Empowering Pumps has recently invited industrial professionals to nominate one another to be featured as a Pump Person of the Week! Nominated by Artun Ereren, this week’s industry professional is Steve Hernandez, Water Services Manager for the City of Watsonville in California and Director of the Monterrey Bay Waterworks Association. Hernandez, who has been working in the water sector for the past 18 years, is using social media to help other water operators working across the United States.
Q: What motivated you to start @WaterWisePro? How did you get started in the pump industry?
Steve: I grew up in Vegas, and when I was 18, I began working part-time for the Las Vegas Valley Water District as a summer hire. They had a summer program for teenagers, and I started out reading water meters. After that, I moved to Southern California for my first, full-time job working with the City of Pomona. Then I moved onto another water district, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, and I worked to get my certificates in water distribution and water treatment. I eventually worked my way up to management with the city of Watsonville on the Central Coast. That’s when I started a social media page (@WaterWisePro) to help other water operators in California prepare for their state exams.
I get a lot of positive feedback; people ask questions about the industry, best practices, how to do certain things, and this online community chimes in! We have a lot of smart people in the world, so why not use them to help educate everyone else?! Twitter and Instagram are not just for 16 year-olds! They are great platforms for communicating with people across large, physically expansive communities, and really allow me to shine a light on the industry and all the hard work people put into it. There’s so much we can learn from one another! Social media is really underutilized in the workplace, but I see it growing within our field.
Social media not only enables me to teach water operators, but also gives me the opportunity to continuously learn more about the industry as well. I might ask a question about a standard or a practice out in the industry, and I get tons of feedback! @WaterWisePro helps me in my current position because I can ‘poll’ the online community, do a quick survey on what’s happening in the field, and I can apply that feedback to an issue we may be dealing with at work. Plus, we have so much fun! On Wednesdays, people submit a ‘Wet Wednesday’ Picture, where people send in pictures of themselves out in the field getting dirty or working with equipment, or just something cool that the public just doesn’t get to see in general. I also post math questions with a follow-up video on how to work out the math problem, or just post quick write-ups on relevant topics. I often say, if you have a question, let’s talk about it. I’d say about a third of the people that follow @WaterWisePro, I’ve talked to them personally on the phone, because social media connection often leads to creating meaningful relationships with folks.
Q: How did you get started teaching preparatory classes for water operators?
Steve: I started getting requests for prep classes through Twitter and Instagram, so I’ve been teaching prep classes throughout California for the past year or so. I work with municipalities and water districts to host classes for water distribution and water treatment operators to prepare them for the California State Water Resource Control Board’s Distribution and Treatment Exams. This is all while serving as the Water Services Manager for the City of Watsonville, so I don’t go on vacations! My vacation days are usually spent teaching these classes across the state of California, but it’s important because once a water operator gets certified in the state, they have to keep their licenses valid through continuing education. So my classes also provide contact hours for keeping water operators’ licenses renewed. Plus, it’s really satisfying to hear “I’ve been following you on Instagram, and I’m taking one of your classes!” So far in 2017 alone, I’ve taught over 350 operators in California! It is so much fun, and I really enjoy meeting other water professionals.
Q: What would be your advice to anyone new to the pump industry?
Steve: I think the biggest thing is to constantly try to network within the industry. You’ve got to apply yourself and just try to be active within your area – whether it be through local water chapters or at your community college, if they have water programs. If you’re really trying to make a positive impact, you have to be an active participant. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, always have the desire to learn more, and just participate! I participate in my local Monterey Bay Waterworks Association, and we put on a vendor show each year and training events for water and wastewater operators in the Monterrey Bay area in Central Coast California. I’m just trying to make a positive impact in our industry, but to have an impact, you have to be involved. You’ll never make anything happen if you’re not putting action into place.
Steve, you are awesome and we appreciate your contributions to the industry! We look forward to following you at @WaterWisePro!
Know an Amazing Person who is making valuable contributions within the Pump Industry? Nominate them to be “Pump Person of the Week”!