Sigmund Skinner, a participant in WEF’s inaugural InFLOW program, blogs about his experience at WEFTEC.
The Water Environment Federation’s Annual Technical Exhibition & Conference (WEFTEC) is a phenomenal experience for any person interested or who already functions in the water sector. Coming into WEFTEC as a WEF InFLOW (INtroducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water) program participant with finite knowledge and experience in the area of water, I was overwhelmed with the wealth of information, opportunities and the various networks available in just five days.
Activities such as Water Palooza taught me that water processes can be appreciated by any age group, especially those of elementary- and middle-school students. As participants of the WEF InFLOW Program, the students were engaged in hands-on educational activities in water, where a greater level of awareness was raised as they now consider the various uses of water. I realized the precious value of our readily available resource and how much the students loved the character that I played, "Niles the Friendly Alligator"
At the WEF Students and Young Professionals Committee Community Service Project, I spent the day, along with many volunteers, in constructing a bioswale. This project fostered a friendly and community-life environment amongst students and professionals, and was a platform to engage in casual discussions with individuals about their expertise, interests, academic backgrounds, etc.
The panel of African-American leaders in the water industry, assisted and encouraged me to understand the demand for young, vibrant, innovative professionals in the workforce, as they shared their own career path and heartfelt advice.
Lastly, the Career Fair and Technical Exhibitions acted as an open gate into the world of industry leaders, experienced professionals, information, ideas, opportunities and emerging technologies in water. One of the companies I recalled at the technical exhibition, Fracta Inc., uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify buried water mains that are prone to rupture and cause expensive, disruptive service interruptions, which was very informative.
WEFTEC 2018 was an amazing and unique experience, and I’m very grateful for being a participant of the first WEF InFLOW Program. I would encourage any student pursuing a career in water to attend WEFTEC and experience this conference, which will influence and impact their minds on the various applications of water.