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Lessons Learned at the St. Louis 2021 Public Work Expo

September 9, 2021

Lessons Learned at the St. Louis 2021 Public Work Expo

Article submitted by Lydia Ener, WSB (chapter sponsor), and APWA-MN Communications Committee Chair

From start to finish, my first PWX was filled with new experiences and opportunities to learn. Some of the lessons learned came from the informative education sessions, some from my fellow young professionals across the country, and some of the best lessons were learned outside of the formal conference events. 

Throughout the PWX conference, the educational sessions I attended were interesting, informative, and covered a wide variety of topics. Of these sessions, there were three that especially stood out. The first was titled Women in Public Works...Breaking the Glass Ceiling. The session featured a panel of predominately women from a variety of industry positions and gave the panelists the opportunity to answer questions regarding their own experiences in the field. Their insights into how to find meaningful mentorship in the industry was particularly useful, and I will be working to apply the lessons they shared to my own career.

The second, Stronger Together: Community Resiliency Preparedness and Natural Disaster Response, was the Tuesday General Session and another panel format featuring speakers from across the country who have had an active role during the response to a natural disaster in their community. The topics focused on the preparedness of communities for a disaster, the importance of a cohesive response plan, communication, and lessons learned in the aftermath and recovery.

Lastly, the session Revitalizing Uptown: Bringing a Historic District Into the 21st Century was a wonderful overview of an ongoing project within a historic commercial district. This session focused on the communication strategies, outreach to property owners, and the most effective strategies to build public support for a revitalization project. 

Intermixed with these educational sessions, were sessions focused on young professionals. These were often a more relaxed format and focused on sharing information and networking. The first session gave a great overview for those of us new to PWX, the second was an open forum about what resources we would like to see from the National Young Professional Committee, and the third was an open forum on strategies or programs that have been implemented by young professionals in our workplaces that brought positive changes. These sessions gave the opportunity to learn from others at similar places in their career, including tips and tricks for the transition into larger roles within our organization and project leadership. 

The most important lessons learned, however, came from the time spent with fellow Minnesota APWA Chapter Members. For example, Monica Heil pushed me out of my comfort zone and I learned that Lime Scooters are much faster and much more fun than I thought they would be – I even tried it twice. I learned that sometimes, the best way to spend a portion of the afternoon is squishing five people into a tiny canister and riding to the top of the St. Louis Arch. The view of the city was incredible, and we were able to spot the places we had walked and the historic bridge from one of the informational sessions.

And lastly, the lesson imparted on the Young Professionals became even more clear throughout the conference and networking events. The members of the Minnesota APWA Chapter, and APWA members across the country, are a wealth of knowledge, support, and constantly growing lessons learned of their own, and getting to know each of them is the best way to spend four days in St. Louis. 

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