Young Professionals Committee
Jonathan Leiman, ISAWWA YP Committee
Thank you so much to the Illinois Section for your support to attend the 2013 YP Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Fresh on the scene with the Illinois Section since moving to Chicago in 2011, my involvement in AWWA has steadily increased, in large part due to the welcoming and encouraging disposition of the members of the YP (Young Professionals) Committee. As an associate ecologist with Environ International Corporation I have a few occasions a year to participate in conferences, seminars, and workshops. So, when the Illinois Section of AWWA offered me the opportunity to attend the AWWA/WEF YP Summit, I was thrilled. I was first introduced to AWWA during graduate school at the University of Montana, but never had a chance to attend a sectional meeting; so, this opportunity was especially exciting for me. Throughout the two-day summit the primary theme that pervaded all presentations was the concept of self-driven career development.
The first day of the summit was exclusively for AWWA YP members; it included a series of speakers from AWWA and private industry. David LaFrance, the Executive Director of AWWA, gave a pragmatic presentation on strategies for career development. Highlights included the explanation of a sequence of seven tactics that a YP in any water related field could easily apply to their career; followed by a simple, but effective exercise in goal oriented career planning.
Following Mr. LaFrance was John S. Young Jr., former President of the American Water Works Service Company, Inc., who echoed the importance of goal oriented career planning in the short- and long-term. Mr. Young gave an intriguing presentation on his most recent work that illustrated the complications and intricate nature of doing business in the water and utility sectors. In addition, Mr. Young made two suggestions in particular that resonated with me because I am a consultant: (1) understand that your professional skills are increasingly being viewed as commodities, and (2) understand your role holistically in the larger process to serve a client.
After a case study based presentation by Freeport-McMoRan on desalinization, the day wrapped up with a Q&A session with Charlie Anderson, the President of AWWA. Mr. Anderson offered the most earnest advice of the day that revolved around the theme of communication and solution driven problem solving. Overall, Mr. Anderson appealed to those in attendance by explaining the value that AWWA had brought him throughout his career, and imploring us to examine how that value could be applied to our young careers.
The second day of the summit was the principal day of the YP gathering. There were modules on the decision making cycle, negotiation, and communication. All were well received and led into a Q&A with a panel of professionals from AWWA and WEF. The day wrapped up with section reports from around the country, and displays of successful YP events that boosted engagement and membership.
I believe I have begun to find the true "value” in being a member of AWWA (a theme the majority of speakers touched on during their presentations), and I am looking forward to increasing my involvement. Attending the YP Summit was an empowering experience, in that it brought together like-minded professionals who are well versed in the challenges that face the water sector today, but who are also full of energy and creativity to solve those issues. Networking with this base of knowledge was a great privilege and instilled confidence in me that the future of water management in North America is bright. The YP Summit was an invaluable exercise in helping to further structure my decision making process with regard to my career, and placing my career in the context of the greater industry. I think AWWA sets itself apart from the majority of professional organizations I affiliate with due to the organization’s ability to develop meaningful opportunities for professionals in the early stages of their careers. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the AWWA YP Summit, and would like to reiterate my appreciation and thanks for the Illinois Section’s support; without it I would not have been able to make it.