A Publication for West Coast Alumni and Friends
Communicator. Safety Expert. Detective.
"As I communicate risk, I must combine an ability to work with people and a knowledge of technical issues," Carolyn emphasized. "If I were adept in only one of these, I would fail in my job."
"WPI was a good match for me," says Carolyn Jones '79, reflecting on the preparation she received for the mix of technical and administrative responsibilities she holds today as an industrial hygienist. Manager of the Health and Safety Program for the Public Utilities Commission serving the City and County of San Francisco, she is one of only 10,000 industrial hygienists in the nation.
"WPI," she says, "emphasized both the technical dimensions and the social or people-oriented aspects of a technically based career, and most of my work skills stem from my years in Worcester."
Intending to pursue a career as a biomedical engineer, Jones attended a conference on women's health in the workplace where she discovered the field of industrial hygiene. The occupation proved to be a low priority in the private sector, so she joined the Air Force. She left active duty with the rank of captain and earned a master's in public health with a concentration in industrial hygiene at the University of California at Berkeley.
Today she works in an agency with 1,700 employees who furnish potable water to 2.3 million people in the San Francisco Bay area, provide sewage treatment, and maintain mountain reservoirs and hydroelectric plants.
"As I communicate risk, I must combine an ability to work with people and a knowledge of technical issues," Jones notes. "If I were adept in only one of these, I would fail in my job."
Understanding differing points of view is also an essential part of her work as a communicator. She says she strives always to understand the framework in which her words are received. That is why she suitably adjusts the manner in which she expresses the facts when she communicates with, for example, a Public Utilities Commission employee, an irate neighbor or a regulator.
In 1991 she helped organize a WPI student project at the San Francisco Department of Public Works. "All of us," she says, "were very pleased and much impressed with the caliber of the students and their work. We eventually participated in several projects and I think everyone involved benefited."
Jones, who says she was impressed by the problem-solving abilities of WPI students, says her own hands-on stint at WPI in welding and machining helps her appreciate the skills of the people she must talk with about adjusting the way they work to avoid on-the-job risks. "I admire their range of abilities and the depth of their talent," she says.
She is not without her own varied abilities when investigating safety problems. She recently spent time as a detective, searching for the source of an occasional natural gas odor in a multistory office building, where the workers feared an explosion.
Carolyn and her team literally crawled through the building, discarded one hypothesis after another: Was it the grease traps? The cafeteria? The sewer line? Eventually, they correlated reports of the odor with the direction of the wind and the level of stack gases emitted from the building's boilers and caught by the air intake apparatus. Case email@example.com
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Last modified: Nov 14, 2003, 08:17 EST