May 01, 2019

Raising a Sustainable Glass

WWD Class of 2019 Young Pros

Image credit: stock.adobe.com / agephotography
Image credit: stock.adobe.com / agephotography.

With each year, we hear more about the “Silver Tsunami” of impending retirements and the need to refill positions with young, talented and driven workers. In fact, in the WWD State of the Industry Survey last year, 65% of the individuals who responded to the survey were 50 years old and older. Of those surveyed, respondents ranked workforce development as a three out of four in terms of importance.

WWD sees this need for cultivating and encouraging a younger workforce as an important service to the industry. With this in mind, each year we open nominations on our website to recognize talent under the age of 40 in the water and wastewater treatment industry. 

Of the stack of nominations we received this year, the following 10 individuals showed they are true leaders. Whether it is advancing the industry through rigorous development of new technology or pushing through adversity to achieve their goals and dreams, these professionals have shown ambition and a desire to excel.

 

Muhammad Bilal

Muhammad Bilal

Chief Analytics Officer

Noria Water Technologies

Age: 32

Education: Ph.D. in Artificial Intellgence from the University
of Bradford.

Previous life: Bilal worked in several fields, including mobile application development, geophysics, vehicular communication and nanotechnology.

Personal accomplishment: Finding career success through determination and drive inspired by his parents as a child. “Coming from a small under-developed village in Pakistan, my parents did not have many resources for my education. Still, they invested all they had to give me the best opportunities possible.”

Professional accomplishments: Bilal completed his Ph.D. by age 25. He also holds two masters degrees, and a water technology patent.

Best project ever: “I conducted the largest meta-analysis in the field of nanotechnology and was published in Nature Nanotechnology. This work was recognized by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as outstanding work for the year in 2016.”

Greatest influence: His parents first and foremost. Secondly is Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan for “his persistence and his fight for justice and a more sustainable world.”

Industry aspiration: Continue developing analytical approaches and decisions to support and provide knowledge to operators so they can best optimize their systems.

Extracurricular work: Bilal helps disadvantaged communities with limited or no access to drinking water.

Outside the office: Badminton, cricket and hiking. “You can always find me enjoying a cup of Pakistani tea and watching an episode of ‘The Office’.”

Personal passions: Using artificial intelligence to change the world.

Hidden talent: “I can impersonate someone within a short period of knowing them.”

Worst-kept secret: I have two birthdays.

How will your generation influence the water industry? “By developing sustainable and cost-saving solutions for water management and reuse, my hope is that we leave a rich water supply for the next generation.”

Giving back: Board member for the international adoption agency, New Star Kafala.

Best memory: Getting married in 2015. “It was the first time all my siblings and my parents got together in 11 years.”

Biggest lesson learned: The water industry is not adequately utilizing the power of data science and artificial intelligence. “I hope to help accelerate the pace of new technological advancement in the water industry. I believe that modern decision support systems can help improve water management and operations.”

 

Anditya Rahardianto

Anditya Rahardianto

CTO & Co-founder

Noria Water Technologies

Age: 39

Education: B.S. from University of Wisconsin - Madison and Ph.D. from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Previous life: Research scientist and adjunct professor at UCLA.

Personal accomplishment: Completed the Seattle Marathon in rain and snow.

Professional accomplishments: Rahardianto invented and led the development of the first commercial Noria Membrane Monitor (MeMo), a technology offering water treatment and desalination capabilities by directly monitoring membrane health in real-time. He also was among the first to demonstrate use of ex-situ membrane observation for real-time membrane fouling and scaling detection. He was an early developer of high recovery desalting via multi-stage reverse osmosis (RO) with intermediate concentrate demineralization. He co-developed several patented and patent-pending water technologies. 

Best project ever: The first commercial deployment of Noria Membrane Monitor. “It was a demonstration that our team was able to successfully transform an idea with years of accumulated knowledge into commercial practical solutions that improve and lower the costs of operations in RO water treatment and desalination plants.”

Greatest influence: His parents because they made education a priority for his and his siblings’ lives, his uncle for influencing his view on life, his siblings for being his best friends and Yoram Cohen, UCLA professor, for being a mentor guiding him into the water industry.

Industry aspiration: To continue contributing to the technological development of the water industry and become one of its influential thought leaders.

Outside the office: Fan of Brompton folding bicycles. Loves hiking, camping and traveling. Reads about philosophy, religion and politics.

