One of Sydney’s graduation photos, already as a proud Weyerhaeuser employee!
For people who don't work in sustainable forestry, misconceptions about the industry can be fairly common, and it can be difficult for our employees to know how to address concerns factually but simply, and without jargon. It’s a challenge our Corporate Communications team regularly works to address through a host of materials and resources, including our Fantastic Sustainability Facts and How We Do It series, as well as presentation materials available internally to employees.
It's also a challenge Sydney McCoy sought to address during her internship with our Southern Timberlands team in summer 2021. As part of her internship project, she developed a helpful script the team could use to respond to questions about forestry from friends, family and community members. Her presentation included suggested talking points to help employees have meaningful conversations with the public about what we do.
When Sydney got married in October 2022, four of her coworkers attended to celebrate with her. Left to right: Debbie Roy, admin coordinator for our Winnfield Timberlands office; Karen Duck, admin coordinator at our Ruston Timberlands office; Holli Schuler, silviculture forester in Ruston; Sydney and her husband Richard; and Becky Cockerham, financial analyst at our Winnfield office.
The idea for the project came naturally to Sydney, who was studying forestry and wildlife habitat management at Louisiana Tech at the time.
“I was president of my sorority, and the women in my house were curious about my major,” Sydney says. “They were always asking me if cutting trees was bad or if it drove all the animals out of their habitat. I’m passionate about forestry and love talking to people about it, so I decided to turn those questions into my internship project.”
The challenge, she says, was to do data-driven research instead of just sharing facts she’d learned in school. So, Sydney first conducted a survey of people both in and outside our industry to find the most common myths about sustainable forestry practices. The top one was that forestry activities displace wildlife, so she created studies to track wildlife activity on various stand types. She conducted a ‘deer browse,’ which measures the concentration of plants eaten in a certain plot and took a point count survey to tally the number of birds seen in the same plot. She found that animal activity is 65.96 percent higher in thinned than in mature stands, data that confirmed what she’d already learned in school.
Next, Sydney developed a list of appropriate responses for three different levels of conversation: fleeting small talk; a ‘let’s have lunch’ discussion; and an in-depth informational exchange. Her suggested responses include scripts of what to say and what not to say to help people better understand our business. At the end of the summer, she shared her presentation with fellow interns and others from Southern Timberlands.
“Aaron Welch, vice president of Southern Timberlands, reached out afterward to compliment me, which blew my mind,” Sydney says. “I learned a lot from the process; and I’m still learning!”
Most recently, that learning comes in the form of a new role: After joining the company as a professional development candidate, she recently accepted a full-time silviculture forester role in Winnfield, Louisiana, in March!
Sydney and Richard on their honeymoon in Death Valley National Park.
GET TO KNOW SYDNEY
Why did you choose Weyerhaeuser?
Forestry companies visit Louisiana Tech every week or so during fall semesters. I was impressed by the way Weyerhaeuser employees described what they did; I could tell they liked the company and valued their coworkers. I could also tell Weyerhaeuser was a company that treated their people well, and I knew that’s where I wanted to start my career. I enjoyed my summer internship so much that I continued it through my senior year. I was actually offered the Professional Development Candidate role even before I graduated.
Sydney and her dog, Dixie Jean.
What did you do as a Professional Development Candidate?
I worked with anybody who needed help. My mentor was a silviculture forester, so I’ve learned a lot in that function. I’ve audited herbicide applications to make sure our contractors are spraying properly and had the opportunity to oversee some seedling planting packages for the 2022-2023 season. I’ve shadowed our harvest managers to observe what they do, and I’ve taken part in the process myself. I took part in an internal and external audit for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® certification process. It was especially cool for me to be a part of something like that so early in my career because I know it will be extremely helpful down the line.
How do you describe what you do to your family and friends?
My family gets an earful of forestry stuff from me because I'm so excited about it! My dad's a little more familiar with it than my mom, so I show her pictures of the equipment we’re using to describe what I do. My husband has been listening to me talk about forestry since college, so listening to my day to day on the job is nothing new for him. That’s more in-depth than I would go with most people, but they’re my family, so they have to listen to me! I also did the Weyerhaeuser company presentation at Louisiana Tech last fall, which was a crazy full-circle moment for me.
What’s been most challenging so far?
It's been a little tricky to adapt to post-college life. In college I had hard deadlines, but here I need to be more self-sufficient with my work, as there are many more responsibilities, and with varying deadlines. However, I have great coworkers, and they’re quick to help me in whatever way they can if they notice I'm struggling or if I ask for help.
Sydney takes advantage of the cool air in the seedling cooler at our Winnfield office for a photo-op. Winnfield is rare among Timberlands offices in that it has its own seedling cooler.
What’s been your favorite project so far?
I was asked to give a mini presentation when Weyerhaeuser’s board of directors came to visit. They asked me questions about myself, about recruiting and about getting more women in the field. I was brand new, so to be a part of something so important was a unique experience.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
Learning everything I can in my new silviculture forester role in the Winnfield office! Silviculture is what I really love, so I’m excited to jump in. Over the next few years, I’ll focus on gaining experience — just learning, in whatever capacity I can.
Sydney and Cody Lewing, HR business partner for our Arcadia OSB plant in Simsboro, Louisiana, at a career fair at Sydney’s alma mater Louisiana Tech.