Meet Cailin Hillier from Canada


Brief introduction of your organization

Canadian Water Network (CWN) is Canada’s expert advisor and trusted manager of knowledge and innovation for water management. CWN acts as a catalyst to connect the right people with the best evidence to address the practical realities of water management.

CWN’s Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) is a group of young professionals, and graduate students who are researchers, biologists, social scientists, and engineers with representation across Canada.  The members of the committee share a common interest in the fate of water in Canada and have taken on the role of inspiring other students and young professionals to become involved with CWN. Outside of the SYPC, over the last 15 years, hundreds of students and young professionals have become involved with CWN, seizing the opportunity to network, develop professional skills and learn from peers and mentors from across the water sector.

Why is water an important topic to you?

Canada’s water challenges cut across disciplines, sectors, professions and jurisdictions, and as such, require multiple perspectives and extensive collaboration to achieve tangible solutions. Through involvement in research projects and participation in workshops and other initiatives, CWN’s students and young professionals receive critical training, acquire multidisciplinary perspectives and gain practical experience — all the while having fun, making new friends and expanding networks. They develop the necessary tools to not only excel in their careers, but to conduct and access research that improves decision-making and policy development to address complex water challenges.

Water is a common thread that connects people across the country. From energy to the environment and tourism, water and its proper management impacts every industry. For me, the choice to work within the water sector came naturally. After studying hydrogeology at the University of Waterloo, the integrated management of water and complexity of water governance issues became more familiar to me. The uniqueness of each water challenge and individuality in formulating solutions to water problems is endlessly intriguing. In the water world, working in teams of varied skillsets allows for effective strategies to be developed, which requires ongoing learning.

What are some of the contribution (projects, campaigns or any other works) of your organization in the Canadian water sector and beyond?

CWN’s Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) has a nation-wide reach. In the last year, there have been over thirty local networking events across the country organized by the committee. These events allow for an informal place to learn about a local topic and get to know others in your community focused on water.

Virtual events are another way in which the SYPC reaches a wider audience and presents on a variety of topics. This year, Carl Ganter from Circle of Blue joined CWN for a virtual event regarding an “orbital perspective” based on his work on trendsetting and spotting strategic connections between siloed and disparate events and ideas. There will be more virtual events coming in the following months and we encourage those who are interested to subscribe to CWN’s mailing list for the opportunity to join the conversation.

Workshops that CWN organizes have also been a value added for students and young professionals, whether they take on a technical form or are more focused on skill building. CWN’s workshops have been across Canada, from the Okanagan Basin watershed to Iqaluit’s challenges of the north, to Cape Breton’s stormwater management. The technical content has encompassed a variety of areas, from governance and policy to resource development and traditional indigenous knowledge. Skills-based workshops have focused on professional and personal growth, involving communications and media training, public speaking, personal branding and developing facilitation skills. These workshops have afforded many young people the opportunity to grow and further their careers.

What do you think is the biggest water challenges Canada is facing today?

At CWN we like to look at issues as opportunities instead of challenges. These opportunities illustrate where more effective water management is the key to solutions.

CWN is working to increase the ability of Canadian communities to embrace resiliency, management innovations and adaptation to achieve effective and affordable water systems. We’re also working to strengthen environmental and public health protection, as well as Canada’s ability to have a global competitive advantage when it comes to agriculture and food production.  Another area we are focusing on is improving the ability to ensure safe drinking water and sustainably managed resources in small and aboriginal communities.

How do young people play a role?

The SYPC at CWN has a variety of roles, including: promoting CWN programs and events within their institutions/organizations; advising on new student initiatives and playing a part in the design and delivery; supporting the objectives of CWN’s highly qualified personnel program; and acting as liaison between students and young professionals in their region and CWN.

The mentors that have fostered students and young professionals involved with CWN over the years continually reiterate that the students and young professionals working in water are the future of Canada and show a great deal of potential. These mentors enjoy the opportunity to talk to young people and learn about issues from a different perspective. With respect to technical innovation and scientific discovery, governance and policy and formulating the connections across the water sector, young Canadians are the forefront of managing water in a changing world. More and more, our education is emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration. I think that these attributes make young people innovative problem solvers who are comfortable looking at issues from a holistic and big-picture perspective. As a demographic, students and young professionals have a lot to offer the water sector. You don’t need to wait to make a difference through influencing and inspiring change – you can do that now!

What are some important lessons from CWN that could be shared with other young professional organizations or regions?

The SYPC places an emphasis on forming strong networks. These networks help to connect people, whether for the opportunity to collaborate on outside-the-box projects, help to answer questions regarding research challenges, further careers or form friendships. Becoming involved and engaged in your area in any group is a meaningful way to build such connections.

If there are no similar organizations in your region, you should reach out to pre-existing groups that offer chapters, and take it upon yourself to lead in bringing like-minded people together. Through all of the activities that the SYPC runs, we have found that the most worthwhile outcomes are the bonds and collaborations you form with other participants.

When building your network, ongoing communication is important. Young people should feel empowered to introduce people within their own network to one another, whether to assist in problem solving with friends from a similar technical field, help someone find a career or graduate student position, or simply encourage like-minded people to meet, every little bit counts. Networking is not a finite resource and in the quest to manage water for the future, anything good that is in such abundance should be used liberally.



Facebook group for SYP: