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AWT Student Education and Enhancement Development (SEED) Program

A Day in the Life ...

Name:
Bernadette Combs, CWT

Company:
Industrial Water Engineering, Inc.

Q. What is your title?
A. Quality Manager

Q.How long have you been in this position?
A. I worked at Industrial Water Engineering "IWE" for three years while going to college to earn my Mechanical Engineering degree. After graduating college, I decided to pursue IWE as a career and have been working here for five years full time.

Q.What services does Industrial Water Engineering provide?
A. IWE is a full service water treatment provider. IWE's services include steam boiler treatment, cooling tower treatment, new water treatment construction consulting, cooling tower cleaning and general water treatment inspection and service.

Q.What types of organizations do you serve?
A. IWE provides full service water treatment for a broad spectrum of industrial, commercial and government customers across the Southwest United States.

Q.What water treatment activities are in your normal workday?
A. At IWE I manage the online service reporting system, ISO 9001:2008 quality program, and laboratory services. I complete all the government compliance reports for DOT, OSHA, EPA and local agencies. I oversee chemical production and perform training for IWE employees and customers.

Q.What "non-routine" activities are included in your job?
A. I am fortunate to get the opportunity to wear a lot of hats at IWE. I am the first to fix IT problems, help with HR duties, go on sales calls and perform site surveys. There are days when I will be out running service or doing equipment inspections, while other days are strictly in the lab doing water testing and new product development.

Q. What is the extent of travel for your job?
A. I don't travel too often. Most of my travel is for conferences or training sessions.

Q.How did you learn about the water treatment field?
A. I learned about the water treatment field in college. My Mechanical Engineering class in thermodynamics talked a lot about heat exchangers, cooling towers and boilers. I didn't have much knowledge of these systems and asked my dad, who is a chemical engineer, what he knew about these systems. He suggested I think about doing an internship at Industrial Water Engineering to gain a better perspective about this equipment so I could do well in classes.

Q.What barriers, if any, have you had to overcome in your work?
A. Walking into customer facilities I am greeted by mostly older facility managers, who tend to be skeptical of my knowledge and experience level. I think they are surprised once we are engaged in conversation, that I am knowledgeable in the field of water treatment. Having a CWT designation is one way of showing that I am continually looking to expand my knowledge in the water treatment industry.

Q.Degree:
A. Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Certificate in Biomedical Engineering
LEED AP, Engineer in Training (EIT)

Q. Job training:
A. I started off out in the field with on the job training; followed by AWT and NACE training along with many other water treatment specific training courses. There is a vast amount of knowledge needed for this field. As situations come up that I am not familiar with, I will study on my own.

Q. Mentoring opportunities:
A. I have been mentored since my first day in the industry. I do have an advantage that my father has made water treatment his career and is eager to impart his knowledge to me. I have had people teach me every step of the way. At IWE there was always someone to ask and teach me new things. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to other industry professionals right off the bat through AWT who have helped mentor me along the way.

Q. What other jobs/skills can translate into a water treatment career?
A. Water treatment requires both academic and mechanical skills. Many of the specific skills cannot be taught in school, but with good problem solving skills, mechanical skills, self motivation, collaboration and computer skills, you can build knowledge and discipline required for a successful career in water treatment.

Q. What is the job outlook?
A. In the southwest, IWE typically faces difficult water chemistry challenges that require aggressive new product development to help our customers meet their water conservation goals. There is a global push for conservation, which defines the whole idea of water treatment. Water treatment goals are typically defined by water conservation and reuse, equipment preservation and economic savings. I don't see these goals changing anytime soon, which makes our job outlook great.

Q. Advice for students:
A. Be prepared to learn something new everyday. There is always something new and exciting being presented in our industry; willingness to work hard and learn everything you can will enhance your chances of succeeding in the water treatment industry. Think professional, act professional, and don't be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.