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PWX19 from a Young Professional’s Perspective

September 24, 2019

PWX19 from a Young Professional’s Perspective

By Christina Orlowsky, City of Lakeville and the Chapter’s 2019 PWX YP Stipend Recipient

What a great experience it was to attend this year’s PWX in Seattle, Washington. With the motto, “It Starts Here,” the conference had no shortage of new opportunities to learn and gain a different perspective. Outside the convention center, PWX provided ways to meet new people, network and explore downtown Seattle. Within the conference center, there were excellent keynote speakers, informative presentations and interactive sessions for attendees at any stage of their career. The PWX conference was a privilege to attend that I believe anyone in the public works field would benefit from. 

There were many great speakers, but I was most impacted by the opening keynote speaker, Rex Hohlbein. He was so moving as he shared story after story of interactions he has had with people experiencing homelessness and whose lives have been changed by his outreach. He challenged the audience to break through the barriers that keep us from reaching out to those sleeping on the streets asking for help. Although Rex hasn’t had any formal training in this area (he is an architect by trade), he demonstrated that smiling, saying hi and, simply acknowledging that someone exists can go farther than you could imagine. At the end of his talk, he thanked us for the work we do in serving our communities and presented us with an opportunity to participate in giving back to the Seattle community by creating care kits for people facing homelessness. The goal was to have 500 care kits assembled by the end of the conference. His excitement and passion were so contagious that 500 kits were assembled by PWX attendees within the first hour.

The presentations throughout the conference were inspiring as well. Regardless of climate, environment or even hemisphere, we in public works face challenges that require a great deal of collaboration to reach effective solutions. One presentation covered the unique obstacles that came with designing the first-ever light rail to cross a floating bridge. Sound Transit, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado all played crucial roles in creating the innovative bridge design. In a different presentation, staff from the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Surfaces discussed their innovative design of a gray pavement coating used to fight the urban heat island effect. The coating was proven to reduce the roadway surface temperature by ten degrees Fahrenheit. The research and findings were used in a community in Austria to present the solution to their city council. What an amazing example of collaboration across the globe!

Other conference sessions were very interactive with speakers facilitating discussions amongst the audience members. Topics in these sessions included effective ways to communicate between men and women and learning from coworkers whether they are millennials or baby boomers. These sessions were helpful for finding great ideas to bring back to the workplace and hear success stories from those who have implemented strategies effectively. No matter the session, the message was that respecting others and valuing their feedback leads to a successful, healthy and effective workplace.

The conference was an excellent place to reflect on the reason why working in public works is so satisfying by providing a platform to serve the community. The speakers inspired me to take on challenges with a new lens of widespread collaboration and to do my part in fostering a positive workplace. I’d like to thank the APWA Minnesota Chapter for providing me with the incredible opportunity to attend this year’s PWX and for the role that it played in my career development.

Don’t miss your chance to attend next year’s PWX Conference in New Orleans!

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