By Rob Staton and Megan Livak

Employer, position, job duties (area of expertise, field of interest, etc.)

I am the new Student and YP Manager on the Association Engagement Team at WEF. I manage all of WEF's Student and YP Programs. My goal is to build a place for YP's to join, stay engaged and grow in preparation for taking on leadership roles both within their MA's and within WEF.

I was previously the Marketing and Business Development Manager for Van Cleef Engineering Associates, a consulting civil engineering firm based in Central New Jersey. I was also very involved in my MA (New Jersey WEA), and was the NJWEA YP Chair and a member of the Publications Committee.

When & why did you become involved with WEF?

I like to say that I just “fell” into the water industry.

My career path has been anything but linear. I began my college career as a Biology/Pre-Med major and decided that by my junior year, I did not want to attend medical school. I was awarded a marketing internship with a professional hockey team which pushed me to change my major.  I graduated from Lafayette College in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and began working for Van Cleef Engineering Associates, a multi-disciplinary, civil engineering firm based in Hillsborough, NJ, in their marketing department. I never thought I’d wind up working for an engineering firm, but the opportunity presented itself and I took it. I worked at Van Cleef for 9 years and during my time there, was introduced to the water industry

I became involved with WEF in 2014 when I joined the NJWEA. My company had been an exhibitor at the NJWEA John J. Lagrosa Annual Conference for many years, and my manager sent me to man the booth in 2014. One of my friends who worked for our electrical subconsultant came by and asked me to attend the YP Meeting that afternoon with her. So I went and signed up to be a part of the committee. I became very involved with various Young Professionals subcommittees and events and was elected Co-Chair and then Chair of the NJWEA Young Professionals in May of 2015. That year, the NJWEA sent me to the Utility Management Conference’s YP Summit in Austin, Texas. I met so many incredibly like-minded and passionate professionals during my time at the Summit and by the end of the day, I knew that this was the industry I wanted to be in.

How has WEF helped you grow/advance in your career?

WEF has offered me a chance to become a leader; to take on leadership roles not only within my MA, but now as a WEF Staffer. It’s offered me resources, professional development opportunities, and mentorship opportunities to help me grow as a leader, an employee, and an individual. I am so excited to have this new opportunity as the new Student and YP Manager to mentor the Students and YP’s, to share my experience from an MA level, and to continue the process of grooming and integrating the next generation of leaders.

What is your funniest experience in working with water?

I organized the 1st Annual Escape the Effluent 5k Fun Run and Walk benefitting Water for People at the 2016 NJWEA Conference and was told that I would have a surprise pacer to start off the race.  As the participants were lining up at the start line, a motorized toilet with our President Elect comes zooming down the boardwalk. I had to do a double take because a toilet on wheels was the last thing I was expecting. It started out strong and barely made it the entire 5k. I believe someone had to push the bowl, still with our President Elect, to the finish line, which was another sight to see. 

If you had to pick one experience that has been most influential on your career what would it be?

The 2015 YP Summit was absolutely the turning point in my career. Up until that point, I wasn’t sure what I truly wanted to do with my life. I was enjoying doing the Marketing and Business Development for my consulting civil engineering firm, but there was something missing. I’m the kind of person that feels deeply and exudes passion in everything I do. I believe in making a difference and inspiring others to come together to be that change. So what better industry to be in then the water industry, where I can work with passionate people that want to make a difference in the world.

What is the one misconception you think young people / students today have about the water industry? 

That it’s a limited field. That it just involves engineers and vendors. Yes, they are a huge part of our industry, but there are so many other ways to be involved in water. There are New Business Development and Marketing/Sales Professionals, Operators, Scientists, Biologists, Academics, Utility Managers, Water Policy Advocates, among so many others. There is a place for you. Don’t be afraid to explore the endless possibilities. I know for me, I wasn’t an engineer or operator and I didn’t have a specific skill set that put me directly into the industry. So when this opportunity with WEF presented itself, I knew that I had to take the leap.

What advice do you have for new members who want to get more involved with WEF?

INVEST IN YOURSELF. I know there can be hurdles, especially if you are new to your job, or you don’t have the funds or PTO to attend various events. Make the time to get involved. Be creative. Let your employer know about WEF and the resources it offers, especially regarding professional development opportunities.  Your employer may sponsor you, so don’t be afraid to ask. It not only benefits you, but also gives your employer exposure to the industry. For example, my employer would allow me to attend the NJWEA conference and various NJWEA sponsored events, including executive committee meetings, but they never sponsored me for national events like WEFTEC. I knew if I wanted to advance in my career, that I needed to attend these types of events. So I made my way to WEFTEC on my own dime. I budgeted, used my vacation days, cashed in my airline points to book a roundtrip flight and stayed in an AirBnB with 2 other friends. I looked at it as both an investment in myself and my career.

What is the toughest part of your job?

Not being able to see WEF’s amazing members every day! I absolutely adore our members and love the time I get to share with them at WEFMAX meetings, specialty conferences, WEFTEC, and other various events.

What is something that people would be surprised to know about you?

I absolutely love sports. I am a lifetime athlete and have been involved in competition since a very young age. I swam competitively for 23 years and in 2014 began racing triathlons. Ever since then, I have been training and racing all over the world. I completed my first Ironman last year in Lake Placid, NY. I race for USA Triathlon's Team USA and competed in the 2017 ITU World Championship Grand Final in Rotterdam, Netherlands back in September. I am also a Team USA Ambassador which allows me to spread my love of triathlon to my community and inspire others to get involved. My next big event will be the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco where I get to “escape” from The Rock and swim across the San Francisco Bay.

Also, back when I was running more, I ran the TCS 2015 NYC Marathon for the WEF/AWWA Water for People Team and raised $2,730 for the organization. Our Team as a whole raised over $32,000.

Megan Livak, WEF Student & YP Manager

 

Receiving the 2016 NJWEA Outstanding Young Water Environment Professional Award from NJWEA Past President, Rick Eustace

 

Attending the 2015 YP Summit in Austin, Texas with Lisa Oberreiter

 

About YP Connections

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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