After completing her degree at UT, Stepney began her career at TCEQ in 1992 as an air permit writer. This job introduced Stepney to the policy side of environmental work, and she became increasingly interested in the problem-solving and patterns associated with policy. “I’ve always been interested in a challenge,” Stepney noted.
She recalls the transition into a management job as difficult at first. “I certainly had to work on my soft skills, and on those leadership, management, and patience skills—I still am working on that one,” Stepney laughed. “It was tough, but every time I moved up it was tough. Every new position is a new job you have to learn. You don't come into it being successful. You were successful, but now you have to learn your new job.”
She steadily rose through the ranks in the Office of Air until she was offered a position in the Office of Water. Stepney remembers that job change as the most impactful challenge she faced. “That was a significant move for me,” she recalled, “a huge leap of faith. I knew nothing about the Office of Water, nothing. It really changed the course of my career at the agency.”
Stepney noted, “I read a lot. I kind of immersed myself in the processes, too. I tried to learn about why things are the way they are and how things are done.” She also said she had an exceptional team that helped her during the transition.