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Young water professional leads Sydney Water team to success

Since joining Sydney Water’s graduate program in 2016, Ronica Koey has established herself as someone with a passion for storytelling and the water industry.

Now Sydney Water Communications and Engagement Advisor, she works on projects that drive employee engagement across the business.

This includes leading Sydney Water’s Team Praan to success in the 2018 WaterAid Winnovators Program, where teams compete from across the world to solve an international water, sanitation and hygiene problem.

Team Praan designed and prototyped a latrine switch mechanism (called the Poo-switcheroo), devised a community engagement plan, gained a social media reach of 80,000 and raised more than $11,000 for WaterAid. They will travel to India later this year to test the viability of their solution.

Koey was recently nominated for the Australian Water Association's New South Wales (NSW) Young Water Professional of the Year Award, which will be presented at the NSW Water Awards in March.

She said she is ecstatic about the nomination.

“It feels great to be recognised in the water industry as a communications advisor,” she said.

“Being able to say I’m a finalist among other finalists who’ve done amazing work is something to be proud of.”

The Australian Water Association's NSW Young Water Professionals team asked Koey about swapping places with a scientist, saving water and keeping Sydney alive.

What excites you in the industry right now?

Is it bad to say that the drought excites me? Not that I’m happy about it, but it does present the industry with challenges where the solutions need to be viable now and into the future. We can’t just copy and paste what we did in previous droughts.

It really pushes us to think outside the box and it also unites us. Not just as water utilities that need to share learnings, resources and partnerships, but also as a community.

If you could be anyone for a day, who would you choose and why?

Tough question but an easy answer. I’d choose to be Heri Bustamante, our Principal Scientist in Treatment at Sydney Water. Why? He’s amazingly smart and I’d love to know what happens in that genius mind of his.

I think being able to find opportunities, hidden gaps in innovation and new partners to collaborate with are great skills to have and can easily be transferred to improving how we communicate and engage in the water industry.

Have you got any tricks for saving water?

This is typical coming from a comms advisor, but my trick for saving water is to speak in plain English. I practice lots of water saving tips at home but I’m only one person. Having a conversation about the drought and sharing water saving tips and tricks with everyone I talk to could have a huge ripple effect. If everyone saved just a bit more water here and there then collectively we could save heaps.

If there was one piece of advice you could give yourself on your first day of full-time work, what would it be?

My one piece of advice to younger me and to anyone starting their first day of full-time work would be ‘just go for it’. I remember being really shy when I first started. I would hold back my ideas because they had never been done before and I didn’t want to rock the boat. As a result, a lot of ideas just went into thin air.

Today, I’m known for my creative ideas, problem solving and for bringing a new perspective to the team. If you’ve got a great idea, put it forward. Don’t let your age, role or work experience hold you back.

Can you sum up what the water industry means to you in three words?

Keeping Sydney alive.

To learn more about the Australian Water Association's Young Water Professionals program, click here.