Recently there have been many changes to the Board and Regional Representatives team of YWPDK. Therefore, we would like to thank the members who have been leading the network in the previous years. In this series of interviews, we will focus on the people who have been fundamental in bringing the network to what we know today.
In this edition we present Nadia Kirstein, who has been central to drive the network. While she was a Board Member, Nadia worked on strengthening and growing YWPDK by establishing and maintain partnerships both in Denmark and internationally.
“I feel that the network and I became adults together. During the time where I was active in the network, I think we both became much more professional. “
What motivated you to join the YWPDK network? And when did you join the network?
Back in 2018, I was contacted by the chair of YWPDK and asked if I wanted to run for the board. I was a PhD student at the time, and they would like to have someone representing academia. I was a little bit in doubt if I could manage both, but it sounded really interesting, and I ended up saying yes. I soon found out that I really enjoyed the tasks, and it wasn’t a problem for me to prioritize the time.
What was your role and how you “grow” during the past years within the organization?
In the beginning, I was secretary in the board and in this role I for example initiated the monthly newsletter that is still being send out to our members. Back then, there were no regional groups – only regional representatives. Once we established the regional groups, I became member engagement officer. Here, I had the role of supporting and facilitating knowledge sharing across the groups. I was also the YWP representative in the Danish steering committee for the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition in Copenhagen in 2022. Here, I was responsible for planting some of the seeds for the YWP activities that took place at the conference. Besides that, I’ve also planned a bunch of YWPDK events over the years, helped initiate the Next Generation Water Action events with DTU Skylab and facilitated the very first YWPDK award. Finally, I ended my YWPDK career as chair in the first half of 2022 until I went on maternity leave. Here, I handed over the torch to Nerea, who’s the current chair.
I feel that the network and I became adults together. During the time where I was active in the network, I think we both became much more professional. Reflecting about the question, I can also see that I cherished my own personal development and being given the opportunity to learn how to run a network, motivate people, facilitate workshops etc. in the beginning of my time in the board. Towards the end of my YWPDK career, the motivation had shifted, and I was increasingly enjoying the opportunity to support other young water professionals to grow and voice their opinion, for example through the Next Generation Water Action initiative where the participating YWPs reported how the event had helped put youth and water on the agenda in their home countries – that made me extremely proud.
Which challenges did you face while working at the network?
I think the main challenge is that there is still a large responsibility resting on very few peoples’ shoulders – and these people mainly spend their voluntary time on the network. I would wish that more people would see the benefit of being just slightly more involved and contribute to e.g. event planning – both for the sake of their own development and of the network. This, however, I believe also requires that more employers acknowledge that it is valuable that their young professionals engage in YWPDK. Personally, I’ve been fortunate that my employers (DTU and Envidan) have supported my involvement throughout the years, otherwise it would have been impossible for me to engage as much as I did, since some events and tasks takes place during working hours.
How has your professional life changed being a member of the network?
I think it is impossible to capture in brief how much I have learned from being part of the network, and especially of the board. I think the greatest gift of the network is that it is one big playground where only the imagination determines what is possible and what can be learned. I’ve been allowed to go to events and presentations where I’ve really had my horizon broadened, giving me a much wider understanding of our sector. I have also learned to make strategies and facilitate workshops, I’m much more confident in speaking in public, better at idea generation, have learned a lot about communication, and have gained a huge network – just to mention a few. All these are things that I can apply directly in my daily job. To have obtained all these skills outside YWPDK would have been almost impossible.
I would here also like to take the opportunity to thank the people I’ve served with on the board for sharing your knowledge with me. I’m happy and lucky to call many of you my friends.
“I think it is impossible to capture in brief how much I have learned from being part of the network, and especially of the board. “
“There is so much to be learned from going to YWP events in the different regions…”
Will you recommend joining the YWPDK to other people? Why?
Yes, of course. There is so much to be learned from going to YWP events in the different regions, and the annual YWPDK conference is filled with cool presentations, soft skills training (something I think “senior” conferences could learn from) and time to get to know your future customers, colleagues, collaborators or simply new friends. And if you choose to be more active, then only your own willingness to contribute limits what you can gain!
One particular memory from the network?
There are many amazing memories, so I will just highlight a single. In 2019, YWPDK was invited to give a keynote speech at the Malaysia International Water Convention in Kuala Lumpur about the role of YWPs. I was given the opportunity to represent YWPDK and ended up drawing the entire presentation by hand – a skill I had acquired at the previous YWPDK conference where we had a soft skill session about graphical facilitation. I also chaired a session at the conference and met with Malaysian YWPs who wanted to form a YWP chapter of their own. Such a great and inspiring trip!
What are your future plans within the Danish water sector?
I am very interested in the intersection of humans and digital solutions. I like to develop new methods and tools but at the same time I am very curious about communication and people. I work for Envidan as an industrial postdoc where I research how we can make control of urban drainage systems more used in the Danish water sector. In the near future, my plan is to help Danish water utilities applying digital tools to improve their planning and operation, always with a focus on that these solutions have to be applied by people. In the long run, who knows?
How do you envision the future activities and the progression of the role of YWPDK nationally and internationally?
I am sure that YWPDK will always be a relevant voice in the water sector – youth has so much to offer if they are just invited to the table. The network is in the hands of very capable young professionals, so I’m sure that it will continue to develop. The next big event that YWPDK is planning is the European YWP conference that will take place in Copenhagen in 2024 – I’m sure the YWPs that attend will have a blast and leave the conference with their backpacks filled with new friends and inspiration!