get the opportunity as president of the Georgia Arborist Association to serve this industry as a woman,” she said. “I feel like it’s my job to make the way for everybody else. It is up to me to make sure that other women don’t have to work so hard to pay their dues. It’s up to me to make sure that everybody understands that there is a very real place for women in this industry. And we can do everything the guys can do. We can climb the trees and bring them down. There’s a place for women everywhere in this world there’s a place for men. I’m happy this industry is finally seeing that.”
Check out the other Women in Arboriculture profiles.