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Our Water, our future: An interview with Crystal Eggert
Kristen McGillivray, Western Canada Water
This was a really special interview because I’ve worked closely with Crystal planning the 2019 Western Canada Water Annual Conference and Exhibition over the last two years, where she is serving as Conference Chair. Since joining water industry over four years ago, I kept hearing her name over and over when it came to discussions around volunteer positions or as a resource for colleagues. After getting to know her, I can say with confidence that she is dynamic force in the water industry and one of the very best ambassadors we have. Crystal graduated with an Environmental Sciences Diploma in 2005 and received her Water and Wastewater Technician Certificate in 2007, both through the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology where she now works as an Instructor in the Water and Wastewater Technician Program.
Q. What sparked your interest to pursue a career in the water industry? Can you describe a moment where you realized this was the field you wanted to work in?
A. There are times I have wondered if I chose the water industry or if it chose me! And after over 10 years as a member, I am still not sure I know the answer. My affinity for water started at a young and I spent most of my childhood yearning to be in or near the water when I could having been raised in Edmonton, Alberta. I remember always wanting to be in lessons at the nearby swimming pool and by the age of 15 I had received my Bronze medallion in swim classes.
In grade 6 I recall going on a field trip where we spent the day canoeing the North Saskatchewan River. We stopped along the way down the river and took some water samples and identified some of the local biota. It was in that moment I decided I wanted to be part of helping the environment, and more importantly our most valuable resource that is water.
Q. How have you built up your professional networks?
A. Getting involved and has helped me to make connections with like-minded individuals and groups that are part of the water network. From students, to industry, to events and conferences, it keeps me very active with the wonderful people who contribute to the compilation of everyone who has a part to play in the water story.
Working in Water
Q. What excites you most about working in the water industry?
A. The industry is very dynamic and is constantly changing and shifting. The technology is always evolving allowing the treatment, conservation, and reuse potentials in various disciplines to reach a pinnacle in what can be accomplished. The individuals involved are also very passionate about the water community and working with others is the part the excites me most about what I do.
Q. What do you think the future of the water industry looks like?
A. Our water is our future, and often it takes critical situations to bring out the best in people. I foresee a large shift in the way people perceive the precious resource and I think as time goes on and water matters become graver, there will be a global water movement. Unfortunately, many people still have a misconception of water issues we face and that will continue to challenge us.
Q. What advice do you have for women interested in becoming an Operator or Engineer?
A. More and more women continue to become operators or engineers in the field and there is opportunity for all. Using your professional strengths and applying it to something you enjoy shouldn’t hold you back on any professional career goal you may have. I am proud to be a woman in the industry and hope to continue to see a strong female presence grow as I continue my career.
Q. Did you ever experience any uncertainty that this was the right career path for you?
A. When I first transitioned from a Wastewater operator to an in-class Instructor, I struggled with the adjustment for the first couple of years. I enjoyed the hands-on and mechanical aspects of the plant and being outdoors and active for most of the day. The classroom still offers a lot of diversity but you become held to a schedule and really only see the four walls of your office and classroom. However, over time the interaction with the students was how I filled those voids, and now I couldn’t picture not being part of something I enjoy so much!
Q. How do you respond to negative "self-talk"?
A. I can often be my own worst critic because I care so deeply about what I am doing and saying to others to impact them in their own personal water journey. This can lead me to sometimes have doubt on my capabilities on what I perceive I can and cannot accomplish. Yet I find myself doing this I never expected, like Chairing the Annual Western Canada Water Conference and Exhibition this year being held in my hometown in this Fall. Surrounding yourself with a good support system of family, friends, and professional colleagues who want to see you succeed is my key to success.
Q. Do you have a mentor? How important do you think mentorship is?
A. My mentor was my Grandfather, who instilled in me a hard work ethic and was sometimes very strict and regimented when it came to career. I have always carried that with me and that is the reason that I constantly try to challenge myself and take on new opportunities when possible. I also have many mentors in the water industry that have inspired me and guided me to become a water professional. In the past, if I hadn’t taken those steps, I would have never gotten to where I never knew I always wanted to be.
Q. What do you think the key to being a leader is?
A. Being a leader doesn’t mean you lead by telling people what to do or giving orders. A true leader leads by example, and collaborates with others equally. Listening to input and feedback is just as critical in being a good leader as appreciating what everyone brings to the table. It is learning what people’s strengths and weaknesses are and placing them were that individual or group will be successful. A large part of it is also simply providing support in achieving the overall goal. That took my younger self a few years to figure out and is a lesson I wish I would have learned earlier in my life.