Personal passions: Problem-solving, helping others, and contributing toward continuous impactful progress in the water industry.

Hidden talent: Strong DIY skills.

Worst-kept secret: “I didn’t learn how to swim until I moved away for high school and I still struggle treading water. On the positive side, I am now a certified open water scuba diver.”

How will your generation influence the water industry? Climate change and sustainability in the water industry are critical talking points. “I think development and implementation of effective new technologies will be critical for sustainable management, treatment, distribution and recycling of our water portfolio.”

Giving back: Volunteered at homeless shelters and student organizations and also takes care of pets in need.

Best memory: Having a long conversation in which he convinced his sister to enter the water industry for graduate studies.

Best advice: “The water industry is conservative and takes significant due diligence—rightfully so—in implementing new concepts and technologies. It can be frustrating for technology newcomers, but persistence and hard work pay off.”

 

Nick Nicholas

Nick Nicholas

App. Engineer & Director

Genesis Water Technologies Inc.

Age: 38

Education: Bachelor of Science, Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Personal accomplishment: Obtaining MBA while working full-time. 

Professional accomplishments: Published author, engineered and designed numerous industrial and municipal water desalination and wastewater reuse treatment plants up to 400,000 cu meter per day. 

Best project ever: An oil refinery wastewater treatment project and municipal drinking water project in Guatemala.

Greatest influence: “My greatest personal influence was my dad. He was a steadfast example of loyalty, work ethic, accountability and passion.” 

Industry aspiration: “My aspirations are to be a leader of change in the way both global industrial and municipal clients look for innovative, sustainable technology solutions and services to add value to stakeholders. Additional aspirations are to use the skills of problem solving and collaboration to develop and move forward sustainability in water and wastewater solutions to effectively optimize the water resources of our commercial, industrial and municipal clients. This is similar to our company’s motto, using innovation to meet the water needs of the world.” 

Extracurricular work: “I present at industry conferences on water treatment and wastewater reuse [domestic and industrial]. I have been a part of sustainability, export and Green Building Council activities.” 

Personal passions: Sustainability and educating people about clean water and the impact polluted water has on the environment. “This is an important issue for me. Another passion of mine is travel, and learning about other cultures.” 

Outside the office: Nicholas enjoys bowling, sports and traveling. 

Worst-kept secret: “I love learning foreign languages.”

How will your generation influence the water industry? “I expect my generation will influence the water industry in a great way. A recent study revealed that Gen X is playing a critical—and underappreciated—role in leadership at organizations. Through this increasing leadership role, we are able to influence our organizations to prioritize sustainability goals, focusing on innovation in water reuse and desalination technologies to combat
water scarcity.” 

Giving back: Nicholas enjoys participating in community outreach activities with local organizations, including Rotary Club and church. 

Best memory: “In my early twenties, I traveled to Mexico on a cruise with family and friends. It was on this trip, I was able to see first-hand how the lack of properly treated water greatly impacts a society. It made my work more meaningful to know that I was assisting in the provision of clean drinking water and reducing pollution in river waters through proper advanced wastewater treatment.”

Biggest lesson learned: The biggest lesson he learned entering the water industry was understanding the complexity of drinking water treatment and wastewater across a country and regions of the world. 

 

Seth Jensen

Seth Jensen

Director of Municipal Utilities

City of Auburn, N.Y.

Age: 37

Education: B.S. of Environmental Resources Engineering from State  University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF).

Previous life: Jensen worked for a private engineering firm for approximately four years before switching over to municipal government. “I spent a great deal of my time working on commercial retail development as a civil site engineer, focusing much of my technical skill set on design and implementation of storm water quantity and quality structures.”

Personal accomplishment: His family. “My wife and two wonderful boys are my pride and joy.” 

Professional accomplishments: Receiving his professional engineer license, being recognized by peers as an industry leader in obtaining the New York Section American Water Works Assn. (AWWA) Young Professional of the Year Award, improving the quality of life for the city of Auburn, and being the municipal lead on the redevelopment of the North Division Street Hydoelectric Project.

Best project ever: In 2016, the city of Auburn’s drinking water supply, Owasco Lake, experienced harmful algal blooms which lead to detectable levels of microcystin in the municipal drinking water. This detection lead to one of the region’s largest environmental challenges in the last 100 years. 

Greatest influence: His father. “He has all of the qualities for which I strive towards in my everyday life.“

Industry aspiration: Jensen aims to grow and adapt to the industry as challenges arise, while also helping his community and others in the face of crisis.

