Empowering the community through educational outreach drives Lynna Allen’s passion for her job and motivates her to set an example for others – especially women – working in the wastewater industry.
“I thoroughly enjoy teaching how pollution prevention helps keep homes, businesses and schools clean and safe, while saving money and protecting the environment,” said Allen. “Nothing beats seeing your student make this connection.”
As West County Wastewater’s (WCW) Environmental Compliance Inspector, Allen has an opportunity to connect with the community during inspections, events and plant tours. She is known among her fellow staff for her love of increasing the public’s knowledge about water quality and the vital importance of preventing contamination.
With more than 20 years of industry dedication and experience, Allen first set her sights on her current position after touring WCW’s wastewater treatment plant years ago. On the tour, she discovered how WCW sets itself apart in terms of treatment processes and environmental programs. When she learned that her family lived in WCW’s service area, she knew the agency would be a great fit because she would be protecting her own neighbors, family and friends.
Over the years, Allen has developed confidence as one of few women in the wastewater world, something she is now able to pass on to others. She recalls the beginning of her career when she worked alongside two strong women who demonstrated independence, passion, self-respect and emotional intelligence. These women created a space for her to learn, grow and understand her worth. Adversely, she also remembers a woman who urged her to blend in and not draw unnecessary attention to herself by wearing jewelry, makeup or perfume.
“As a result, I grew thicker skin and worked harder and smarter than ever before,” said Allen. “During my time as a source control coordinator, I worked with a female intern that I could be a positive role model for. I watched her grow and become an inspector at another agency. She tells me that she doesn’t have to worry about blending in. She wears jewelry, makeup and perfume every day.”
For Allen, the opportunity to inspire others doesn’t end at WCW, or even in the wastewater arena. She is a strong advocate for school development of cross-disciplinary programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). She herself was not exposed to the wastewater industry until an internship at the City of Hayward and she acknowledges that if she had experienced a STEM program, she may have developed confidence in the field earlier.
“I remember thinking that the source control inspector position was ‘too technical’ for me,” said Allen. “I ended up teaching sewer science at the City of Livermore for more than 13 years.”
The expansion of STEM programs is also vital to bringing more women into the field. When she taught sewer science, she spoke about wastewater treatment, water quality and wastewater careers. She was thrilled to discover that a few of her students ended up interning for the City of Livermore over the years. “STEM programs are inarguably changing the gender landscape,” said Allen.
Allen strives to continue being an instrumental part of WCW’s educational efforts and looks forward to seeing the organization build on its success as a regional leader in the wastewater industry. She is proud to work alongside WCW’s inspirational team, and for an agency that devotes itself to the community it serves through student outreach programs, community engagement, and the inclusiveness and advocacy of women and diversity in the workforce.