Welcome to another installment of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask brief questions of interesting people, and request brief answers in return. Today’s participant is listed eighth on GreenBiz’s Twitter Index, which is testament to his formidable combination of smarts and charisma. I once went to a networking group on his suggestion. When I sat down at a table with others and they asked how I’d learned of the group, I said simply, “Asheen,” to which the whole table chorused, “Of course!” Please remember: “10 words” is an ethic, not a limit, so please, no counting! Besides, if you think it’s so easy, let’s see you do it.
Name Asheen Phansey
Fahn-SAY? I’ve been saying it wrong. Yes, it means “One who farms jackfruit.” And my first name means “tireless.”
In what languages? "Phansey is Marathi. Asheen is Sanskrit."
Born when, where: "Oct. 15, 1980, 12:23 a.m., Charleston, S.C."
Anything unusual about the circumstances? “The most unusual thing, if you know me at all, was that I was born on time. I think it was the last time."
Resides: Burlington, Mass.
Family situation: "Married, with two kids that I chase around. 1 1/2 and 4."
First world event you recall being aware of The first event that I really understood and affected me was the Exxon Valdez spill. [March 24, 1989] I can’t remember if that was before or after the first Persian Gulf War. [Aug. 2, 1990]
An early example of networking [Laughs] When I was very new to sustainability, I applied to the Biologist at the Design Table training that the Biomimicry Guild offers, and they actually rejected my application. I networked in through Joel Makower into the Biomimicry Institute and Guild, and basically convinced them otherwise. Since then, that training has been a cornerstone of my career.
Your first paying job "Doing secure web design for the Air Force and the Department of Defense."
Some wisdom you learned at that job “What's possible isn’t always a good idea, and that people are more important than technology."
How many languages do you speak? "I’m learning my fourth now. I speak English, Marathi, and French, well enough to communicate. And I’m learning Spanish."
Where do you work? "Dassault Systemes.”
What business is it in? “We make 3D modeling software for the whole product development process. Things built using our software include airplanes, automobiles, ships, down to these lights [in the room where we were sitting]. Fender guitars, Burton snowboards. …"
What is your title? "Manager of the Sustainable Innovation Lab."
How many social media followers do you have? “Maybe 3,800 on Twitter. I have maybe 1,000 LinkedIn followers. I try to maximize Twitter, and minimize LinkedIn. When I was at 490, I was so picky, because I just didn’t want to be one of those '500-plus' people. I probably get 2-3 LinkedIn requests a week, and accept 1 or 2 a month."
A social media must "Be human, listen, engage. Talk to people, not at people, and be interesting."
Someone particularly worth following "Besides Michael Prager, [I’ll probably edit that out, but thanks.] You should put that in. [Pause] Joel Makower, Nick Aster, Aman Singh.
Your favorite sport to participate in "Archery. To me there’s just a beauty of active meditation where you engage every muscle in the body to be still and focus your mind on one goal. It’s a beautiful thing and I miss it."
Why aren’t you doing it? "It’s a good question. I spend the little time I have now mostly with my kids. I value the time with my kids more than my favorite pursuits. When they’re a bit older, I hope to take it up with them. I’ve always had this crazy dream to try out for the US Olympic Team."
Your favorite sport to watch "Definitely football. American football. It’s full-contact chess."
A player you feel deserves more credit “If you’re looking all time, Tedy Bruschi. The man had a stroke and came back and played football. That’s just an incredible amount of physical reconditioning."
A non-sports figure who deserves more credit "John Warner.”
The senator from Virginia? “No, he’s the director of the Warner Babcott Institute for Green Chemistry. He’s quietly revolutionizing the way that we study and think about chemicals and think about materials, and most people think he’s a senator from Virginia. His big thing is, he has a post doctorate in chemistry, and he was never asked to take a class in environmental mechanisms of harm or toxicology or any other way of how the chemicals he was taught to synthesize affect people. He’s now changing that for today’s students.
Define sustainability "Life creates conditions conducive to life.”
There are two people at this table who know where that comes from "Yes, but we should give credit to them: It’s from the Biomimicry Institute. … Or, if I had to define it in a single word, ‘thrive.’"
What’s something many people don’t get about sustainability "That it’s not about going back to preindustrial biosphere. It’s about furthering our economy and civilization in a way that positively contributes to the resilience of the biosphere, and that that’s possible."
Sustainability: Personal or technological? "Both."
A community you really value "The community of sustainability professionals in Boston — well, in general, too — is awesome. Nice people. Passionate and dedicated, first to the planet, second to our respective employers. And the local Boston community is particularly close knit."
The last protest you lodged "I believe it was against the missile testing in the Pacific Ocean that disrupts whale echolocation."
A problem we’re solving “We’ve made amazing progress in getting data on the broad environmental impacts we cause to the right point in the decision-making process."
A problem we might not solve "Building our economy with nontoxic materials. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not good for us."
* A "10 Words or Less" with Janine Benyus, author of "Biomimicry, Innovation Inspired By Nature," also carried this headline. Ordinarily, I wouldn't repeat a headline — even 6 years later, like this — but that was a long time ago, and you didn't know it was a repeat, didja?