Extracurricular work: Coaching or leading activities in which his children are interested.

Outside the office: Jensen restores old farm equipment. He completely restored two small farm tractors and has begun restoring a third. He also enjoys woodworking and home improvements. 

Personal passions: Camping, hiking and enjoying outdoor activities. 

Hidden talent: “I can play a mean button accordion. As a child, I grew up with my father playing Danish folk songs on his accordion. As I grew up around the songs, I memorized them, slowly learning each song and playing along on my own accordion. Every song I know I’ve learned by ear.” 

Worst-kept secret: He is interested in the possibility of becoming a college professor on a part-time basis at some point in the future.

How will your generation influence the water industry? “One of the industries largest challenges is our aging workforce. I have staff who I and our community rely on daily with over 40 years of experience. One of my roles as a young professional is to identify and champion new water and wastewater staff to understand how vital our positions are in the daily quality of life most residents and public take for granted.”

Giving back: “The majority of my volunteer work revolves around my two sons. I am the Cub master for the local Cub Scout Pack 11.”

Best memory: “One of the most memorable moments of my past is spending the summer with my now wife working in Yellowstone National Park.”

Biggest lesson learned: “I have mentored many aspiring young engineers from my alma mater, SUNY ESF. I recommend to every one of them to spend a few years in the private sector, even if they are interested in the public water industry.” 

 

Samantha Coppels

Samantha Coppels

Communications Manager

Daphne Utilities

Age: 34

Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Marketing concentration) from University of South Alabama.

Previous life: Executive meeting manager for a Marriott Hotel.

Personal accomplishment: Coppels considers graduating from college a major achievement due to personal hardships along the way, particularly working two jobs to support herself. “Graduation day was a very happy, proud moment for me.”

Professional accomplishments: Certified for SHRM-CP and as a human resources management professional. “I worked full-time during the day, with classes at night for 12 weeks along with wife and mother duties.”

Best project ever: “I spoke to the students of the Student Training Exploration Program [through two local youth programs]. I got to speak with them about my career path and what its really like working in the utility industry. It was a great feeling to give back, it really put things in perspective as to how far I have come in my career.”

Greatest influence: Her Uncle Joe and Aunt Charlotte. The couple taught her about hard work and encouraged her to achieve whatever she set her mind to. “Their support through the years has played a major role in my success. My uncle passed away four years ago, but [he] would be ecstatic to know that I am named a WWD Class of 2019 Young Pro.”

Industry aspiration: Become a leader in the industry for education and outreach.

Extracurricular work: Working with students for Daphne Utilities education and outreach programs. “I love working with the students and teaching them about all the cool things in our industry.”

Outside the office: Coppels loves to bake and spend time on the beach with family.

Personal passions: Coppels loves her family and her career.

Hidden talent: Cake decorating.

Worst-kept secret: Coppels is learning how to play guitar. “Fingers crossed I get better!”

How will your generation influence the water industry? “We are a generation that’s not afraid to stand up and fight for what we believe in and that’s a great asset to have in our industry.”

Giving back: As a master environmental educator of the Baldwin County Agricultural Extension Office, she volunteers teaching students about watershed management, water quality protection and the interconnectedness of the coast to the community. She also helps with the Alabama Coastal Foundation Water Festivals, is a board member of the Daphne & Spanish Fort Kiwanis Club, and participates in the Reading is Fundamental program at a local Headstart Preschool.

Best memory: “The morning I had my daughter, Cora Mae, who is now three. It was like a scene from a movie! I went into labor in the middle of the night and it was go time. Totally unexpected and the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Biggest lesson learned: The industry’s importance and the work done behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly.

 

Jena Shoaf Acos

Jena Shoaf Acos

Associate

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck 

Age: 34

Education: Undergrad at University of California, Berkeley; Law School at Georgetown University Law Center; and a Masters in Public Policy from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute. 

Previous life: Law student.

Personal accomplishment: Raising her almost two year old son, Nolan. 

Professional accomplishments: “Becoming the lead attorney in City Attorney’s office for a local municipality; working with water districts across the state to navigate the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and develop long-term water rights strategies; working with low-income local students and their parents pro-bono to help them contest—sometimes uncalled for—expulsions and suspensions; and following my heart and deciding to pursue a Masters in Public Policy in addition to my law degree–even though it added a year and more loans—because it changed the direction of my educational focus from international to environmental issues.” 

