From ‘plankton matchmaker’ to warehouse supervisor
Shayla Gavin-Futas started her position as Denver Water’s warehouse supervisor two years ago, mid-pandemic, when supply chain shortages really got interesting.
“Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, masks, water meters — then we had issues acquiring pipe every time Texas froze — no shipping containers, hydrants,” she said, counting all the shortages Denver Water’s warehouse had to deal with in the past few years.
“We’re all connected. So, when there were worker shortages, global economic issues, raw material shortages, railroad strikes, hurricane season — and it’s always hurricane season — we’re impacted too.”
But Gavin-Futas rolled with the punches, happy with her new role at Denver Water, where she has progressed from an asset management intern in water treatment, to division analyst in asset management, to warehouse supervisor.
“I’ve always wanted to work for a water utility,” she said. “I thought it would provide me with more value day-to-day.”
Dozens of career employees started as interns at Denver Water.
Gavin-Futas grew up in San Diego and knew from an early age that she wanted to protect the environment.
As an undergraduate studying environmental biology, she worked in a marine biology lab that bred plankton to find which gene would make them more resistant to rising global temperatures.
“I was a plankton matchmaker for a while,” she laughed.
Then she visited Colorado and fell in love with the mountains, opting to stay here to earn a graduate degree. Once she landed an internship at Denver Water, she was hooked.
“I’m working for an organization that is leading that change and shift in usage for the Colorado River Basin. That’s so important,” she said.
Her career path has veered somewhat from her original intention. Instead of environmental management, she’s working in infrastructure management, but the fulfillment she sought as an undergrad is there.
“Water is a resource that needs to be managed, and publicly sharing it is so important,” Gavin-Futas said. “I’m part of the team that supplies field crews with the equipment they need when a pipe breaks. We have an impact on customers every day.”
Last fall, her team of six employees led a weeklong wall-to-wall inventory of the 2,500 different sets of materials stocked in Denver Water’s warehouse.
They counted each pipe fitting, every pipe, as well as the unexpected: a very rare 15-inch pipe (buried in a few spots downtown) and individual bottles of Gatorade for field crews on hot summer days.
“We collaborated across the organization to accomplish this gigantic goal,” she said. “I’m so proud of that.”
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Her advice to incoming interns? Ask lots of questions, search for continuing education courses and say yes to unique opportunities.
“You’re probably not going to end up in a position you thought you’d be in right out of school, but that’s what makes it fun,” she said.
“There’s so much room to learn. You don’t have to move up, you can move sideways and still learn so much.”