July 22, 2021
The SWANA Young Professionals (YP) group continues to grow and expand across the country. SWANA YP members have been busy this past year speaking at SWANA events, leading teams, mentoring students and making strides in every aspect of the industry. Let’s get to know some of these upcoming industry leaders!
Hailey’s journey with SWANA started in 2014 when she was a junior at Gonzaga University studying Civil Engineering. She shares her experience below.
I had just ended my part time job at REI and I was looking for a more intentional way to spend my summer. As I was preparing for my fall semester finals, I was introduced to a professional engineer, John Cleary, who worked for the Washington State’s Department of Ecology, specifically in the Waste-to-Resources Group. He offered me a summer internship, while warning me that the next three months would not be very glamourous but promised me it would be well worth the windshield time. Intrigued by his unique perspective of solid waste, I accepted the summer internship and embarked on a journey that would shift the course of my career.
John and I toured many Washington State waste facilities that summer, all while sampling many gas station burritos and listening to endless audiobooks. I learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about waste, even spending many weeks researching the effects of barometric pressure on a closed pacific northwest landfill. That internship concluded with John and I attending a local SWANA conference and presenting our findings from the study. By joining that conference, I broadened my professional network, which in turn set me up for a post-graduation job, as well as shifted my priorities to becoming a solid waste professional.
After spending most of that next year learning about solid waste from John as well as graduating from Gonzaga, he assisted in landing me a real engineering job at HDR. This role meant moving to Seattle and commuting downtown to a fancy skyrise, while learning how to be a waste engineer and officially becoming a SWANA member. During my six year tenure at HDR, there were many geographical, career, and personal changes (it’s where I met my husband!). While HDR was a fundamental stepping stone in my life, I was ready for yet another step. This spring I accepted a position at Waste Management as a regional engineer and I am thrilled to gain new perspective as a client in the solid waste industry.
Throughout my time in the "real world," I continued to stay heavily involved in SWANA as shown through my attendance in local conferences and regional YP events. After many years of being a participant, I am thrilled to now hold two leadership positions through SWANA YP: Region 2 Representative and YP Steering Committee member. Alongside my leadership skills, I am passionate about raising the voices of young professionals and providing a space for us to grow in our careers just as John did for me. Even though John tragically passed away from esophageal cancer in 2019, the time I was able to spend with him were critical in shaping my life. I am beyond grateful that he introduced me to this fascinating industry and subsequently encouraged my involvement in SWANA. SWANA allows me to have access to incredible resources within the solid waste industry to gain professional connections, learn about new technologies, and advocate for a healthier planet. I wonder where my next step will lead me.
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Visit www.swana.org/YP411 to learn more about the group and become a YP member at the special discounted rate for full access to mentors, job openings, discounted webinars, and more! Or sign-up for SWANA’s YP Community forum for FREE to engage in industry discussions and receive updates on all things “YP”.