Blog by Rasha Hasan
“What a roller coaster journey!” These are the words that I will use to describe the building up of my career so far. Being a young water professional (YWP) is so challenging mainly during this harsh reality of COVID-19, however determination and ambition can make the impossible possible.
For this March blog, AIWW asked me a few questions I will answer. The first question: “What does a young water professional need to thrive?” The answer for this question may vary between YWPs due to our different personalities, backgrounds, and life experience, and this is a fact that we need to acknowledge. However, I think we may agree that we need mentorship. We are in a continuous quest to boost our career and develop our skills, thus guidance that comes from extensive experience is much needed during this journey. This guidance could be in the simplest form of a five minutes Q&A or an internship.
In order to get the purpose of mentorship, I can highlight some key points that you need to think about.
- Approach the right experts
A lot of experts are available and open for discussion; however, you need to keep in mind some points to achieve the utmost of this experience: your goals, your background and your focus. To thrive, you need the correct support. For example, if you are interested in developing your skills in water software, you cannot turn to a water project manager. You need to contact the technical experts, so you can explore your career and get the necessary advice. It took me three years to find my mentor… To give an idea how hard the search is!
It is becoming a must to build a strong network as YWP. Two ways are available to evolve your network. LinkedIn is a vital platform to connect to experts, water companies and other YWPs. Structuring a professional profile, commenting on posts, asking questions, and creating your own content are few steps that resemble a key start.
It is a crucial way of investing your time. I cannot stress enough on how volunteering in youth water networks and projects shaped my career and rewarded me with the needed exposure to launch my career in Europe. Through this experience, I was able to build my network, develop my soft skills, bring the light about water and climate issues in the Arab world on international platforms. The most fun thing is getting the opportunity to have friends even when everyone has been under a lockdown.
- Engaging in water programmes
Engaging in water programmes such as WetSkills and European Junior Water Program. This point is not for publicity purposes. From my end, I developed many skills during my two experiences with WetSkills. Also, WetSkills provided much support to me and helped me to achieve further exposure as YWP at the same time. If you are still in the studying phase, I would highly recommend WetSkills.
On the other hand, my experience with EJWP is taking me to the next level of the game by developing my capacity of understanding the European issues related to water, climate change and circular economy. If you are a YWP, go for EJWP even if it means a long back and forth discussion with your employer to invest in this programme. Both programmes are your channel to e-meeting many experts and having the opportunity to talk to them directly.
AIWW also asked me: “What does a young water professional bring to the team?” This debat can go on for many hours, but I can assure you that we bring a lot! Starting with, enthusiasm, innovation and out of the box thinking. I can portray YWPs as free and creative souls who have not been caged yet in bureaucracy and working routine, so their energy is all over the place, which needs to be just channeled in the right spot, to flourish and evolve.
Challenges and thresholds
AIWW’s final question was: “What are the challenges and thresholds that I – young woman, working on PhD level in the water sector – have encountered so far?” This question brings back many painful memories, which I am trying hard not to have again by working hard on my skills and working experience. My main challenge was the lack of knowledge of how the European water sector operates, its needs, its connections, and its expectations of YWPs.
Let us move to the gender issue, what I have found until this moment is that the water sector is so supportive to me, because I am a young Syrian woman who is trying to delineate her career and pursue her higher education. Writing this blog is a substantial example of empowerment, as it is an endeavour of conveying my voice. If you are a young woman with the same path, all you need is to reach out to the right people, take chances and give your best.
Some advice to my successors
Having so many things of my plate is demanding, nevertheless, I have some tips that I find useful in this phase of life:
- Always invest your time and energy with the right people and the right position;
- Be brave to say this role isn’t for me or I need to leave because it is becoming so energy consuming;
- Always reflect on the experience and what are you gaining through the process;
- Finally, always remember your goals and your role in this life.
Let’s wrap it up by saying being a young water professional who is trying to build up a career isn’t easy at all, mainly in a competitive environment like the European water sector, and the difficult time of COVID19. Thus, always keep this in your mind mostly when the situation is becoming too hard to tolerate: you will look back one day at this phase, and you will be so proud of what you have achieved despite all the challenges and negative people. Just invest your time and trust the process!