Most seasoned professionals understand that industry organizations can be impactful in providing opportunities for continued education, business development, networking, and personal and professional growth. Here’s one young professional’s story at an environmental firm that shows the value participation in industry associations and organizations brings to careers.
Leading the way
Mateja Vidovic Klanac, Project Professional in SCS’s West Palm Beach, Florida, office, is a perfect case study of the steps needed to gain industry knowledge and immerse yourself in your career.
After working in the air quality sector for two years in Croatia, Mateja came to the United States and joined a research team led by Dr. Daniel Meeroff at Florida Atlantic University. She was investigating effective odor control strategies to assist landfill site personnel in managing daily operations based on the weather conditions.
With this exposure, she developed a keen interest in the solid waste industry and shifted her focus away from air quality. Mateja says, “It was important for me to expand my experience and connect with other professionals in the industry to broaden my horizons.”
“I had never considered working in the solid waste arena before, but that’s when I discovered how interesting and interdisciplinary it is — where my work could positively impact the environment and my community the most.”
She sought a position as president of the joint chapter of a multidisciplinary group which included the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA), American Water Works Association (AWWA), Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), and Air & Waste Management Association (A&WMA) to learn more about solid waste, network, learn, and grow her professional career. During her time as president of the chapter, this joint association at Florida Atlantic University became a more active organization with a mission to promote interest in the environment and the industry.
When Mateja joined SCS Engineers, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that the company supported and encouraged her involvement in these organizations. “SCS sees the value in my leadership position at SWANA. They support my career and learning goals, but it also aids in recruiting and promoting our company culture as we support young professionals looking to learn and contribute.”
SWANA Student YP Design Contest
Mateja is also a member of the SWANA Young Professionals (YP) Steering Committee and has been the chair of the SWANA YP International Solid Waste Design Competition for several years. The SWANA Design Competition offers students opportunities to work on real-world waste management challenges in a supportive and fun environment. The competition strives to prepare students for similar issues they may encounter after graduation working as engineers or solid waste professionals.
Mateja’s leadership has inspired young professionals to become more involved in solid waste engineering and even moved graduating students to apply for open positions at SCS and become part of the team. “Being involved in SWANA provided a pathway for sharing ideas and challenges with other professionals in the industry while providing students with an opportunity to display their talents and establish a premier networking event where they can connect with potential employers.”
She has also inspired a colleague, Alex Stege, a Senior Project Advisor and 33-year veteran of SCS. He has volunteered his time alongside Mateja for the past two years. “Mateja asked me to assist with the YP design contests because it was specific to my area of expertise; landfill gas (LFG) modeling. I have been leading the SCS non-regulatory LFG modeling practice for over 25 years.”
Alex was critical to the competition because he helped participants understand different methods for estimating LFG generation and emissions. He suggested they evaluate LandGEM and the alternative LFG models derived from their academic research using site-specific waste disposal and LFG recovery data.
Mateja is grateful for his involvement. “Last year, the topic was evaluating the limitations of EPA’s LandGEM and developing an alternative method for estimating landfill methane emissions,” she says. “We chose the topic because of its importance, occurrence in recent industry news, and relevance to climate change.”
“Recognizing this subject matter required Alex’s expertise, I reached out, and he was more than willing to help on the technical side to develop the problem statement and serve as one of the judges. I appreciate the time and effort that Alex contributed to the success of this event.”
Mateja appreciates mentoring others and engaging with colleagues through SWANA. But, more than that, she managed different projects and people to gain exponential leadership experience. For that, the dividends to SCS and Mateja are incredible for the long term.
“She put more work into organizing and directing the design contest events over the past several years than we can appreciate. Besides the meetings and administrative arrangements needed to make the event happen, Mateja developed the design contest problems, including an excellent and timely one this past year,” said Alex.
SCS encourages employees to take on leadership roles if they join a professional organization. The exposure to new ideas, mentor opportunities, and networking is instrumental in growing and sustaining a successful career in engineering – and beyond.
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