Dreaming big for the water sector

Philippines Young Water Professionals

“When the future of water is in your hands, you act decisively to make every drop count”

The official tagline of the Philippine Young Water Professionals (PYWP) was adopted as our group’s collective vision. Four years ago, though – when PYWP was still just an idea – the last word that would have been used to describe us was “decisive”.

From pipe dreams…

In 2013 a small group of three young professionals had a big dream about establishing a Young Water Professionals country chapter in the Philippines. We promised to do all sorts of programs and activities for members, dreaming up scores of fun and innovative ideas (and unlimited funding!). Being young and hungry for career advancement, we knew it was going be an important step in our proverbial journey to save the world.

Two years went by without taking concrete steps to turn our pipe dreams into a reality. Looking back, I consider that lull time to be a critical part of PYWP’s development because it allowed us to temper our initial ideas more critically, this time with the benefit of a bigger-picture perspective and managerial experience.

…to the PYWP team

We got much-needed inspiration to make PYWP happen when we met three other Filipinos at the 2016 Singapore International Water Week – Young Water Leaders Summit. Six months later, the six of us would be the founding officers of PYWP, and our new organisation was officially recognised by the International Water Association and the Philippine Waterworks Association.

Prior to formal establishment, we had been marketing PYWP to key players and stakeholders in the Philippine water sector. One our earliest undertakings was to work with an expert who could help us clearly define our vision, mission, values, and identity. Right from the start, we wanted PYWP to have a strong brand and a compelling message that would engage other young water professionals. On social media, the hashtag #TheOnusIsOnUs was used to document our fledgling exploits.

As the co-founder of a startup that runs solely on volunteer work, I’m thrilled to see the traction building up as PYWP is featured in major industry conferences and events nationwide. This excites me, but so does knowing that we are only just beginning.

Joining the IWA and expanding our network

The IWA has a strong a network of YWPs, and a track record of promoting emerging water leaders – the movers, shakers, and shapers of the future of the water sector. As we grow PYWP, we will continue to draw inspiration from other IWA-YWP country chapters around the world.

This is best seen at events like the 8th International YWP Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Taking place in December, it’s an opportunity meet other passionate young water professionals. New country chapters, including PYWP, are strongly encouraged not just to attend but also participate by submitting abstract or poster presentations, or soft skills learning session and workshop proposals.

Lessons learned

I have learned three critical lessons from the PYWP experience so far.

Firstly, action breeds confidence, which is what you need to develop conviction and decisiveness. At PYWP, we always lift ourselves from a rut of doubt by taking action and moving forward, no matter how small the steps.

Secondly, leadership is not about you. When you set out to genuinely to serve others, check your ego, privilege, and entitlement at the door. We do not pretend to know everything about the needs and demands of our target clientele, so much so that we launched a nationwide PYWP Baseline Survey to truly understand the people we seek to serve.

Finally, leadership is a team sport. By yourself, dreaming big for the water sector can cause overwhelming pressure; with a capable and inspired team, the daunting task becomes a welcome challenge. After all, the bigger the dream – and we do have big PYWP dreams – the more important the team.

Yang G. Villa

Head of the Philippines for the Isle Utilities - Career-building role at IWA YWP Steering Committee
Yang has been working in the water sector for 13 years as a business developer. He is the co-founder of the IWA YWP chapter in the Philippines and was the Conference President for the 10th IWA Specialist Conference on Efficient Urban Water Management... Read full biography