Renee- women of wastewater winer

Position: Water/Wastewater Operator

Company: Minnesota municipality

Time in the Industry: 19 years

“I have found this career-broadening my mind and enhancing my skills by being able to learn from all genders and embracing the knowledge that comes from being on a team, especially in the smaller cities.”

What would you want to tell the public about your job that they might not know?

I don’t believe that the public truly knows how diverse the roles of a water/wastewater operator are. There is so much training that we do with all our vendors, sales reps, and trades to understand the technology of equipment, to fix equipment and parts inhouse, to save costs by being certified in other job fields; not to mention the networking of colleagues to support and help solve job-related problems and issues.

Another aspect of our job that is surprising to the community is how much we actively contribute to the research that helps to find healthier solutions to our processes for a cleaner environment.

Lessons from parents/role models that still ring true?

My work ethic comes from my mother. She has been a single woman with five children for over forty years, who worked constantly to provide for us. So, I grew up on my grandparents’ farm learning how to survive with what you have. I remember my mother telling me one day she couldn’t come to one of my sports events and that even though she couldn’t be there, it didn’t mean she didn’t know how great I was. Today my mom is extremely proud of me, which means I have truly succeeded

Can you share a something you’re proud of during your time in the wastewater field?

One really never knows when they’re going to stumble upon their own hidden talents. As the activated sludge plant in my city started up, new roles found me. I was asked to set up the laboratory and all sampling points and procedures. So, off I went to learn everything about chemistry and lab techniques. Samplers were placed, bench sheets and spreadsheets created, and the sampling began.

So here I am, I’m proof that learning to be a chemist can be achieved even if you never took chemistry in high school! In 2013 I was nominated for and won, the Laboratory Operator of the Year Award given by the Minnesota Wastewater Operators Association (MWOA). The recognition inspires me to further be a thorough and creative operator reaching for higher goals to achieve.

Any personal goals/project you want to achieve in the next 5 years? 10 years?

There is always another chapter in life. I am still energetically enthusiastic about the variety in this career and thanks to the innovation of technology, still have an abundance of growth left to pursue!

At this point in my career, I’m truly honored to finish my legacy mentoring women to know that they can do these jobs or anything they set their hearts and minds to do. There was a program at the SCTCC called “Diva and Dude Tech” that introduced 6th-grade girls and boys to non-traditional job options from the non-traditional women and men who worked them and I was given the chance four years in a row to encourage these young adults to this career. So, I am always open to mentor and help anyone succeed in being the experts of their own lives, no matter what it is they choose to do or be!

What innovations would you most like to see next in wastewater?

Honestly, I’m still waiting for some better tools that fit a women’s hands and adds some extra torque. There are a few items out there but still a long way to go, as more women are choosing these careers.

I would like to see more reused metals and plastics in the products and parts that we use. It would be great to see less waste filling up our landfills and more solutions to the elimination of these non-decomposing items. We also need to find more incineration processes and scrubber methods for air control if we want to continue towards a greener way of life.

The wastewater and water processes or going to need more monitoring equipment as we continue down the journey of viruses and bacteria. The sensitivity of the probes and lab testing equipment is going to have to increase and detect smaller biological traces of potential pathogenic organisms.

Inspiring Women of Wastewater™

In 2017, Aquafix has launched a new campaign to honor the hardworking female wastewater operators that make up only about 5% of the industry. We want to use our platform to project these voices, and introduce the women of tomorrow to a whole new set of role models. To learn more about the Inspiring Women of Wastewater™ program, and to sign up or nominate another outstanding female operator follow the link below!