At the beginning of any career it is very unclear where the paths you choose will take you. Sure, you may have goals and a plan set in place of where you want to be, but those plans usually change once you get going. The path that Dave Haataja has taken to become the executive director of the Water Quality Association (WQA) is truly one that has had many different directions.
His appointment is certainly one that is well deserved and a role that he can thrive in to help educate the water industry and those across the globe about the importance of clean drinking water.
After looking at Haataja’s credentials it doesn’t take long to realize how well qualified he is for his new position. He boasts over 30 years of in-depth knowledge of business development, global standards, testing, inspection, certification and regulatory acceptance.
“In addition to leading engineering and testing operations, my career spans a four-year posting in Washington working with regulatory agencies, trade associations, the Department of Commerce and the United States Trade Representative,” says Haataja.
After that, he moved to South America for seven years living in Argentina and then Brazil while building operations in these locations.
“Prior to joining WQA, I served as the vice president for North America Operations for Consumer and Health Sciences at Underwriters Laboratories,” adds Haataja. “While there, I had the chance to learn about a diverse group of industries, including appliances, HVAC, consumer electronics, information technology equipment, medical devices and, yes, even a little bit of the water treatment industry.”
WQA hopes his vast experiences will lead to a great partnership together as they look to embark on many great endeavors through 2013 and beyond.
“When I joined WQA (in 2012), the abundance of drive and passion among the staff was clear; their commitment to this industry is a solid foundation to build upon,” notes Haataja. “More, right from the very first visits with members, I experienced the camaraderie and willingness to share their knowledge and ideas to help move our industry to its next level. I am energized and excited to apply my abilities, as best as possible, to the association and the industry.”
Haataja is looking forward to working with the various members on WQA and he seems to have a great deal of passion about moving the water treatment industry in a positive direction. “As the executive director, I see my role as a conduit linking the priorities and needs of the water treatment industry to the resources of its trade association,” he says.
And while this job and achieving his goals will not be easy, Haataja feels confident that he’s the right man for the position. His expertise mixed with the great history of WQA seems to be a perfect match.
What’s going on at WQA
We are only three months away from WQA’s U.S. annual Aquatech show, which will be held in Indianapolis, Ind., on April 2-5, 2013. Between the conference and several other activities going on at WQA, Haataja will have his hands full in the upcoming months. However, he is already starting to see progress today since he joined WQA. “Just before I came aboard, the association launched a comprehensive strategic planning process; we’re already beginning to see the fruits of that work,” he says.
The bulk of this process focuses on member satisfaction. Some of the other works associated with the plan include: A retooling of WQA's education programs, building relationships with legislators, increasing public awareness of our industry, ecolabeling, sustainability, enhancing government and regulatory affairs, globalization and product certification.
“At our Mid-Year Leadership Conference, we announced the development of an enhanced education program,” Haataja continues. “The new series is being developed with the guidance of highly respected outside consulting and through listening to the needs and ideas of members. Our objective is to take information that has been buried in books and papers and offer it through contemporary delivery methods, such as the Internet and mobile devices. We are going to bring specific informational elements to members and include actual work experiences to provide practicality.”
As you can see, Haataja has been busy since joining WQA, constantly looking for ways to educate the public, while striving to meet the needs of those in the water treatment industry.
Through an active membership and the addition of state and regional WQA shows, Haataja has “been enjoying a lively travel schedule learning, firsthand, what is important to our members. I am committed to listening to all members and particularly enjoy holding town hall forums and walking the convention floors meeting exhibitors. The learning doesn’t stop there, introducing myself and building relationships with other trade associations is another priority.”
His efforts to reach out to industry professionals have helped him get a better grasp of the feeling within the industry to be able to make those critical decisions that an executive director has to make.
“With the board’s guidance, I’ve been working to focus our industry more on not only responding to problems as they arise, but recognizing that relationships have to be built before specific issues come up,” asserts Haataja. “With our new WQA Legislative Outreach Program, our objective is to help members develop and strengthen relationships with their local, state and federal elected officials. We have developed a guidebook with sensible suggestions for legislative relationships. Some WQA members have already begun setting up meetings with their Members of Congress and other legislatures, and WQA is providing briefing information to help make these encounters as productive as possible.”
The association's future
Though his time with WQA has been short, there is already much that Haataja has been able to accomplish, although he would say there is much more work to be done. In the upcoming year, and moving forward, WQA and Haataja have many goals that they hope to complete together.
“I look forward to getting to know more members of this vital industry, both at the convention and in the field,” concludes Haataja. “And, I encourage everyone to reach out to me and WQA staff to ask for assistance and offer suggestions.”
It’s that kind of willingness to make things better and leadership that has guided Haataja through the course of his career and prepared him for this new position.