By Casey Gish, Staff Engineer at Brown and Caldwell

Each year, the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association (PNCWA) Student and Young Professionals committee and the Pacific Northwest Section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) team up to host the Pacific Northwest Student and Young Professionals (PNW S&YP) Summit. This Summit is an opportunity for young professionals from throughout the northwest to gather, network, and spend a day learning about personal and professional development from industry leaders. This year, 65 attendees gathered at the Water Resource Education Center in Vancouver, Washington, to participate in the 4th Annual PNW S&YP Summit. 

The theme of this year’s Summit was ‘Innovation.’ The day’s presentations and discussions focused on career innovation and innovative ideas in the water and wastewater industry. The morning’s events kicked off with opening remarks from the PNCWA S&YP Chair Kristi Steiner (Clean Water Services), and PNCWA Vice President Adam McClymont (Jacobs), followed by an icebreaking activity led by Chris Young (Murray Smith) with AWWA.

Following the opening session, key-note speaker Erin Mosley (Erin Mosley, Inc.) hosted a 2-hour workshop guiding Summit attendees through a professional development activity titled Career Roadmapping: Creating Your Next Success. Erin walked participants through a series of thought experiments, brainstorms, and open dialogues designed to help identify long-term professional goals and personal roadblocks.

A networking lunch followed Erin’s morning session. After the break, Erin took the stage again and led attendees through a hands-on activity titled Innovation Lab. While the concept of the activity was simple, the lessons and ideas it spurred were much greater. Small teams of individuals were tasked with building the tallest structure possible using only marshmallows and dried spaghetti. The task of building this structure challenged participants to define and achieve a common goal and effectively communicate while navigating group dynamics.

Following the Innovation Lab, the focus shifted to a presentation detailing innovative technologies in the wastewater industry, given by Chris McCalib (Treatment Equipment Company). Chris brought attendees to the cutting edge of wastewater treatment technologies including minimal impact digester construction and decentralized treatment alternatives. Chris’ technical presentation provided a nice balance to the morning’s focus on soft skills and personal development.

Following the innovative technologies presentation, the Summit shifted into a panel discussion titled Innovation for Your Career, moderated by PNCWA YP Vice Chair, Andrew Matsumoto (Civil West). The panel discussion featured industry leaders from throughout the Northwest. Panel members discussed their personal and professional career development, answered questions regarding their greatest career challenges, and provided guidance on attaining work-life balance. Panelists included Jeff Selby (City of Portland), Erica Rooney (City of Lake Oswego), Holly Tichenor (Water Systems Consulting), Steve Drangsholt (Brown and Caldwell), and PNCWA President David Keil (Water Resource Recovery Development LLC.).

The final session for the day was hosted by Mark Jockers, Government and Public Affairs Manager with Clean Water Services. Mark gave a fun and engaging talk: The Story of One Water: What five years of brewing (and drinking) beer made from wastewater have taught us about the language of water. Mark chronicled using beer brewed from treated wastewater to challenge public perceptions about water reuse.

PNCWA President David Keil closed the day’s activities, telling the story of his career in the water and wastewater industry and encouraging YP Summit attendees to use their careers as an opportunity to serve their communities. Following David’s remarks, attendees gathered for a networking happy hour.

The S&YP Summit is made possible each year by generous donations from sponsors throughout the water and wastewater industry. This year’s Summit sponsors included King County, Clean Water Services, Brown and Caldwell, Jacobs, Murray Smith, RH2 Engineering, Kennedy Jenks Consultants, Water Systems Consulting, Pump Tech, Carollo, the King County Sub Section of AWWA, isiWest, and West Yost Associates.

YP's participating in the Innovation Lab.

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YP Connections offers information on career development; provides tools, tips, and resources; and includes news from WEF and MA young professionals committees.

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