8 Questions With an Award-Winning Wastewater Engineer

September 6, 2016

Patti Craddock, SEH wastewater engineer, was presented with the Arthur Bedell Award for Extraordinary Personal Service from the Water Environment Federation (WEF). The veteran engineer talks about her passion for engineering, water and the environment.

1. Talk about your background. Did you always want to be a water engineer? Or was it something you fell into along the way?
I came into this through a lifelong passion to protect our water environment. I earned my undergrad degree in biology and environmental studies and then went on to receive my Master’s Degree in civil engineering.

2. What is it about your profession that you find the most rewarding?
I really value the team approach SEH takes to solving our water and environmental challenges. We have lots of different professionals, each with their own background, looking for the best way to solve the challenges our clients face. I am also constantly learning in my profession, whether a new regulatory requirement dictating new technologies or how to work with stakeholders to deliver a project or run a profitable business. Continual education in one’s career is immensely rewarding.

3. What is your greatest accomplishment while working as an engineer?
There isn’t one single greatest accomplishment. For me, it has been the progression of projects I have worked on and the people that I have worked with along the way that has made my career a fulfilling one. I have been fortunate to work with amazing people in our water industry and credit the Water Environment Federation and our member association, Central States Water Environment Association for providing opportunities to grow professionally and serve our industry.

4. What does it take to be a female leader in a historically male-dominated field?
Be yourself. It has nothing to do with one gender over the other. You should never set limits to what you want to do in life. My parents did not say this directly to me, but their actions made this clear to me when I was growing up. For example: How many eight-year-old girls, the smallest in their class in the 1960s, believed they could be the next Johnny Unitas. Younger readers might want to Google who he is. They always supported my dreams and limits were never discussed. As the mother of three daughters, there is no limit in my mind as to what they or any other woman can accomplish. That’s the mindset you have to have.

5. What advice would you give to yourself when you first started in the industry?
Always keep learning and never settle for the easiest answer.

6. What would you be if you weren’t an engineer?
A professional or semi-professional athlete. This assumes I have more talent that I do and could make a living off it - and continue volunteer roles to fulfill my passion for water environment protection, of course! I have no idea what sport it would be, but after spending a lot of time behind a computer, I really miss the physical activity in life.  Plus, it would fuel my competitive side and tone me down for those that have to live with me [laughs]!

7. What famous person—past or present—would you most like to have dinner with and where would you go?
Marie Curie. She was one of the first well-known women scientists at the turn of the century. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the only woman to win it twice. Her story really spoke to me when I started out in science. It would be fascinating to learn what it was like to be a woman (and the mother of daughters) at that time, and in particular, a woman who made such huge contributions to society. We’d have dinner at a wonderful restaurant somewhere in France and perhaps bike there (Marie was known to bike and similarly enjoyed this activity with her husband).

8.Describe your favorite pastime. If you weren’t solving the world’s water issues, paint a picture of what you would be doing instead.
I’d be enjoying our environment — kayaking Minnesota’s beautiful waters, hiking to a scenic vista, biking my favorite trails to take in the seasonal changes or biking new roads to discover our world’s amazing diversity.

About the Expert

Patti Craddock, PE, is a senior water engineer, environmental advocate and champion of clean water for everyone.

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