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The YP Springboard Experience at Midyear

By Caroline Pakenham posted 04-07-2017 10:13 AM


The YP Springboard Experience at Midyear

Submitted by Kristi Steiner, Member, WEF Students and Young Professionals Committee

For 4 days at the end of January (Jan. 25-28), Coral Gables, FL was buzzing with industry professionals from across the globe, there to attend the annual WEF Midyear Meeting.  Among these, was a group of 14 excited WEF Students and Young Professionals Committee members (SYPC), selected to participate through the YP Springboard Program.

Midyear offers WEF committees a rare chance to meet with each other face to face, as well as to start planning their contributions to the world’s largest annual water quality technical conference and exhibition, WEFTEC®.  For Springboard participants, it is a rare chance to get a first-hand glimpse at what it means to be part of a national-level committee and an excellent opportunity to connect with other professionals (seasoned professionals and YPs) who are eager to help you get more actively involved in their committees. 

Springboard participants and other young professionals attending Midyear met Wednesday afternoon to kick-off the Program.  It was invigorating to meet other YPs who shared the same passion for our industry and were motivated to be involved in shaping its future!  It was also relieving to find I wasn’t the only newbie who (1) didn’t quite understand how this was all supposed to go down and (2) had serious reservations about whether I would be able to contribute in a room full of people who I had convinced myself were going to be much more intelligent and qualified than myself.  Veteran Springboard participants offered some welcomed words of wisdom, reassuring us that committees were truly excited to involve YPs, and we were encouraged to make the most of our time by attending a diverse range of committee meetings, identifying key contacts within each committee, and most importantly, following up on opportunities of interest after the excitement of Midyear was over.

Pictured above: 2017 YP Midyear Springboard Participants.

By lunchtime on Thursday, I had participated in a couple of committee meetings and was almost laughing at my initial apprehension.  Committees members were welcoming and genuinely enthusiastic about our “youthful energy,” and every meeting agenda seemed to touch on ways to boost YP involvement.  The easy part, as it turned out, was identifying opportunities to get involved in committee tasks and finding people willing to bring you on board; it was much more difficult to decide which opportunities would be best suited for my interests and availability. 

Meetings were focused on defining actionable tasks that could be undertaken by the committee to advance WEF’s mission to protect public health and the environment and identifying teams of volunteers to accomplish them. There was a heavy focus on creating ‘bite-sized’ projects, which seemed like a particularly great way for YPs to start taking on small roles and “learning the ropes” from the professionals that have dedicated their lives to evolving our industry to its current state.  The colossal effort required from volunteers on every committee to complete these tasks/projects and develop the WEFTEC program became very apparent over the 4-day Midyear Meeting, as did the importance of involving YPs.

The Springboard Program was an eye-opening experience that left me with a new sense of accountability and professional obligation to actively seek out ways, big or small, to get involved and contribute to the advancement of our industry. I strongly encourage other YPs to apply for the Springboard Program in 2018. You won’t be disappointed! 

The application process for the 2018 Springboard Program will open in Fall 2017. Contact SYPC Chair, Michelle Hatcher, if you are interested in learning more about how to apply for the 2018 Springboard Program.