A new era has begun at NASSCO. Sheila Joy took hold of the reins as executive director at NASSCO on April 2, succeeding Ted DeBoda, who resigned earlier this year. We let her settle in a bit before asking her to introduce herself to our readers, revealing her goals and priorities for the association as NASSCO moves forward with its new leader.
Please describe your background — education and professional background, most recent duties, etc.
I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration in the early 1980s from California State University. After graduation I began my career in marketing in the Los Angeles office of an international advertising agency, Kresser Craig/Dai-Ichi Kikaku. In my role as account supervisor I was responsible for the advertising accounts of Pioneer Sound Systems, ARCO Gasoline and Forest Lawn Mortuaries, a major travel destination since many Hollywood stars, including Humphrey Bogart, Michael Jackson and so many others are buried there.
In the 1990s, I moved to the Washington, D.C., area where I was the Director of Media for another advertising agency, E. James White Co.. My clients included Amtrak, a variety of technology companies, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In 1999, I decided to break away and start my own small agency, New Phase Marketing.
One of my first accounts was Applied Felts, the manufacturer of felt liners used in the CIPP process. I knew zip about trenchless technologies at that time, so my business partner and I rolled up our sleeves and learned everything we could about underground infrastructure. After that, our business snowballed. We were soon doing work for MaxLiner USA, Duke’s Root Control, Visu-Sewer and a variety of other contractors, manufacturers and suppliers aligned with nearly every type of trenchless technology out there.
While my career focus has been on underground infrastructure for the past 19 years, I did step aside from 2012-2014 to serve as Director of Advancement for Jill’s House, a non-profit organization located in McLean, Virginia. Jill’s House serves families raising children with intellectual disabilities by caring for the children while their families take a break. I had lived through the experience of caring for a child with special needs when my own son suffered a traumatic brain injury. I knew the sleepless nights, exhaustion and fear these families felt, so with my son’s survival and my immense feelings of empathy and gratitude, I wanted to give back.
My experience at Jill’s House was part of what I consider to be God’s plan to prepare me for my new role at NASSCO, which is a 501 ( c ) 6 non-profit organization. One of my main responsibilities in this new role is to ensure that the income generated is managed well and used responsibility to support members equally and help grow the trenchless industry, overall. I consider this to be a great honor.
How did you become involved in NASSCO?
In 2007, my client, Gil Carroll, Applied Felts’ Director of Business Development, introduced me to Irv Gemora, who was the NASSCO Executive Director at the time. NASSCO was at a pivotal point, with PACP gaining acceptance but needing a higher level of awareness. Irv hired my agency to support NASSCO with marketing, especially public relations support, to communicate the benefits of NASSCO membership. One of the first discussions Irv and I had was regarding the importance of understanding the difference between sales and marketing, and he and I still reflect on that conversation often.
What led you to seek the role of executive director of NASSCO?
It’s interesting, but I did not seek the role of executive director. When Ted DeBoda resigned in January, in my consultant role, I helped NASSCO’s Executive Committee write press releases and place employment notifications on sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed to help attract a new executive director. It wasn’t until I received a couple of phone calls asking if this position was something I would consider that my being a candidate even crossed my mind. After learning more about NASSCO’s goals to find someone who had deep industry knowledge, experience in running a small business and an understanding of how a non-profit runs efficiently, I realized that I actually did have the right credentials. So, I applied, interviewed and was offered the position. Since then, I have become PACP/LACP/MACP-certified, will soon take a class in confined space entry and will also become ITCP-certified. As long as I’m in this role, I will continue to learn everything I can.
NASSCO is more than 40 years old. What do you see as the major impacts that NASSCO has had on the industry?
One of the most obvious impacts has to be the adoption of PACP and ITCP as national standards. The ability for assessment professionals to code conditions and defects in a uniform manner and capture that data in a format that makes it usable is invaluable to prioritizing asset management decisions and building a baseline of historical data to help guide individual system owners and the industry in general.
But NASSCO is so much more than our training programs. So many of NASSCO’s accomplishments have gone under the radar, and it’s time to make them known. For this year’s annual conference in San Antonio we developed a video, which can be viewed on our website or YouTube channel, which recapped some of those accomplishments:
• In the 1990s, NASSCO worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prevent a proposed ban of acrylamide grout. Fully supported by contractor, supplier and professional members of NASSCO, the issue was finally resolved in 2002 with the proposed ban being rejected.
