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Here’s how one young water professional developed her career

Engaging in extra-curricular projects and volunteer work in the water sector is a sure-fire way of accelerating a Young Water Professional’s career development, with one young Australian Water Association member being a shining example of just how far extra effort can take you.

Set to deliver a keynote presentation at the upcoming AWA/IWA Young Water Professionals Conference in February, Sydney Water’s Kathryn Silvester recently returned from a study trip to Thailand as part of her Masters in Integrated Water Management with the International Water Centre.

Silvester said her interest in international development led her to the program, which involved visiting a village impacted by the Pak Mun Dam.

“Part of it was understanding how the dam had had an impact on this village. But it was also about how they use water in the village and looking at their wastewater management,” Silvester said.

“When you go to different places, you don’t really know what to ask. We spoke to different people in the village and slowly got a better understanding of how things worked.

“We then went around and spoke to the same people again, with much more clearly defined and interesting questions, and we were able to get much more information out of them. It showed that spending the time, before you try to solve anyone’s problems, is really valuable.”

Silvester said the experience was also enriched by working alongside other students, a dynamic she said resonates within group learning contexts, similar to the YWP Conference.

“It was incredible being with a group of really engaged students. I find this with young water professionals in general, everyone sees things in different ways. I am always blown away by other people’s questions and I learned so much more from the experience by being with others,” she said.

“This is the same for the YWP Conference. You get a hold of different perspectives because people are coming from quite diverse backgrounds. You get to know each other and can learn more from developing ideas together.”

This years’ YWP Conference is themed Connect. Collaborate. Accelerate, and Silvester said accelerating careers takes time and energy, but is always well worth the opportunities that arise as a result of the extra effort.

“I’ve jumped right in and am involved in a lot of different things with the AWA and IWA. It’s taken time to do all of this extra curricular involvement, study and travel, but I have benefited so much, not just in extending my network,” she said.

“When I started at Sydney Water, I was working in operations, which is quite an isolated part of the business. Getting involved with the AWA and other professional development avenues was a way for me to gain exposure to the broader water sector and make connections outside of my organisation.

“The more I got involved, the more people I met, the more knowledge I gained, the more self-branding I achieved.”

While Silvester now has many professional opportunities as a result of her involvement, she said it is about putting yourself in a position to learn new things and gain new insights.

“I’m not any smarter than any other YWPs, but I’ve put myself out there, and I’ve voiced my opinion on YWPs, in saying that they need to have their voices heard and should very much be involved in decision making,” Silvester said.

“When you put yourself in those positions and volunteer to get involved in these sorts of things, you meet like-minded people who are also inspired and you feed off each other’s enthusiasm. You feel as though you are working towards a better future together.”

Register for the AWA/IWA YWP Conference to hear more from Kathryn Silvester and other inspiring Young Water Professionals.

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