Good operators start with good trainers… trainers like Shantelle Clarke, PO. To say she is adaptable is an understatement. Her work has taken her through facilities across British Columbia, the Yukon, and Saskatchewan, before moving to Hawaii, and now Washington. Throughout it all, she has proven her ability to adjust and thrive through the evolution of her career.
For years, she has been dedicated to training operators in their field, but how did it begin? Some would say fate. Like many others, Shantelle graduated high school still unsure of what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. To avoid being overwhelmed at the seemingly endless options in a local college’s program calendar, she sat down with her mother and let chance decide. She closed her eyes and pointed her finger down on the page. With that, it was decided; she would begin with Water Quality Technology and see if it was a good fit. Needless to say, it was, and now over 20 years later, she has paved her way as an industry role model, even though not everyone has been supportive.
Although Shantelle has made space for herself in her profession, it has not always been an easy road. Like many working women, she has encountered discrimination based on her gender. She recalled a story of a man who walked out on the first day of a week-long training session because he felt there was nothing a young woman could teach him. She shared, “At first I took it personally, but then I realized that I have a lot to offer and my experiences–no matter how big or small–are worth sharing.” She also shared her experience with a director who would limit women and put them into a corner until they were defeated enough to quit or he could manufacture reasons for termination. This caused a strain on Shantelle, but she never allowed it to dim her light and used it as fuel for her fire. Transforming the negativity into motivation for her career has helped her transcend expectations.
Her positivity and perseverance have led her to be a sought-after trainer. So much so that she captivated a crowd of industry leaders at the Innovation in Certification 2023 (IiC23) conference during the Train the Trainer workshop. With over 20 years’ experience in the water/wastewater industry and over 10 years teaching and mentoring, she had the opportunity to share her expertise with peers who would respect her knowledge.
It is unfortunate to hear stories of women trying to be accepted in a “man’s job” and the adversity they face, but when women like Shantelle show resilience and refuse to be overlooked, the industry as a whole gets better. Shantelle acknowledged that there is additional pressure to be an overachiever just to be seen as an equal and that the bar is higher based on her gender, but that hasn’t stopped her from success. “I feel the best way for me to overcome pressure is for me to just be myself. Behaving or being something that I am not only endorses the fact that women are a minority, and we shouldn’t have to change to fit in.” She continues to say that if she ever feels like she doesn’t fit in, she reminds herself she is there for a reason and that she is knowledgeable and has so much to offer.
Confidence, intelligence, and perseverance are all traits Shantelle demonstrates for her trainees on an everyday basis. Her strong will and mentality are added benefits to her well-researched and informative trainings that were developed with decades of valuable experience. The future of water and wastewater is bright when there are women like Shantelle leading the way for operators.