Best project ever: “Being able to see the immediate and tangible impacts of my work by helping a group of disparate local agencies to help them navigate SGMA requirements—and move towards local groundwater requirements–by jointly forming a public agency, becoming a GSA, and developing a groundwater sustainability plan. “

Greatest influence: “My dad, because he always believed that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to and made me believe it too.”

Industry aspiration: Continue working on industry and and cutting edge matters with talented professionals in the industry.

Extracurricular work: “Our firm currently puts on a California H20 Women conference, which has been really inspiring to be a part of, and I look forward to participating in this event.”

Outside the office: “Running, reading, spending time with family and our miniature dachshund, Wuustie.”

Personal passions: “I love getting outside, specifically running.”

Hidden talent: “I make beaded jewelry on my spare time and much more avidly prior to becoming a mom.”

Worst-kept secret: “I saw bigfoot when I was young.”

How will your generation influence the water industry? “I am hopeful that we are becoming a more diverse industry and that this diversity of voices and opinions will make the industry as a whole more resilient and adaptive to changing political, environmental and societal concerns.”

Giving back: “My son and I have recently begun participating in local trash pick-up events. Also, I currently sit on two local boards -- the Central Coast division of the Groundwater Resources Assn. and the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County.” 

Best memory: “This past weekend my husband, son and I went hiking to view all of the wildflowers blooming along the Central Coast and my son was so excited at all of the colors and that he had so many flowers to smell.” 

Biggest lesson learned: “How intertwined water, history and politics are in California.” 

 

Travis Fern

Travis Fern

Executive Director

Earthworks Environmental

Age: 34

Education: Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology. 

Previous life: “I was a land surveyor in the mining industry.”

Personal accomplishment: “Marrying my wife and having two amazing children while maintaining and growing my career.”

Professional accomplishments: Obtaining his Certified Professional in Erosion & Sediment Control Certification from EnviroCert Intl. “This is a difficult certification and I am proud to say that I received this accomplishment in 2018.” 

Best project ever: “Helping create and implement Earthworks Environmental’s electronic storm water and air quality reporting system and records repository, ERX. ERX is a software tool that is a big part of our consulting services at Earthworks Environmental.” 

Greatest influence: “My parents and brother for encouraging me and showing me the values of being a good person and having a good work ethic.”

Industry aspiration: To help Earthworks Environmental become the leading storm water consulting firm in the nation.

Extracurricular work: “I attend events for local organizations such as Valley Partnership, Pinal Partnership, AZBEX and AZ Dealmakers.

Outside the office: Camping and hunting.

Personal passions: Hunting. “I spend a fair amount of time in the outdoors hunting with my close friends and family, mostly with my brother.”

Worst-kept secret: “I am a type 1 diabetic (insulin dependent).”

How will your generation influence the water industry? “I believe my generation will provide the water industry with more technological advancements, specifically in the storm water field.”

Best memory: “The birth of my two children, Bennett and Claire.”

Biggest lesson learned: “Regulations vary from state to state, but storm water consulting can adjust along with these changes.”

 

Whitney Mitchell

Whitney Mitchell

General Manager

Pipe Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Inc.

Age: 31

Education: High school.

Previous life: “I worked as a waitress in the restaurant business. 

Personal accomplishment: “I started working at our family-owned business at the age of 19 and learned the business inside out, which had a huge impact on me being able to move up the ranks and now manage all operational aspects of the company.” 

Professional accomplishments: 40 Under 40 Business Leader for Knox.biz Business Journal. “I became the general manager of Pipe Wrench at the age of 29 in 2017, and that same year our annual revenue increased by 90.4% over 2016, and our staff size doubled to meet the demand for services. Pipe Wrench was voted by the community as Knoxville’s Best Plumbing Company in 2017 and 2018, voted the #1 Place to Work by Nexstar Network in 2017, was the winner of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce’s Pinnacle Award for Small Business Excellence in 2018, and was voted as a Top Workplace in 2018.”

Best project ever: “I loved helping the Joy of Music School by giving them complimentary replacements for their HVAC units, knowing that this would help them save money to use for enriching children’s lives through music.” 

Greatest influence: Her father, Tom Cambron. “He founded Pipe Wrench over 20 years ago and has taught me everything I know about the trades and managing a business. Without his love and patience, I would not be the woman I am today and having him as my father has enriched my life.“

Industry aspiration: “I’d like for more women to enter the trade.”

