Intern Claudia A. Alvarez is responsible for starting-up and monitoring the educational displays inside the Albert Robles Center in Pico Rivera. (WRD photo)

Student Success Story: One Water Career Journey

By Alec Mackie, CWEA Director of Communications and Marketing, Career Stories, Members in the News, Women in Water

In 2020, Whittier College graduate Claudia A. Alvarez attended one of the WRD and West Basin career webinars and became interested in our sector. Claudia recently graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a  Master’s in Geographic Information Science. Now a proud member of the CWEA, she answered some questions for us:

How did you get the internship?
I attended a WRD and West Basin WRD career panel discussion which featured a GIS analyst, an area I was interested in and wanted to learn more about. After the webinar, the GIS career path sounded interesting, so I emailed WRD and learned there was an internship in external affairs. I’ve never had an in-person internship, so it has been so exciting learning new things every day.

What interests you about water?
My interest has always been in sustainability, to be honest I didn’t know which direction I wanted to take when I was at Whittier College. Water is not something I thought you could have a career in because I didn’t know much about it.

What are your duties as an intern?
I mainly work at the Albert Robles Center, opening the  center, checking the educational displays and keeping a daily log. I help create educational materials such as groundwater kits and design external affairs educational worksheets. I also help external affairs by building StoryMaps using the ArcGIS StoryMaps software. I build stories about groundwater and the resources WRD has for teachers. We create interactive maps with different tabs to help teachers navigate our resources, such as learning more about a topic or ordering the educational tools that WRD offers.

What do you enjoy about working at WRD?
I didn’t know anything about groundwater, it’s been wonderful working here and expanding my knowledge. I wish I had this experience in high school, and it’s nice to know students have the option now of visiting the Albert Robles Center and learning more about water. I also enjoyed the work environment and how everyone I have interacted with has been welcoming.

What do you recommend we do to promote water careers?
I think raising the profile of water is important and that tours are a good start. As a student, when I went on a tour of a water resource recovery facility in Whitter, it made an impact on me. They told us a story about the treatment process. This is the water we’re using and the water going back into the environment. It’s a story that makes water a more human experience.

I’d also suggest highlighting the variability of water jobs. There are so many aspects to water and opportunities that I didn’t know about until I got here. Internships are a good way to see if this is the right place for you.

I also think LinkedIn is a good resource. If I was interested in a field, I would look through people’s profiles and their education and background to see what it takes to get your foot in the door. I would recommend reaching out to people to ask them questions. Not everyone responds, but the ones who did are happy to answer questions and some would even forward me job openings and other opportunities.

Educational tours, sharing water stories to make it a more human experience and encouraging students to ask questions – great ways to promote water careers and build that next gen pipeline of talent. Have an idea for career outreach? Let us know at [email protected].