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Posted: October 01, 2012

GenXYZ Top Five: Amanda Adams, MWH Global

Love of geology led to career with environmental engineering giant

Nora Caley

Amanda Adams, 29,  wants people to be excited about a career in mining. That includes everyone from Girl Scouts on an educational excursion on Dinosaur Ridge to new hires at MWH Global, where Adams works as a senior geological engineer.

Adams didn’t even want to be an engineer when she was growing up. "My dad is a structural engineer," she says. "I thought, I don’t know what Dad does but I’m sure it’s boring."

Her downfall was that she really liked geology, which, as it turned out, was not boring at all. She graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering. She went to work for a small geotechnical company in Denver, then joined MWH Global in 2008.

MWH Global is a wet infrastructure and environmental engineering firm. Adams explains that she works at the intersection of mining and water. In one recent project, she designed a tailings storage facility for a copper mine in Peru. Tailings, the waste materials left over after minerals are extracted from ore, have to be stored in an environmentally safe way.

For the past two years, Adams has been the global leader of the Young Professionals Group (YPG) at MWH Global. YPG has nearly 600 members in 40 chapters in 10 countries. The goal is to help young professionals at MWH improve their skills, gain experience and connect with each other. The group is geared to people who have fewer than 10 years of experience in the work force.

"You don’t want to have a job that is just a job," Adams says. "You want to build a network of people, and have fun activities." The group provides training and networking events, and also performs volunteer work ranging from planting trees in Denver to maintaining trails on Mount Bierstadt. YPG also works to make sure young professionals in other countries feel connected. MWH Global has more than 7,500 employees worldwide, with headquarters in Broomfield.

Adams is also the current president of the Denver chapter of Women In Mining, which was founded in 1972. "I love this group," Adams says. "It’s a group of really fantastic women employed at mining operations." The nationwide organization provides education to the public about the importance of the mining industry.

The Denver chapter is committed to educating kids about minerals and careers in mining, and does this through volunteer activities such as Girl Scout Dinosaur Discovery Day. The Girl Scouts learn about rock formations and mining at the annual event. Volunteers set up booths and use visual aids such as a shadow box containing a cell phone, makeup, toothpaste and other items.

"All these need minerals that come from mining," Adams says. "It’s a fun way to learn more about Colorado’s mining history and share my passion for how important mining and energy and water are, and share that knowledge with kids." (If you are playing at home: The cell phone has gold; makeup has talc; and some toothpastes have sodium bicarbonate.)

Other kid-related activities include the MWH Climate Change Education Program, where Adams coordinates and leads visits to local schools to teach them about climate change and the water cycle. She has also participated with Goodwill Youth Services and other organizations on career panels, encouraging young people to develop workplace skills.

"She is passionate about sharing her love of geology with young people, and promoting careers for women in engineering," says Brea Olson, communications manager at MWH Global. "This passion is not only for her chosen career, including sharing that passion with local youth to encourage them on a path for success, but also for advancing the role of young professionals in the workplace.

Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics. She can be reached at noracaley@comcast.net.

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