Our Water Future: There are “Exciting Opportunities in this Field”

About this series:  Each month CWEA is interviewing an innovative thinker in the water profession. We’re asking each person “The future of the water profession is …”

Mike is a water professional with nearly 50 years of experience. Here he is as an operator 45 years ago (left) and today at the same facility and valve. From digging sewer ditches in San Diego back then to serving as an elected water official today.

Michael (Mike) Hogan
CWEA Past President
Santa Fe Irrigation District, Board President
Retired, Encina Wastewater Authority, General Manager

Mike Hogan started in the water sector in 1969 in sewer maintenance and construction. He was encouraged by his supervisors to continue his education and get certified by CWEA.  Over the years he completed a degree in Wastewater Technology and a Bachelors in Business Management. He also achieved certification in collections system maintenance and a Grade 5 wastewater operator license.

Mike worked his way up the ranks and eventually became General Manager of the Encina Wastewater Authority.

Mike retired in 2009, and is still active in the sector. Since 2004, he has served as an elected director for the Santa Fe Irrigation District and represents the district on the San Diego County Water Authority Board where he served as Board Chair in 2010-11. In addition, he represents San Diego on the Metropolitan Water District Board of Directors.

Since 1970, CWEA has been an integral part of Mike’s career. He was active in the San Diego Section serving as President in 1984 and on CWEA’s Board of Directors for 12 years including President in 1997. He also served as a WEF Delegate Director and on WEF’s Executive Committee.

What do you believe is the future of the water profession?

I believe the best way to see the future is to study the past. When I look back on my 48 years in the water profession it is amazing to see the incremental evolution of how water and wastewater is managed and perceived.

When I started in 1969 the approach to drinking water and wastewater was ‘the two shall never meet’. Population growth, regulations, technology, and uncertainty in our water supplies, due to environmental restrictions and climate, means we are eliminating these barriers of the past.   We are embracing the concept that reusing wastewater must be an integral part of meeting the state’s future water reliability needs.

As a result of this paradigm shift, it is exciting to look to the future and the opportunities for professionals in this field. The need for water professionals in all disciplines will be in high demand. Education, training and certification will continue to be critical to ensure success and prepare for changes that are occurring more rapidly.

CWEA serves as an important resource for water professionals to meet these challenges.

What works for your organization in recruiting & training the next generation of water workers?

 Speaking from my professional experience and in my role as an elected official, I believe there are several areas an organization can focus to recruit and train the next generation:

  • First, support and provide the resources for continuing education and training. It’s a core business practice. It is important for employees to expand their knowledge outside the organization and to interface with other professionals.
  • Second, develop a succession plan to ensure the organization’s institutional knowledge is transferred from the older generation to the new one.
  • Third, establish a set of core values and principles to guide the organization’s decisions, create a good reputation in the profession, and treat employees fairly. I have found if an organization has established such a reputation, recruitment becomes much easier and draws quality individuals. People want to work for a good organization and feel they are part of its success.

What benefits have you seen from your membership in associations such as CWEA?

 The training I received through CWEA was very important to my success. It also provided me with opportunities to challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone in areas that I couldn’t have done in my job. Serving as chair of several statewide and regional conferences improved my abilities to plan, coordinate, and implement projects that served me well in my professional career.

Additionally, serving on the Board of Directors for CWEA both locally and at the state level provided me with a good understanding of the role of a board member and prepared me for my service as an elected official.

Mike discusses developing your own guiding principles during a SARBS training workshop in Orange County in 2010. (photo: Ralph Palomares)

What are the benefits of membership in an association such as CWEA for younger water professionals?

 CWEA’s mission to provide training and certification has and will continue to be the foundational benefit for younger water professions. Interfacing and establishing relationships with individuals and pooling your combined knowledge to discuss issues is a tremendous benefit.

Participating in activities – give a presentation at a conference, serve on a committee, or achieve a certification – provides an opportunity for young professionals to be successful, build confidence, and create value for themselves and their employer.

I also feel that involvement in CWEA prepares professionals to manage and adapt to change. Nothing stays the same – change is continuous and it needs to be accepted.

Once again, CWEA has and will continue to fill an important role in meeting the needs of the next generation of water workers.

 What advice would you give to anyone who wants to succeed in their career as a wastewater professional?

  • First, I would encourage you to establish your own personal code of conduct.  Know your core values and principals and use them daily.
  • Second, create value for yourself and demonstrate a commitment to hard work including stepping out of your comfort zone by taking on additional assignments and projects.
  • Third, become educated on how to make decisions. Understand the fundamental decision-making process and how to apply it to different situations. I believe this fundamental step will greatly improve your ability to be successful.
  • Fourth, know your competencies.  Know what you’re good at, and just as importantly, recognize weaknesses. Develop resources in those areas where you need assistance either through organizations or with individuals.
  • Fifth, embrace change and recognize that your skills today may not be adequate in the future. Continuous education and building career credentials will ensure you are successful and competitive.

And finally, enjoy the journey!

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About the Author

Elaine Connors


Elaine is a freelance writer based in Sechelt, British Columbia. Elaine was a water/wastewater equipment distributor for 28 years before retiring in 2016.

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