Water was always a strong theme in my life and led me to a career in water engineering

February 18, 2019 Kristin O'Neill

Water is an extremely exciting industry. There is always a need for water, so water engineering is a career that will never go away.

 

When I was in high school, my physics teacher told me I’d make a great engineer. Why? Because I asked why a lot. I was analytical and wanted to figure out how things worked. I was drawn to the water industry specifically because water is something that everyone needs. I liked the relatability of it and water has always been a strong theme in my life. I rowed crew and swam in high school, taught swim lessons in college, and was a manager at a pool responsible for maintaining chemical levels in the water.

Now, nearly 10 years into my career, I’m president of the Southeast Section of Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT), and I’ve been awarded the local Young Engineer of the Year and the state level Emerging Leader award through WEAT. It’s been a journey to get to this point, but I am driven and passionate about the future of water.

 

Kristin is the president of the Southeast Section of Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT) and was awarded the Young Engineer of the Year award.

 

My passion for water engineering

I completed a six-month co-op while I was in college at a water utility. One of my first assignments while there was to collect water samples from local businesses. Businesses were anxious to get the results of the water tests, and I was able to see firsthand how water affected everyone’s day-to-day lives. This experience really grew my passion for the water industry.

I love the challenge of water engineering. There is always something to learn. This industry is always changing and growing.

Water engineering brings several disciplines together and no two projects are ever the same. As a wastewater process engineer, I work with our clients to determine what should be implemented for the water to be cleaned. I work closely with electrical, structural, and building engineers.

One of the projects I’m most proud of is a risk-based facility assessment at a water plant that had no capital improvements completed in its 50-year life. I really loved working so closely with operations teams to help them build a business case for recommended improvements to their city council. It was really exciting to see our recommendations accepted (and eventually implemented) to enhance the future of water in this this community.

 

Kristin and her fellow WEAT members helped pick up trash in a local Houston park along Buffalo Bayou as part of a service day event.

 

The future of water

Water is an extremely exciting industry. There is always a need for water, so water engineering is a career that will never go away.

_q_tweetable:Confidence is key. That’s my advice for the next generation of women engineers._q_The world is finally starting to realize the value and the scarcity of water, and from the perspective of an engineer, I’m always looking for ways to find ways to improve the industry, such as improving processes to reduce chemical usage or electrical costs by reducing blower usage.

One of the exciting things about the industry right now is that people are starting to look at all water as one water system—drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater. Because of this, integrated water plans are being created that incorporate all of those different types—because after all, it’s all one water.

 

My advice for the next generation of women engineers

Confidence is key. That’s my advice for the next generation of women engineers. Confidence is something I struggled with early in my career, and sometimes I found I even had to fake confidence until I became more confident.

Having confidence in myself helped others to have confidence in me, and it also made me more willing to push myself outside of my comfort zone and push boundaries.

About the Author

Kristin O'Neill

Kristin O'Neill is a senior project manager in Houston, Texas. She has worked on studies, planning, design and construction projects side by side with utility stakeholders and operations staff to ensure regulatory requirements, energy efficiency, and life cycle costs are in line with client's needs and preferences.

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