3 Takeaways from the Young Professionals Summit

Feb. 28, 2022
Key takeaways from the AWWA/WEF Young Professionals Summit.

I attended the Young Professionals Summit in Orlando, Florida, February 20 to 22, 2022. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) led a Young Professionals Leader Training and Water Environment Federation (WEF) led an Emerging Young Professionals Leadership Workshop (EYPL) as part of the Water YP Summit.

This experience was eye-opening for me as a fresh face in the water industry, having only been in it for 2.5 years. The theme of the event was “Creative Resiliency.”

Here are my top takeaways from the AWWA Young Professionals Leader Training.

Think, Rethink & Learn from Your Peers

A major component of the YP Leadership Training was strategizing with peers and running through various scenarios water industry workers face. 

Whether this meant responding to prompts dealing with water contamination concerns or storm water management questions, brainstorming with my peers was key in illuminating different perspectives from the water professionals around me. 

We were able to formulate thoughtful answers to these realistic scenarios using our various backgrounds (engineers, engineer consultant, and a water journalist like me!). 

Every person in the room had a safe space to contribute, which led to some really productive discussion about how we can be better professionals in the industry and pave the way for more young professionals interested in the water sector.

Communication can Always be Improved

How do we communicate water concerns in communities without perpetuating fear? How do journalists like myself frame water issues in our everyday news writing without spreading misinformation? How do engineers explain their major project processes to the communities impacted as clearly as possible? 

These questions and more challenged the young professionals in attendance to consider how our communication skills can better help communities and encourage care, clarity and compassion in our responses. 

Creative Resilience is an Ongoing Process

The Water Summit’s overarching theme was Creative Resiliency, not only in our professional endeavors but in our personal lives as well. 

At the YP Leadership Training, when my table of peers considered this question, we all had different answers. Creative resilience can mean so many different things. It can mean opening up to more inclusive perspectives, rethinking risk management as unexpected conditions arrive, and reflecting on problem-solving frameworks.

There is much more to say about this educational and impactful summit, but for now I will think about what I learned and continue to apply these invaluable lessons alongside my new connections (and friends!).

And thank you to the leaders running the show and my new network of young professional friends who are eager to take on the industry by storm as we further grow into our roles.

Cristina Tuser is associate editor for Water & Wastes Digest. Tuser can be reached at [email protected].

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Cristina Tuser