What does your average day look like? Or what are some of your essential duties?
Right now, I'm continuing to manage the remaining projects under the Three Rivers Levee Improvement Authority (TRLIA), which is a special district in Yuba County that has supported projects such as the Feather and Bear River setback levees and other flood risk reduction projects. Now that TRLIA is closing its doors, I am overseeing their last few projects to make sure all of the final details are wrapped up and the projects are completed.
I'm also working toward building relationships with our county partners. Although I worked in the flood risk reduction world with the state for a while, I have not had the opportunity to meet and get to know all of our Yuba County partners. These relationships are crucial to the success of flood risk management.
Do your duties differ throughout the year? And if so, how?
Not necessarily throughout the year, but if there happens to be a flood event, or if there is potential for a flood event, then my focus will shift to working with our partners to mitigate or prevent flooding and protect public safety.
Photo: Sami and her father enjoy a ski trip to Telluride, Colorado.
How did you get involved in your current career path?
Like most people, it was really just a series of opportunities and choices. I knew I wanted to go into engineering right after high school. I spent a summer abroad in New Zealand (where engineers were the cool kids and the bungee jumping was both incredible and terrifying), which encouraged me to pursue environmental engineering. Later on, I had the chance to work at the California Department of Water Resources and that led me to focus on reducing flood risk throughout the state.
What is your background/formal education that led to where you are in your career today?
I have a bachelor's in civil engineering from the University of California, Davis (go Aggies!); a master's in environmental engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (go Bruins!); and finally, because water policy is so important in California, I went back and got a second Master of Science in Law to better understand legal analysis and California water law.
What do you enjoy most about working for Yuba Water?
Honestly, I've enjoyed getting to know everyone. One of the deciding factors in wanting to work for Yuba Water was the amazing projects that are happening and the passionate people who are working on them. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to be part of this team.
Tell us something about yourself that most of us don't know.
I'm half Chinese and half Caucasian, and my family was very much part of the Chinese community in Marysville. I grew up participating in the Bok Kai Festival, where I spent many years training the "dragon dancers" and was also the hostess one year. The "dragon dancers" were volunteers from Beale Air Force Base who signed up to dance the dragon through the streets of Marysville, dodging firecrackers, serpentining down the roads, coiling and paying respect to the Chinese culture and its importance to Marysville.
It took more than 50 volunteers each year to support the parade's dragon. In training them, it was crucial to me that they understood the significance of the dance and that they also coordinated with themselves, so that the dragon looked like one "being" and not 50 different parts. I learned a lot of leadership skills during that time, and it was great to celebrate my culture and give back to our community.