SWS highlights 2024 Young Pros

May 14, 2024
This year's class of Young Pros discuss their career paths, goals and more.

Madeline Olivas 

OFFICIAL TITLE: Water Resources Engineer

COMPANY NAME: Bohannan Huston, Inc.

AGE: 28

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS AND EDUCATION? Education: B.S.E. Civil Engineering from Loyola Marymount University and M.S. from University of Notre Dame Professional Certifications: Licensed Professional Engineer and AutoCAD Civil 3D Certified Professional

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS? I have taught myself and applied several 2D modeling softwares for a range of successful projects. These projects have varied in size, from neighborhood level combined rain-on-grid/storm sewer modeling to 40 square mile watersheds. The applications have also included widely different complexities, from new construction of half-mile bridges to flood prevention for federal facilities. My successes and efficiencies on these projects have helped me develop client relationships that have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional projects to my team.

HOW DID YOU COME TO BE IN THE WATER INDUSTRY? 
Growing up in the arid Southwest, I have always had a respect and appreciation for 
water as a natural resource. My skills and interests during school were geared toward an aptitude for engineering. Both came together for a perfect fit in a career I love, working on local projects in a community I am passionate about.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? 
To bring innovative solutions to our local communities, making the best of emerging technologies to maximize efficiency and opportunities. I want to be an industry leader in pioneering sustainable solutions for the unique water problems our region faces.

WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE? 
I work with an amazing team of engineers who are rock stars at work, while having balanced and fulfilling family lives. I am in awe of the lives and careers they have built simultaneously, and I want to be just like them when I grow up.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF WORK? I love to be outside with my family and dog—going to the lake in the summer and snow skiing during the winter.

WHAT IS A FUN/SURPRISING FACT ABOUT YOU? My hometown is really small — it has 
four stoplights.

WHAT PIECE OF MEDIA (BOOKS, TV SHOWS, MOVIES, GAMES, PODCASTS, ETC.) HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOU IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS? 
As a company, we participate in a leadership development program (videos and books) that has been an invaluable tool for me in figuring out my own strengths and weaknesses to better serve my team.

ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY OUTSIDE OF WORK? IF SO, HOW? 
I am involved in every opportunity I can find to talk to students about engineering and the awesome work I get to do. Most recently I have spoken at a local high school career day and will be volunteering at a summer camp for high school students this June.

WHAT IS YOUR HIDDEN TALENT? 
I am a really good Google-r. If there is something up for debate in conversation or some new fact to know — straight to Google!

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED SO FAR? When you mess up, fess up. No mistake gets better with time and the same goes for recognizing an impending problem on a project.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING THE STORMWATER INDUSTRY AND HOW CAN WE WORK TO OVERCOME IT?
I think that regulations keeping pace with emerging technologies is a pressing problem that is potentially holding the industry back. Getting young professionals hands-on experience with these technologies and involved in the decision-making process would be a great first step towards overcoming potential hurdles.

Kirsten McFarlane 

OFFICIAL TITLE: Project Coordinator

COMPANY NAME: Greenland International Consulting Ltd.

AGE: 29

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS AND EDUCATION? Honours Bachelor of Science (HBSc).

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS? I was the sole data analyst for the SMART Stormwater Project in the Town of Collingwood. This project evaluated the performance of new smart stormwater technologies to find innovative ways to reduce flood risk to homeowners and the municipality and was the recipient of the Global Water Intelligence Smart Water Project of the Year award in 2021. I was also a key team member for the Innisfil Erosion Control and Advanced Sedimentation Pilot Project, which was nominated for the 2023 Water Canada Award’s Stormwater Project of the Year. Finally, since 2022, I have acted as Greenland’s Project Manager as part of a multi-firm collaborative team to implement attainable, affordable and workforce housing in Simcoe County, Ontario.

HOW DID YOU COME TO 
BE IN THE WATER INDUSTRY? I came out of school with a degree that focused on geology but was not sure on how I wanted to enter the workforce. I also had a passion for the environment (and 
some experience through school courses), so I applied to Greenland after becoming interested in the projects highlighted on their website. I was hired as an intern and after discovering that I enjoyed the work, and a positive response from my supervisor, I stayed on full-time when the internship ended.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? To help discover and implement innovative technologies and methods for stormwater management and flooding in Ontario.

WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE? My biology teacher in high school (shout-out to Mr. Jones) was the person who sparked my interest in the environment that led to choosing my university program and ultimately where I am today.. 

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF WORK?I love to read, do arts and crafts (knitting, woodburning, sketching etc.), and on weekends, I will try to go on a hike each day, weather permitting.

WHAT IS A FUN/SURPRISING FACT ABOUT YOU? I’m getting into solo backpacking — and loving it.

WHAT PIECE OF MEDIAN(BOOKS, TV SHOWS, MOVIES, GAMES, PODCASTS, ETC.) HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOU IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS? The documentary "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" I was late to the game on this one, but watching a documentary that demonstrates kindness and positivity is definitely comforting in a genre often focused on hardhitting stories.

ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY OUTSIDE OF WORK? IF SO, HOW? I am a member of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, which aims to preserve Niagara Escarpment lands while making them accessible for people in Ontario. I have also volunteered locally, including several years volunteering in a local classroom, assisting pre and post school day activities, and helping run the school’s Jump Rope for Heart events. I have taken a step back from volunteering recently, with hopes to start again in the next couple of years.

WHAT IS YOUR HIDDEN TALENT? Painting. I am no Picasso, but I enjoy painting and have some talent for it.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED SO FAR? Failure is inevitable. You are never going to get everything right all the time, what matters is how you respond when things go wrong and learning to not make the same mistakes twice.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING THE STORMWATER INDUSTRY AND HOW CAN WE WORK TO OVERCOME IT? Costs. The price of everything has rapidly gone up, making it difficult to fund the projects needed to maintain or improve infrastructure and keep people and property safe. In addition, due to aging infrastructure and climate change, the number of project repairs, rehabilitation, upgrades etc. are increasing. Unfortunately, there is not a simple solution. Trying to find cost-efficient methods for stormwater management, new funding sources (government grants, stormwater user fees, new developments etc.), and potential collaborations with other municipalities or developers can help.

Sha'kiya Morris 

OFFICIAL TITLE: Research and Database Coordinator

COMPANY NAME: Rainplan

AGE: 35

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS AND EDUCATION? Education: BA - Int’l Sustainability and Development, School of Sustainability and Global Futures at Arizona State University Certifications: Certified Green Roof and Sustainable Design (2022); Certified Junior Architect AIA (2022); Certified Life Coach (2021); Certification in Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (2022); Udemy Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS? Presidents List - Art Institute; Student Spotlight at Arizona State University School of Sustainability, School of Global Futures and Innovations; and served as a fellow with Johns Hopkins University and the Cities of Service for Love Your Block

HOW DID YOU COME TO BE IN THE WATER INDUSTRY? My journey into the water industry was less of a planned expedition and more of an unexpected dive into deep waters. Initially, my career path in sustainability felt much like a river finding its path. However, a serendipitous encounter with people who also want to catalyze change or at least build a foundation for that to emerge presented itself.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? Personal: To continue advocating for sustainable living practices personally and within the global community, emphasizing the importance of ecofriendly choices in everyday life. I aim to expand my knowledge and skills in sustainability, stormwater management, and urban development, ensuring I stay at the forefront of industry advancements and best practices. My goal is to successfully publish and promote my cookbook on sustainable and eco-friendly recipes, further combining my passions for sustainability, cooking, and writing. Professional: Contribute to developing and implementing innovative, sustainable stormwater management solutions that address the challenges posed by climate change and aging infrastructure. I plan to continue my professional development through further certifications and training, especially in emerging areas of sustainability, urban planning, and climate resilience.

WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE? Louise Harris Brown, Shirley Chisholm, and Michelle Obama

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF WORK? My hobbies outside of work are cooking, creating and innovating, trail walking, crafting with my littles, writing, and illustrating.

WHAT IS A FUN/SURPRISING FACT ABOUT YOU? I wrote, illustrated, edited and published two books from my Samsung Note.

