Women in Water: Alondra Soto, Long Beach Water Department 

Members in the News, Wastewater Life, Women in Water
Alondra Soto Name: Alondra Soto 
Title: Water Utility Mechanic 2
Tenure and certifications held: 2 years and 2 months. 
Distribution 2, CWEA 1 and scheduled to take my CWEA 2 on October 2! 

Name of agency: Long Beach Water Department 

What is your role?

I work in the sewer division of the Long Beach water department. My duties include televising, cleaning, maintaining, and replacing or repairing sewer lines.

What / who inspired you to work in water?

I had a friend who saw how unhappy I was at my old job and he told me that they had an entry level position open in the water department where he worked. He said I would be perfect for the job but I was hesitant at first because I had literally no experience in this field. He informed me that they had an “academy” where those chosen would receive paid training so I ended up applying and two years later here I am!

What fuels your passion for your work?

Personally I always feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when we are able to fix a broken pipe or help out a consumer who hasn’t been draining. Everyone needs their water to drain so we are always met with open arms and gratitude which I don’t think is something most people receive on an every day basis.

Does the water profession welcome and support women? What was your experience?

Although I am one of the two women in my department I have to say that I have always felt welcomed and supported. I think at first some of the guys may have felt intimidated or awkward when we first came in but that’s all gone now and we get along just fine. Everyone has always been patient and willing to teach me what I need to know. Of course there’s always going to be a lot of joking around and making fun of each other but that’s just part of the job and it’s never malicious or gender oriented. You have to be able to dish it and take it !

How many years before we get to 50/50 women and men?

Unfortunately for my division I never see that happening. It’s not because the opportunities aren’t there, it’s just that women don’t see working in sewer as a super glamorous job. It is also physically demanding and you have to get down in the dirt and that’s not appealing to most women. The majority of my girl friends work in make up or restaurant industries and, I hate to say it, but they wouldn’t make the cut if it was up to me. However, for the girls who don’t mind getting their hands dirty I think the department would be more than willing to give them a try! It’s just hard to get them to apply and I know I would have never applied if my friend hadn’t talked me into it.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The opportunity to move up and get promoted based on merit is a huge incentive for me. Also being able to save the day for a consumer by fixing a broken pipe or clearing a line for them is always rewarding. It can wreak havoc and cost a lot of money so when we come in and fix the issue for them they are always so thankful. People can be so kind, they offer us water bottles and sodas all the time, and once a lady even came outside with a giant pot of soup and cooked dinner for our entire crew! I know it might sound dumb because it’s such a small gesture but it really makes the hard shifts worth it when something like that happens.