Shauna is the CEO of CAWST: Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology. Based in Calgary, Alberta, CAWST is both a licensed professional engineering consultancy and a registered Canadian charity, providing training, consulting and expertise in water and sanitation in developing countries. Shauna joined CAWST in 2004 and assumed the role of CEO in 2011. During her tenure, she has led the development of CAWST’s global service delivery model, and expanded CAWST’s reach from two countries to its current global network of 1,490 clients in 87 countries. With experience in environmental engineering prior to CAWST, Shauna has a deep understanding of decentralized water and sanitation and capacity building and is a skilled trainer and facilitator.
My first job ever was… as a swim instructor at my community pool. Little did I know the importance water would be in my life.
I chose my career path because… I wanted to solve problems — big ones at their root cause. I was interested in people, technologies, and our interface with the natural world, and wanted to be part of creating healthy communities and environments.
When starting out, I wish I knew… how to create “white space” for contemplation and reflection, while also thriving on a full life and demanding career.
The part of my role that I love the most is… seeing others shine. This goes for our team, but also for the organizations we train and support. One of my favourite quotes on leadership is from Lao Tzu: “a leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is… related to our business model. Investing in people is a long-game, and it takes patience to see results. One of the hardest parts of my job is convincing people to invest in people. However, this is also the most rewarding part of our work; when we tap into human potential, the results far exceed what we could have achieved in any other way.
If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I spend as much time as I can outdoors. When I’m not at CAWST, you can usually find me kayaking, climbing, biking, ski touring or on some other adventure.
My best advice from a mentor was… inspiration can happen at any time, but you need to create space for it to emerge.
My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is… to first take a good look around at other not-for-profits. See if there are ways to support and strengthen the work of existing organizations and ensure you’re addressing a niche that’s not already being filled.
One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is… I don’t think it’s about for-profit business or the not-for-profit sector. We have huge societal and environmental challenges ahead of us, and it will take all of us learning together — from our respective histories, successes, challenges, and dreams for the future.
I stay inspired by… travelling to deliver services myself and hearing stories from our staff. We have an email series called Global Notebook where our team shares real-time updates while in the field. It’s like instant inspiration in my inbox.
Success to me means… one more person not having to drink unsafe water.