PNCWA YPs Connect at 2019 YP Summit

At PNCWA, our mission supports the professional development of our members. The AWWA/WEF joint YP Summit provides the young professionals in our organization the opportunity to join other YPs from across the country to learn, grow, and build community. Each year the Student and Young Professional committee sponsor two member YPs to attend the YP Summit. Due to an increase in interest this year, the S&YP committee made a call for applications. Erica Haide, a marketing professional from Brown and Caldwell, and Brittany Sorenson, an engineer with BergerABAM, were selected through the application process.

Erica has been involved in the Pacific Northwest water industry since 2015. She applied to attend the YP summit because she knew it would only further her passion for the industry. “I would love to continue my leadership within the industry,” Haide explained. “The more exposure I can get with like-minded people will help me further those goals and turn them into reality.” Brittany was equally passionate but approached applying for a slightly different reason. “I got my PE a year ago and signed up as a WEF member but six months later felt like I hadn’t been a good member or taken advantage of member benefits like I had hoped,” Sorenson said.

Erica and Brittany are both firm believers that young professional involvement is essential for the industry and for individual professional development. “Getting YPs involved early gets them excited to solve future problems,” said Sorenson. Engaging with people outside of the microenvironment of an office paints a broader picture of the industry. It provides a 40,000 view of the industry that can be exciting and inspiring for the next generation. “These organizations are my “why” for choosing this industry,” explained Haide. “Provide your junior staff with professional development, networking, and value-added opportunities.” Feeling invested in is motivation to stick around and return the favor.

Involvement gives people an outlet to channel their passion and to network with other people at similar career stages. It also creates an opportunity for young professionals to showcase what they bring to the table. When asked to name the most significant benefit YPs have to offer, Brittany gave a resounding “energy and perspective!”

“YPs ask the questions that spark conversation,” explained Sorenson. It’s this kind of questioning that spurs divergent thinking and encourages seasoned staff to refrain from doing it the way they’ve always done it in the past. “YPs are coming in hot with innovation and empowerment,” added Haide. “We are excited about where this industry can go, and we want to help shape that.”

The YP Summit included speakers from across the industry and covered topics such as emerging trends, management and leadership, making an impact, and communicating the value of water. There was a significant amount of round tabling with peers and industry thought leaders. Attendees were pumped about working in water but also recognized there is a lot of work to be done. Despite the challenges, both women walked away feeling positive about the future. “The water industry is the best industry to be a part of. There is so much potential for the future,” said Haide. “It was also amazing to see that the challenges facing the water industry are changing with the development of technology,” added Sorenson.

We asked Erica and Brittany for two call to action items. The first was for their fellow YPs not currently involved. Erica encourages YPs to put yourselves out there and to go to your local member association events and conferences. Brittany says not to let nerves get in the way. The opportunity cost of not getting involved is too high. “It’s refreshing to have someone outside your office that shares your same passion and is working towards the same goals you are,” she explained. The second call to action was for supervisors. “Encourage your direct reports to attend a committee meeting,” said Haide. “Find the budget to send them to a conference or a local summit.” Brittany echoed this sentiment by challenging supervisors to encourage YPs to step up and participate.Both ladies suggested the best way to inspire the next gen to rise up is to lead by example.

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