Jennifer Santini, Alumni

Name: Jennifer Santini
Year of Graduation: 2012
Option Track: Water
Current Job/Company: Engineer at the American Water Works Association; the largest nonprofit, scientific and educational association dedicated to managing and treating water, the world’s most important resource!
Past Job/Company: After graduation from CU, I became a Water Quality Investigator at Denver Water where I got real world experience in drinking water treatment and distribution systems. Later I moved on to become a field engineer at the City of Longmont working with drinking water and waste water treatment plants.

How did your time at CU (and specifically in EVEN) set you apart? How has it helped you succeed?
My time at CU really taught me how to become a self-learner. You’re never going to have all the answers, or know everything on your first try. My EVEN degree taught me how to seek out the answers that I don’t already have. This has been a major key to my success.

How quickly did you find a job after graduation? Do you have any tips or advice on the job search for seniors?
I was pretty lucky to have my position with Denver Water set up before graduation. The job search can be tough, but what makes it 1000x harder is trying to find a job when you aren’t really sure what you want to do. If you are unsure what really inspires you, you are better off spending time picking up non-paying internships to test out different opportunities and figure out where your passion truly is. Career Services was a huge help to me; they were able to point me in the direction of resources for my job search (new search engines, key words, company lists, etc.).  Additionally, career services provided me with practice sessions for interviewing, lists of common questions to prepare answers, and tips & tricks on preparing beforehand!

What do you do at the American Water Works Association?
Being an engineer with AWWA has a lot of responsibilities, my day-to-day is always different! I develop research reports for publication on relevant issues related to technical, managerial, and financial aspects of the water industry. Additionally, I review manuals of practice, handbooks, reports, and other products for technical accuracy and completeness, and assist with technical program selection for logistics for conferences and events. My favorite part of the job is working with leaders in the water and wastewater industry that sit on our various committees and divisions specializing in different areas such as asset management and water loss control.

You have experience in lab, field, and design work. What do you like about each of these? Is there a common thread through them all?
Here’s the breakdown:
Lab work can be great if you’re the right person for the job. It is the scientific method in action! Being fulfilled can occur when you believe in the importance of the project outcome – you enjoy the challenge because the results help to understand air quality issues, or water resource problems, etc. For me personally, I just found it to be repetitive, everything isn’t for everyone!   
Field work. What can I say – it’s great! At first I had reservations about being outside no matter the condition; heat, rain, snow, wind. I loved it though! Being able to work outside is really healthy for your overall quality of life because it keeps you rooted with the outdoors. Field work is where you learn how something really works. As engineers, we have the best intentions for how we design something; field work is where you learn the operation and maintenance which can unveil some design flaws. It’s the pinnacle of discovery to me!
Finally design work is what I imagined all engineers did when I was in college; working with others, listening to problems, and finding solutions. The common thread here is that engineering isn’t one certain skill, environmental engineering opens doors to all kinds of jobs and opportunities. Don’t limit yourself to what you perceive engineering to be, it’s not just math, it can be anything you make it!

Jennifer Santini, AlumniYou have interest in working with developing communities. What do you want to do for them? Have you had any previous international experiences?
When I graduated high school, I had saved up in order to travel to Uganda where I taught math and science to primary school children. I knew I wanted to be involved with water even in high school after participating in a STEMs workshop that was organized by CU at my local high school. While in Uganda, I was happy to teach math and science, but I really wanted to be contributing to improving the water and sanitation situation in the country. I realized that to make a difference I needed an engineering degree. Since then, I still have dreams of having enough experience to become a deployable engineer that does project management work for large scale water and sanitation infrastructure projects funded by the World Health Organization or the World Bank in developing countries. My long term career goal is to work for the United Nations Development Programme, but I have a long way to go experience wise.

Did you participate in any research, academic, and/or extracurricular activity that really supplemented your degree or helped you to succeed?
This is a question that really resonates with me. I had a lot of peers in college that got to do a lot outside of class; clubs, internships, sports, study abroad, etc... For me; I could barely keep up with my course load, and I had to work part-time in order to get me through school. Some students get discouraged that they might not be competitive enough when they compare themselves against their peers. Do I have the best grades? How many internships have I had? Do I have enough extracurriculars? I found myself down about this a lot. Even though I didn’t have any internships, I was able to work part time in a research lab (INSTAAR) where I determined the major solutes, nutrients and isotopes in snow and water samples. I got that job through CU’s employment services work study program designed to help students in my type of situation. So really, what I’m trying to say here is that it’s nice to have supplemental activities, but don’t get discouraged if you’re feeling like you’re not as active as your peers.

Do you wish to share your contact info for students or graduates looking to network?
Absolutely! It’s a small world out there when it comes down to it – please feel free to email me at jennifer.n.santini@gmail.com and find me on LinkedIn! 

March 23rd, 2015