FEATURED EMPLOYEE: Keith Jones – Project Manager, Senior Ecologist … Glorified Tree Hugger?
Keith Jones doesn’t believe the grass is greener on the other side. He’s a loyal colleague, dedicated family man, and gregarious friend. If you’re looking for proof you don’t have to search far, just take a peek at his work history. Keith has been a full-time member of the V3 team for nearly two decades, and before that spent summers and school holidays as an intern.
But, like any good protagonist, Keith’s journey to becoming a valued Project Manager and Senior Ecologist has had its share of twists and turns.
“I graduated high school believing that I didn’t have book smarts so college just wasn’t for me,” Keith admitted. “So, for about three years I tried a bunch of different jobs to see what fit. One day I learned that the company I was working for was moving to Tennessee, which meant I could get job training through the government.”
“I was in touch with a job training counselor to help guide me through the process. Pretty quickly she had an inkling that I might be dyslexic and encouraged me to get tested. She was right; I started learning strategies to work around my dyslexia.”
That summer, Keith went from a 5th grade reading level to college. The transformation sparked an interest in something he had never thought was attainable: a college degree.
“I enrolled in junior college, took a biology class, and got an A,” said Keith. “Next, I signed up for an ecology class with a man that turned out to be an incredible mentor to me and from there everything fell into place.”
It’s no secret that just one person can change the trajectory of a person’s life. For Keith, beloved professor Dr. Zales was the game changer.
“I took every class Dr. Zales offered—from botany to taxidermy. At the end of my sophomore year I asked him for help finding a job. One of his grad school students was V3’s own George Milner. Dr. Zales made the connection between us; I still work for George today. He became our group leader and has also been a great mentor and valuable colleague of mine.”
Dr. Zales remains a revered figure from Keith’s past, and time has created a new dimension to their story—friendship. Keith and his wife, Audrey, and their two young daughters were recently on vacation at his former professor’s homestead in Iowa which includes 300 aces of restored prairie.
“I guess as I look back, I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors,” said Keith. “As a kid we would visit my grandparents in central Pennsylvania and spend time exploring the forests and streams around their home. At home in suburban Bolingbrook my friends and I would be outside in the neighborhood running around the woods. Today, my friends affectionately describe me as a ‘glorified tree hugger’ or ‘nature doctor’ … I’m the guy they send pictures of plants and bugs they can’t identify. I’m their Nature Google.”