Extracurricular work: Member of the board of directors for the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee.

Personal passions: Helping employees and their families live better lives with better pay and good benefits in a family-friendly
work environment.

Outside the office: Spending time with her husband and son, thrifting, interior design and making pottery. 

Hidden talent: Undefeated in Mario Kart.

Worst-kept secret: “I love anime!”

How will your generation influence the water industry? “We’ll encourage more people to work in the trade industry because it offers a good long-term career opportunity. The growth of this industry has allowed companies to offer excellent employee benefit packages such as 401k retirement plans as well as medical, dental and vision coverage.”

Giving back: Volunteers at Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and for Habitat for Humanity. 

Best memory: “A life-changing moment was when my husband and I adopted our son two years ago when he was 10 years old.”

Biggest lesson learned: “As a woman entering the male-dominated trade industry, I had to get out into the field and trenches with the men to show them I could work beside the best of them. Respect is earned, and I wasn’t going to earn their respect sitting behind a desk.” 

 

Elizabeth Watson Keddy

Elizabeth Keddy

Energy Manager 

Suez North America

Age: 32 

Education: B.S. in Environmental Engineering from University of Florida, Master of Engineering, Environmental Engineering from University of Florida.

Professional accomplishments: Environmental engineer with 10 years of experience driving growth in the energy and sustainability markets. Exceeded performance goals by establishing an award winning energy management program for a global utility company; built client relationships with industrial, municipal and institutional customers; reduced energy costs by $2 million and energy use by 20,000 MWH annually; and increased renewable energy by 25,000 MWH in three years through biogas, wind and hydropower projects. Keddy also built a record of reducing clients’ energy costs; led 10 process energy audits resulting in $18 million of annual savings with an average reduction of 25% in energy use and a rate-of-return of less than four years; and also evaluated 30 MW and installed 1,500kW of renewable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, biogas and geothermal systems. 

Other accomplishments include: Identifying and securing $188 million in funding and financing for energy conservation measures and renewable energy systems for clients; developing key contacts at National Grid, CL&P, Efficiency Maine, MA DOER and the U.S. EPA; led a company-wide Wastewater Sustainability Group to grow the market by identifying and communicating business opportunities to the sales team and clients; facilitated the corporate goal of integrating sustainability principles and practices into every phase of the project lifecycle; served as the primary liaison between CDM Smith and a client service group credited with growing energy and sustainability sales form less than 1% to more than 10% of the company’s portfolio in three years; developed 25 winning proposals that generated $36.3 million in sales, which exceeded the established goal of $29.7 million; and played a role in capturing new Connecticut and Massachusetts markets and expanding markets throughout New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Colorado and Florida.

Best project ever: Delivering energy efficient and renewable energy projects on time and on budget. Managed project from generating leads to proposal to design, construction and commissioning. 

 

Aaron Tartakovsky

Aaron Tartakovsky

Co-founder & CEO

Epic CleanTec

Age: 29

Education: Bachelor of Arts from Tufts University and Master of Arts from Tel Aviv University. 

Professional accomplishments: Tartakovsky co‐founded Epic CleanTec in 2015 and has raised $1.2 million in funding. He completed one year of testing at Stanford’s Codiga Resource Recovery Center, deploying its first project in 2019 (39 story high‐rise in downtown San Francisco.) Tartakovsky helped draft and assist in the passage of the California Senate Bill 966 (onsite treated non-potable water systems), which was officially signed into law December 2018. He co‐founded the Israel‐California Greentech Partnership, which was launched in 2015 at height of the California drought. It aimed to spur bi‐national, economic, business and technology exchange, and the initiative was recognized at the White House Water Summit in 2016.

Awards: GreenBiz 30 under 30 in 2017; first prize from Global Climate Action Summit “Innovation Showcase” in 2018; first prize from Tufts University $100,000 New Venture Competition in 2017; and finalist for MassChallenge in 2017.

Extracurricular work: Tartakovsky is the co‐author of “Water Reuse Practice Guide,” a Google‐funded publication that aims to accelerate adoption of onsite reuse systems across the U.S.

To nominate an individual for WWD Young Pros, visit wwdmag.com/young-professionals-nomination. Nominees must be 40 years old or younger by the nomination deadline of March 15, 2020. They also must be involved in the water or wastewater treatment industry.

About the author

To contact WWD Staff for more information or to ask questions about the Young Pros program, email [email protected]

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