Meet Juan Guerreiro, Interim Assistant Director City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, a recipient of the Kirt Brooks Memorial Water Environment Scholarship in 2006. Juan received a Dual-Associate of Science degree in Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations from Cuyamaca College but he didn’t stop there. Going on to get his Master’s, he also gained experience in many other aspects of water treatment. Juan shares his story in the profile below and offers some sound advice to anyone entering the profession.
When did you first know you wanted to work in the water profession?
I first realized that I wanted to work in the water profession when I was unemployed and offered a position as an Operator-In-Training with Dudek at a small wastewater treatment plant. Dudek had a tuition reimbursement program that would support me as I was ready to go back to college to complete my education. My interest in the profession started on my first day on the job and has been growing continuously since then. I understood that water was a precious resource and the wastewater treatment process amazed me at how well the wastewater was treated. Water reuse seemed inevitable to me at that point.
How did you first hear about the Kirt Brooks Scholarship?
I was advised to join CWEA upon entering the profession and once I joined, I stayed updated on most topics involving the association. I don’t remember exactly when I became aware of the Kirt Brooks Scholarship, but I probably read about it in one of the magazines. I decided to apply and was shocked when I was awarded the scholarship. Dudek sent me to a CWEA conference in Sacramento that year to receive my scholarship in front of a lot of people. I just remember being really nervous standing up in front of everyone to receive the scholarship and I’ll never forget it.
Where did you use your scholarship earnings?
I used the money to finish funding my college education. I ended up obtaining a Dual-Associate of Science degree in Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations from Cuyamaca College, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from San Diego State University, and a Master of Science in Water Science, Policy and Management from the University of Oxford. While attending college I also obtained my SWRCB Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Grade V certification and Distribution Operator D2 certification, and a CWEA Collection Systems Maintenance Grade I certification.
What has been your path to where you are today?
The path to my current position was diverse to say the least. I’ve worked for many agencies within the San Diego region: public, private and non-profit. I started with Dudek and over the years worked for the City of Oceanside, the Otay Water District, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Veolia North America, and now the City of San Diego. Although the vast majority of my career was focused on wastewater treatment plant operations, I was exposed to advanced water treatment, laboratory analysis, water treatment and distribution operations, wastewater collections system maintenance, engineering and a variety of general water resource management topics. I truly feel that diversifying your experience in various aspects of the business really helps develop a holistic understanding of water resource management, from theory to practice.
What is your advice to a student entering this profession?
My advice to students entering this profession is to fall back on the knowledge that you learned in school, but listen closely to your coworkers and keep an open mind. Your education is going to provide a good base to build from with fundamental concepts, but you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn from your coworkers whether they’re engineers, operators, management analysts, lab techs, etc. Some have been in the industry for over 40 years and they may have information that could help you. And don’t forget to show your gratitude and offer to help in return.
The Kirt Brooks Memorial Scholarship provides annual scholarships for individuals attending a College, University, Community College or Technical Trade School and pursuing a course of study related to the Water Environment Field.
Do you or someone you know plan to attend a water related program next Fall? Share this link, applications for the Fall 2020 school year are due January 15. Apply for CWEA’s Kirt Brooks Scholarship program >