WHAT PIECE OF MEDIA (BOOKS, TV SHOWS, MOVIES, GAMES, PODCASTS, ETC.) HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOU IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS? No media has profoundly impacted me in the last 12 months. I do not want to encourage the suppression of the truth and science, i.e., the media in America. (Cynical, I know.)

ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY OUTSIDE OF WORK? IF SO, HOW? I focus on empowering residents by equipping them with tools or information that can help enhance their lives and address ways to increase social, economic, educational, and health security.

WHAT IS YOUR HIDDEN TALENT?I am an excellent cook. I pour my heart and soul into every dish I make, and you can taste the passion in every bite. I am excited to announce that I’ll release a cookbook mid-summer this year. It will include recipes that promote sustainability and eco-friendliness around the house. Additionally, I believe in the power of food to inspire change and bring people together in harmony.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED SO FAR? 
Many cities in the United States face challenges in coordinating outreach programs that effectively engage their citizens while providing incentives and building trust. It can be difficult for people interested in learning more but who do not need help knowing where to look for information.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING THE STORMWATER INDUSTRY AND HOW CAN WE WORK TO OVERCOME IT? The stormwater industry faces a significant challenge posed by aging infrastructure and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events resulting from climate change. Many of our existing stormwater systems were designed for the climate of the past and need help to handle the intensified runoff volumes and pollution loads brought on by heavier rainfall and more severe storms. This aggravates the risk of flooding and poses significant threats to the future of water quality and public health.

Teanna Thompson 

OFFICIAL TITLE: TPW Sr. Capital Projects Officer

COMPANY NAME: City of Fort Worth

AGE: 36

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS AND EDUCATION? PMP, AMC, Masters in IT, MPA (graduate in May 2024), Six sigma green belt

WHAT ARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS? Emerging Leaderse of North Texas graduate; ICMA Leadership Academy graduate; John Roake Young Leader Award; local government 2030 delegate.

HOW DID YOU COME TO BE IN THE WATER INDUSTRY? I have a background in construction, and it translated well to the channel maintenance sector.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? My career goal is to become an assistant city manager. I want to be able to make changes on a larger scale. I want to ensure resources are being used equitably and create an environment where the citizens have trust in all departments. My personal goal is to be the best mom and wife and fulfill the purpose that the universe has set for me.

WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE? My son. He has a blood disorder, and he shows us every day what the definition of tenacity is.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF WORK? I love spending time with my family and taking trips by plane or road trips.

WHAT IS A FUN/SURPRISING FACT ABOUT YOU? I am an undercover chef! Everyone tells me I need to open a restaurant. I love to cook.

WHAT PIECE OF MEDIA (BOOKS, TV SHOWS, MOVIES, GAMES, PODCASTS, ETC.) HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOU IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS? The book that has the most impact is "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It is a classic self-help book with timeless advice on improving interpersonal relationships and communication skills.

ARE YOU INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY OUTSIDE OF WORK? IF SO, HOW? Yes, I own a non-profit called Sisters Worth an Abundance of Growth. It is still in the early stages; however, I dream of providing a sanctuary for displaced women in Fort Worth, Texas. This place will be where they can sleep, learn and build skills to be on their own.

WHAT IS YOUR HIDDEN TALENT?I’m a huge DIY’er and have built patios and hanging barn doors, to name a few.

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED SO FAR? Kindness and respect take you far; you can have the knowledge, but it can hinder your career if you lack interpersonal skills.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING THE STORMWATER INDUSTRY AND HOW CAN WE WORK TO OVERCOME IT? One of the most pressing issues facing the stormwater industry, particularly, is limited funds and high turnover rates due to low pay. Maintaining a skilled and motivated workforce to address the complex challenges of stormwater management is very challenging.

About the Author

Katie Johns

Katie Johns, editor-in-chief of Storm Water Solutions and Water Quality Products, graduated from the University of Missouri in 2016 with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. Johns joined the Storm Water Solutions team in September 2019. Johns also helps plan the annual StormCon conference and co-hosts the Talking Under Water podcast. Prior to entering the B2B industry, she worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in Sarasota, Florida, and a magazine assistant editor in the Chicago suburbs. She can be reached at [email protected].