Can Attending Water Conferences Help my Career?
By Mike Henley
Conferencing. Those active in the water business know that one could literally have a packed suitcase and spend weeks traveling the United States and the world, to attend conferences throughout the year. But, are all conferences worth the time and expense?
The simple answer is “it depends”. But, hedging avoids a direct response to the question. So, in an attempt to bring clarity, here are some queries to determine the value of attending events and training.
- Will there be an opportunity for networking and adding to useful work-related contacts?
- Are important water-related experts involved in the program?
- Does the technical program offer fresh, practical topics that relate to the water treatment in your facility? Or, is it simply a rehash of earlier presentations?
- More specifically: Does the technical program apply to my niche in water treatment?
- Is the program and associated content designed so that it emphasizes gaining new technical knowledge, or is it merely a series of “infomercials” given under the pretext of being “technical presentations”?
- On the exhibition side: Will there be exhibitors of treatment technologies and services that are useful to learn about?
- Bottom line: Does this conference offer the opportunity to expand and grow in my water treatment knowledge, and will this benefit my work as well as my coworkers and company?
If the answers to these questions are “yes” or nearly all “yes”, then the event is worth considering, and then the decision merely focuses around other pragmatic matters such as travel/lodging funds, travel time away from regular duties for conference attendance, and your employer’s support for the value of attending outside, but work-related events.
Speaking personally, there can be great value from attending a conference that is difficult to replicate by attending a “virtual” meeting, listening to recordings or viewing old Power Point slides that can easily be found on websites. But none are the same as the opportunity to meet a voice over the phone face-to-face for the first time, or to shake the hand of a stranger and look them in the eye as you exchange business cards. Nor do these alternatives compare to sitting in an audience while listening to a world-class water expert patiently explain about how urea in a local water supply can impact microchip production, or how a coming change in USP standards will soon impact your life science plant’s existing treatment system. And, there is that special feeling of developing on-going friendships with those you meet while attending different conferences.
The point? Over time, attending conferences can offer a valuable supplementary education in water treatment, knit you into the wider water treatment community, and ultimately contribute to the foundation for a successful career this field.
As one evaluates potential conferences to attend, there are many options. A small sampling of those to consider include the Membrane Technology Conference (sponsored by AMTA/AWWA), the Cooling Technology Institute, the WEFTEC (Water Environment Federation), Water Quality Association, Association of Water Technologies, Electric Power Research Institute, WateReuse Association, the Electric Utility Chemistry Workshop, Singapore International Water Week, the International Desalination Association, and the International Water Conference. Additionally, there are other events to consider for those wanting to develop a broader knowledge about a particular industry. Examples include events sponsored by SEMI, the Parenteral Drug Association, the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers, and the Surface Preparation and Cleaning Conference, among many others.
For our part, Media Analytics is very active in offering quality conferences. One example is the annual Global Water Summit later this month (April 24-25 in Madrid, Spain). We also will be conducting the yearly American Water Summit Nov. 29-30 in Austin, TX, and the annual Produced Water Society conference planned for next January in Houston.
Our yearly UPW Micro and UPW Pharma conferences will be co-located May 31-June 1 in Portland, OR. For those active in microelectronics or pharmaceutical/life sciences water treatment, these two events are wonderful ways to learn about the state of water treatment for these important industry segments.
This will be the 20th UPW Micro conference. This year’s event will offer an ambitious program, kicking off with a pre-conference Learning Series Workshop on May 30. Examples of topics to be addressed in the workshop include operation and troubleshooting for UPW and water management systems, RO operations, ion-exchange resins, UPW distribution system design, and pipe inspection.
On May 31 and June 1, the conference will feature two technical strands—one focused on UPW and a second on water and wastewater management issues. A few examples of technical presentation areas include particle measurement and removal, hydrogen peroxide monitoring and removal, UPW utility planning, TOC characterization, biological fouling, water reclaim, and UPW system optimization.
UPW Micro will also offer its popular Roundtables session as a part of the program. Roundtables are hosted by industry experts and offer the chance to network, to learn more about a particular topic, and to ask questions and engage in a conversation with others about that issue. Plans are for each Roundtable host to lead three 30-minutes discussion groups. Here is a sampling of some confirmed topics for the 2017 UPW Micro Roundtables:
- UPW costs— operating costs, maintenance, staffing, and prevention versus repair
- Organics control— how to control an already very small number? What should I focus on for treatment?
- Implications of SEMI standards to the UPW system design and operations
- What to do about particle measurement
- Water reuse/reclaim: past, present, and future
- Water and wastewater analysis: What’s new and today’s challenges?
This year’s conference will offer technical presentations on May 31 and June 1. Below is an overview for each day:
Day 1, May 31 session:
- Part 1: Pharmaceutical Water Learning Series. Topics will include water sampling, validation, and forward-looking GMPs.
- New Technologies and Case Studies
- Enduser Perspectives
Day 2, June 1 session:
- Part 2: Pharma Water Learning Series. This portion will feature an extended presentation that will provide an overview on an April 2017 update to the European Pharmacopeia that now permits the use of membranes for producing of Water for Injection. The session will also examine the merits of distillation versus membrane technologies for making WFI.
In addition to the separate conference programs, UPW Micro and UPW Pharma will offer a common exhibits area as well as shared breaks and meals. More information about each conference can be found at www.ultrapurewatermicro.com (UPW Micro) and www.ultrapurewaterpharma.com (UPW Pharma).
So, to answer our opening question, yes, conferences do offer value and can contribute to a successful career in the water business—either by enhancing one’s existing knowledge, or by introducing you to someone who can become a mentor, or potentially a contact who can direct you to a career-advancing job opportunity.
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