How did you get into this profession?
I started out as a lab analyst at an environmental laboratory while in college. After I graduated, I went back to environmental laboratories doing project management. I have always wanted to be more proactive in environmental protection and to serve the public. The City of Montclair took the risk of hiring me, so I finally became an Environmental Compliance Inspector doing stormwater inspections, and I absolutely loved it! I love being out in the field, working with business owners, educating the public, and making positive impacts.
I am now with the Ontario Municipal Utilities Company and focus on the pretreatment program. The City of Ontario allows me to explore more types of industry and be more involved with pretreatment.
How did you first get involved in CWEA?
I have been involved with CWEA for as long as I have been an inspector, which is about three years. I joined the association because it was part of the job requirement to pass the ECI Grade 1 exam. I have been fortunate to attend many CWEA conferences and trainings in the past, but it was the first time I felt that I was really a part of it when CWEA asked me to join the ECI exam update project. Possibly because I complained too much, I think that is the real reason they asked me.
What was your role in the environmental compliance inspector exam update?
We all shared the same role in the exam update. We made sure that the questions correspond with the study guides. We removed questions that were unfit, confusing, or outdated, and came up with new questions to replace them. We also made sure that every question comes from a legitimate source that is accessible to everyone. We challenged each other with intellectual agreement on the subject, which was very inspiring. Of course, I loved the whole experience of working with everyone on the team and sharing the same goal of making things better for others. Vivien Malig and Chris Lundeen with CWEA were so great and worked so hard on this too. The project would not be completed without their effort.
What is the hardest part of being a subject matter expert?
First of all, there is still so much for me to learn. Part of the reason I joined the group was so that I could learn from other SMEs… and I did! The hardest part for me was to come up with good questions and corresponding multiple choices in the middle of the night – with legit sources, approval from the group, the right amount of difficulty, right wordings, etc. This was the hardest part. We spent hours on discussing wordings like “and,” “or,” “shall,” etc.
I remember having a severe headache after our first meeting at Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts.
What is your personal goal as a subject matter expert?
My goals have always been making myself valuable to others, and I want to be great at what I do so that I can make more of a contribution. I was having a hard time when I was taking the grade 1 exam and thought there was so much room for improvement with the exams and study guides. I volunteered my time for the team and it was a great cause that fits both my personal and professional goals. It was also a great opportunity to learn from the other SMEs. They were brilliant and amazing! I feel that I gained more than I gave. My motivation was that our work would benefit the future exam takers and that is very rewarding.
Where do you see certification going in the future?
Certification in water and wastewater is a critical part of this field because it indicates the level of an inspector to an employer, and encourages the inspectors to learn continuously.
What do you recommend to young professionals?
If you are the kind of person who cares about the environment, loves challenges, wants to make things right, and like being out in the field working with different industries, I think you would enjoy being an Environmental Compliance Inspector. It is very rewarding when I know that the environment is protected because of what I do, even if it is just an insignificant amount. There are always new things to learn, which makes the job fun. My recommendation – stay curious.
What is the craziest story you have encountered in your work?
I have inspected a place where a murder case has happened and the body was never found. Enough said.