How the IWA deepened my perspective of the water industry

By Jacob Amengor

In 2015, I joined the International Water Association (IWA) through the IWA Connect platform. Prior to that, I had come across the organization while researching for my final year thesis in university. I was convinced to join the association, not because I knew the benefits it had in store for me, but because there was a promotion to receive two editions of ‘The Source’ magazine if you joined before a particular date. For a while, I was dormant and hardly contributed.

A year down the line, I was still clueless about the association I had joined, mainly because I was unaware of how it could impact my career. Then, I came across a call for abstracts for the International Young Water Professionals Conference 2017. I decided to give it a try. While waiting for the outcome of my submission, I visited the website and IWA Connect regularly to check for updates. In doing so, I began to understand the amazing opportunities this association had for its members and especially for young professionals. Then it dawned on me that if this association offers so much professional development to young professionals, why weren’t more people talking about it?

In the early part of 2017, I received a notification that my abstract was accepted for an oral presentation during a technical session at the conference in South Africa. My joy was short-lived when I realized I had to submit a full paper in a few months! This was because I had no clue how to write research papers, to the extent of summarizing my research work from 50 pages to 8 pages. The IWA came to the rescue. Webinars were organized to educate presenters on how to write papers, prepare PowerPoint presentations, and even how to present one’s work during the conference. That brought me so much relief, and equipped me with new knowledge and skills that made my presentation successful at the conference.

Before attending the conference, I made the effort to find out how a Young Water Professionals Chapter could be formed in Ghana. I was connected to Brenda Ampomah, an IWA Programme Officer in Ghana, who gathered a few of us to help develop the necessary documents for the creation of the chapter. Together with my colleagues, we were soon able to create the document and Kirsten De Vette, the IWA Capacity and Development Officer, also shared her thoughts and gave feedback on the work we had done so far. Today, Ghana is listed among the YWP chapters globally that have a formal agreement with the IWA.

At the conference, I met other IWA staff and members, and I could see their passion for providing the platform for young professionals to develop their careers while providing solutions in the water industry. I joined a group on IWA Connect ‘Creating Water-Wise Cities’ and met the group’s Programme Officer, Lisa Andrews, at the conference in South Africa. Since then, she has supported and guided me in new initiatives under the scope of the programme objectives.

Jacob Amengor and Lisa Andrews, at the IWA Young Water Professionals Conference 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Jacob Amengor and Lisa Andrews, at the IWA Young Water Professionals Conference 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa.

At the conference, I represented the Ghana Chapter at the Global Coordination for Young Water Professionals meeting, which led to my appointment to serve on the YWP Chapter Coordination Sub-Committee. The conference gave me the opportunity to join a great network of young water professionals and to be motivated by their many different aspirations and achievements. I also served as one of the rapporteurs of the conference and it was an experience worth recounting.

Attendees to the IWA Young Water Professionals Conference 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa

Attendees to the IWA Young Water Professionals Conference 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa

Today, I can confidently write an abstract and a full paper because of the training from IWA. The paper I presented at the conference has been submitted to IWA Publishing and is going through the process of publication. I now know how to put together a session within a conference, because IWA gave me the opportunity to be part of the organizers of the IWA session at the Young Water Leaders’ Summit during the Singapore International Water Week.

Through IWA, I now have a better understanding of how to effectively use social media tools in advancing my work in the water industry. At the end of a recent project, Emma Weisbord, IWA Governing Members and Young Water Professionals Officer, offered to help me understand how to communicate my work in an effective manner. She provided me with a set of tools that I could adopt and use easily. Today, even if IWA membership fees were doubled, I would still pay to be a member because I appreciate the personal development it has brought me. By now, I am sure you are convinced about how the IWA can help you reach your career goals without so much struggle.

I recommend that you join the IWA today and not to be dormant as I was in the first year of my membership. To help you be active and benefit fully from the activities of the Association, I advise you sign up on IWA Connect and all other IWA social media platforms. Join specialist groups and the YWP groups and look out for opportunities to take initiatives. You should connect with other IWA members and seek their guidance in your career. You can collaborate with other members to jointly work on a research, write a blog post or organize a session. Lastly, join your IWA YWP country chapter to get involve in their activities. I invite you to join me and the IWA today on your water-wise journey!