• In 2003, a CCTV manufacturer attempted to get government regulations revised for explosion-proof cameras in a sanitary sewer environment. The proposed revisions would have cost contractors up to a hundred million dollars. Thanks to the unification and determination of NASSCO members to do what’s right, the issue was successfully resolved.
• In the late 2000s, our industry faced yet another hurdle: proposed changes to OSHA confined space entry regulations. If reclassified to “new construction” routine maintenance jobs would have meant additional jobsite requirements costing the industry roughly $7.5 million per year. Through its Health and Safety Committee, NASSCO testified at congressional hearings to request that OSHA classify rehabilitation work as maintenance. We were successful.
What are your immediate priorities as executive director?
First, I want to serve the entire industry by returning focus to contractors. NASSCO was formed as a contractor organization in 1976 and we have shifted slightly away from that focus. This does not mean we stop serving engineers, municipalities or others aligned to the industry; it means by serving contractors and helping them code data properly and run their businesses well, the engineers and cities also benefit through the integrity of the work.
Secondly, I want to further grow and develop relationships with other organizations aligned to our industry such as Water Environment Federation (WEF), North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT), National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA), International Society for Trenchless Technologies (ISTT) and others. In my opinion, this is not a competitive space. We are all working together for a common goal, and so why not come together to have a unified voice and make a greater impact?
Thirdly, I want to do everything I can to communicate the many benefits of NASSCO membership. Perhaps the greatest benefit NASSCO offers its members is to have a voice in the industry. Whether it be involvement in a committee, participation in a work group, networking with peers at our events or contributing content for published articles, our goal is to hear as many different perspectives and opinions so that we can collectively achieve our mission.
What role do you see NASSCO having in the national discussion on issues that impact your membership (i.e. Infrastructure package, CIPP criticism/safety, etc.)
I turn to NASSCO’s mission for every decision I make in my new role:
“To set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure and to assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies.”
This mission has been in place since the beginning, and, to me, it is bullet-proof. So when it comes to initiatives such as federal budgets for infrastructure, our mission supports the need to make underground infrastructure top of mind along with roads, bridges and airports. Our mission is the foundation of my communications to government officials in supporting this need.
Regarding recent published reports pertaining to the safety of CIPP emissions, we are coming together with NASTT and other industry leaders to make sure standards and safety remain top priorities. As such, we have completed Phase 1 of a study conducted by CUIRE that found previously published reports to be non-conclusive. We are now anticipating responses to an RFP for Phase 2, with the entire study completed by the end of the year.
How does your background in marketing help in your role as executive director?
My background in marketing helps me with the obvious – communications and building awareness of NASSCO – but more importantly, I believe my experience in successfully running a small business for nearly 20 years is the area where I can really help NASSCO to grow. Running the organization efficiently and using best business practices is where we need focus as a team. Luckily, I inherited an amazing staff that works extremely hard. My intention is to motivate, mentor and help them be successful in collectively driving NASSCO to a new level by supporting our members with excellence.
What are NASSCO’s strengths as an association today?
Our greatest strength is our membership. With nearly 600 company/organization members, representing tens of thousands of industry professionals, the influence we make is remarkable. One of the ways members make a difference is through participation in our active committees. It’s amazing how much work gets done, and this year we are adding more structure to our committees to make them run even more efficiently. For example, we are setting firm goals for each committee to achieve over the next 12 months. We are also requiring committee members to make a commitment to a high level of participation and activity in order to achieve those goals. I have assigned a dedicated staff member to manage the committees to ensure they are accountable and productive, and I just can’t wait to see the impact our committees make in the coming months.
What areas do you believe NASSCO must build on or improve to continue moving forward as a strong association?
We need to do a better job of listening. Last fall, while I was still managing New Phase Marketing, I conducted a survey among NASSCO members. The survey covered a lot of ground, but one of the most telling survey questions was “What keeps you up at night?” Our members listed safety as their No. 1 headache, with other concerns such as hiring and retention, making payroll, etc., close behind. This year I plan to make regional visits to members across the United States for discussions regarding what’s happening in their geographic areas, answer questions about NASSCO and its mission, and just get to know our members better. Our President, Tim Vivian, will also join me on the road to let our members know they are important to us and we are serious about addressing issues that matter most to them.