At CH2M HILL, our staff work on challenging, world-shaping projects across the world. One employee, Sejla Alimanovic, shares her experience working on a rewarding project with Melbourne Water in Australia. She explains how networking within the water industry led her to new career growth opportunities.

By: Sejla Alimanovic, CH2M HILL water engineer

CH2M HILL values developing people through challenging projects. As a young professional in the firm, career development is important, and one of the advantages of working for CH2M HILL is the firm’s commitment to growing its people by providing rewarding opportunities to work on cool projects.

From the first day I joined the Water team in Melbourne, Australia, I have been working on building my network—both with my manager and co-workers, as well as with industry organizations and even clients. I learned early that part of professional development is taking ownership of your career and looking for opportunities to leverage your network and open doors to new opportunities—like working on a client project to gain the skills you need to advance.

In 2012, as I was thinking about my career specialization, an opportunity arose for me to work with one of the local Australian clients—Melbourne Water. Leveraging contacts I made through the Australian Water Association (AWA), I was given an opportunity to do project work with the Integrated Water Strategy team at Melbourne Water. This opportunity turned out to be a perfect chance for me to work on something I was passionate about—local water projects with an environmental focus.

I spent approximately 18 months working at Melbourne Water. I was involved in work largely focused around integrated water cycle management (IWCM) –an opportunity which brings together all aspects of the water cycle to maximize the social, environmental, and economic outcomes within specific project contexts, and more broadly.

One of the projects I was assigned to help with involved developing an alternative strategy for managing excess stormwater in an urban development. When the land was cleared, the ground became saturated and was water logged. In order to minimize the impact stormwater would have on downstream land owners, my task was to coordinate Melbourne Water’s responses to the land development plan and identify solutions to help with stormwater management. I coordinated two brainstorming sessions with relevant stakeholders to identify possible solutions, which was a good learning opportunity for me.

In addition, I was heavily involved in coordinating part of an Internal Engagement Plan to raise awareness about IWCM within Melbourne Water. I was responsible for organizing industry talks (from external and internal IWCM projects) to showcasing successful stories around IWCM and identifying lessons learned. One of the items I was most proud to facilitate was the development of a comic strip that was included in the utility’s weekly newsletter.

Working directly for the client gave me exposure to people across the industry and taught me valuable lessons in project management. This opportunity was only possible because CH2M HILL (and Melbourne Water) was supportive, flexible, and receptive to my approach to personal and professional development. I would encourage all young professionals and individuals looking for new opportunities and exposure to make professional connections and leverage your networks. Talking to people and sharing what you are passionate about is the first step to learning what other types of projects exist and how your skills might be a good match.

Sejla Alimanovic is an Environmental Engineer who has worked in the Global Water Market. She is based in the firm’s Melbourne office. She is interested in sustainability projects in a range of disciplines across the water industry, and has gained experience in stakeholder workshop coordination, concept level design and technical report writing. Sejla was the YP Chairperson for ANZ for two years, and is often coordinating teams for sports fundraising events for WaterAid Australia on a volunteering basis. She received her BE from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and is currently completing her Masters of Environment at the University of Melbourne.