Becoming a Resource

March 10, 2022
Recognizing the importance of team work, listening & mentoring

In honor of Women's History Month, which takes place during the month of March, SWS spoke with Janette Wolf, a senior project manager with CEC Inc. about her career path, the biggest lessons she has learned and more.

Katie Johns: Tell me about your career path.

Janette Wolf: I graduated from college in 2006 from Virginia Tech and started with CEC Civil and Environmental Consultants right after graduation, and I've been at CEC ever since. I really liked being outside in school and that kind of developed when I was really at college. I always had an appreciation for the outdoors anyway, but when I first went to school at Tech, I thought I wanted to be a chemical engineer. I realized after the first semester that I wanted to do something a little different, and I went to an intro on biological systems engineering and thought "yeah, I like this. I want to do something that I can see and have a practical application," and I liked working around water. So, essentially the position opened up with CEC, and I started there, and I've been there ever since.

KJ: Can you tell me about your role now?

JW: I'm a senior project manager here in Nashville. I'm also the Nashville public sector lead. I work both in the public and the private sector. My role is basically to help my clients out however they need from an environmental standpoint. I'm a permit compliance specialist, so anything to do with environmental regulations, permitting, and then implementation of those permits in the field and ensuring compliance with those permits in the field is really my specialty.  I wanted to be more of a resource. I wanted to know more. I wanted to learn more about the permits and get more exposure to variety of projects, and so much so, that now I'm one of the trainers here in the state of Tennessee for the construction inspectors, which I really enjoy doing because I get to meet a variety of different people from a variety of different fields and applications of permits.

KJ: How important has mentorship been to your career?

JW: I really appreciate the support that I've had from CEC, particularly at the national office. I've had multiple mentors while I've been at CEC, and several of them are still there. They've been very supportive and very helpful and encouraging of "Hey, you need to figure out what you like to do" or, "Hey, you're good at this. You should really try to roll with that." They're very supportive in growing your career in a direction that you want it to go. I think when you do that, you're happy going to your job every day. I've had very good mentors at CEC, and so I do appreciate that younger staff can benefit from that because I did.  I think having the longevity of being at a company for 15 years, I've seen the tricks of the trade and have been around and been through every process, and I just try to be supportive of younger staff as they're working through some of those growing pains and try to offer them the same support that I was offered when I was in their situation. I still have mentors now that I rely on. I'm 15 years in, but I'm still growing.

KJ: What have been some of the biggest lessons you've learned during your career?

JW: I think one of the ones that I have learned and would like to put into practice more often is to be a good listener, both from a consulting standpoint and from a professional standpoint. Some of this came out of some training that was provided to us at CEC —  if you're there and you're listening, people are going tell you what their problems are. They're going to tell you what's going on from a consultant standpoint. But in general, even from a non-consulting standpoint, in a professional manner, it's not always good to be the first one to talk, and I struggle with that personally because I have lots of opinions, and I like to participate and be present, but I know that something that I need to practice harder is listening. There's a lot for me to still learn. There's a lot for all of us to learn. None of us are experts at everything. Everyone comes with something different to offer. The other thing that I have found valuable in my career is to find people you work well together with and foster those relationships because it can make or break your career. If you're happy going to work with the people you're working with, it's going to feel like a community versus a chore, and finding those people who complement you and you complement them, finding people with strengths where you're weak and offering your strengths where they're weak, you can really start forming very strong partnerships.

KJ: Anything you want to add that we didn't talk about?

JW: I would just encourage any women in engineering to be confident in their position in this field and be confident in what they're doing and reach out for support [and to] any mentors as they need to.

*Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

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].