Women in Wastewater: Meet Karla Amezcua, Lab Analyst II

Kate Gibbs, West County Wastewater, Members in the News, Women in Water

Karla Amezcua, West County Wastewater

Since 2019, Karla Amezcua has worked in West County Wastewater’s (WCW) Laboratory as a Lab Analyst. Today, three and half years later, she tested and was promoted to a Lab Analyst II position.

When Karla grew up in Jalisco, Mexico, she wanted to change the world. From an early age, Karla cared about the Earth and the environment. Karla pursued her education in Environmental Engineering. In Mexico, the students are also asked to contribute to the community through service, a non-paying job like an unpaid internship. Karla performed her service in a Wastewater facility in Mexico, which was her first experience in the wastewater industry. She loved what she learned and wanted to learn more.

When Karla moved to the United States, she was amazed at how beautiful the country was and encouraged to see how well cared for it was. She landed in Napa, California, where she still lives, hoping to find a wastewater industry job. But first, she needed to master the English language. Karla worked hard to learn English and studied at Napa Community College while working at jobs in the wine industry. When she felt her English was good enough, she knocked on the door of the Vallejo Flood and Wastewater District. She lucked out by speaking to a staff member who was about to take her maternity leave.

During her nine-month temporary job in Vallejo, Karla was encouraged to see so many women working in the wastewater field- women in important positions and leadership roles. Her temporary position ended, but Karla had worked hard, learned a lot, and made good connections. Thanks to the suggestion of the Vallejo staff, Karla heard about a position becoming available at WCW.

In April 2019, Karla applied and interviewed for a temporary lab position here at WCW, and by July of that same year, Karla had become a full-time employee. By June 2021, she earned her Lab Analyst II certificate and is currently studying for her III level.

Karla speaks passionately about the laboratory’s work and the important role wastewater has in helping our community and our environment. She represents science and is rightly proud to be doing her part.

Karla sees the Lab as the “eyes of the plant” because the samples and test results of the wastewater gauge the plant’s health. As a Lab Analyst, Karla collects samples, runs many tests, analyzes the test results, prepares paperwork, ensures her work aligns with Standard Operating Procedures, keeps logs, tracks inventory, and ensures compliance.

Karla has thrived in her position and gives much credit to the leadership she has from WCW’s Lab Manager, Geraldine Gonzales, and the support she has from both Geraldine and fellow Lab Analyst II, Sam Kasten.

“The lab team gives back and makes you feel supported,” Karla says of her colleagues.

When asked what advice she might give to young women just starting out in a male-dominated industry like wastewater, Karla says, “stay focused and forget about the roles our society has put in place.” She believes we’re experiencing a shift away from labels society has created about what jobs or careers men and women should have. Karla has seen this shift at WCW. She has an amazing Laboratory Manager supporting her and a woman General Manager at the helm of WCW. Karla believes that as younger women see other women in leadership roles, the more likely they’ll believe they can lead, too.

WCW Lab Manager, Geraldine Gonzales, had this to say about Karla: “Karla has a combination of talent, skill, and a good attitude, which makes her a terrific addition to the division and the entire WCW organization.”

Karla has experience working in Mexico and the United States and says she’s seen more women moving into leadership positions than in the past. She says, “It’s happening more now- if they can do it, I may be able to do it.” In both Vallejo and at WCW, having women in leadership roles makes Karla feel more comfortable and encouraged.

Growing up in Mexico, Karla’s mother and father supported Karla and her two siblings. Karla’s mother was and is a very supportive force in her life. She taught and encouraged Karla to always be prepared, study, and get all the tools she needed to succeed independently.

Her experiences and challenges over the years have taught Karla to believe that one can eventually find their path if they keep dreaming! “Keep moving,” she says, “do the things you need to get what you want.” The key is to be consistent and disciplined.

“Do the things and work hard- you must make an effort,” Karla says. “just like Dory says, “just keep swimming”; sooner or later, you’ll find your path.”