Shane Dass, Laboratory Manager for the Water and Sanitation Department, takes us through his pathway to VCPWA, which was full of dedication, grit, and patience. His fascination and love for engineering and science when he was young pushed him to build a career in this field.
Shane was born in Trinidad and Tobago. He moved to the United States when he was five years old. He grew up in Sun Valley with his younger brother, mom, and stepdad, while living in government-subsidized housing. “My childhood shaped us (my brother and I) in a way that really helped us form desires and careers. My parents taught me hard work, grit, and dedication, and always pushed us for higher education.”
Shane’s mom was one of his biggest supporters throughout his pathway. “She was always at my side, even when she was not local. She helped me emotionally through school and my career.”
Going into his freshman year at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Shane started as an Engineering Major. He quickly realized that Engineering wasn’t the major for him after taking his first Mechanical Engineering class. He soon switched his major to his second favorite subject, Biology.
After graduation, Shane worked in Riverside as a laboratory technician for an environmental lab called Babcock. He was there for several years, while also doing a part-time night shift at UPS. “I just remember trying to save up to buy my own condo, I was working 60 plus hours a week, my knees were killing me. Sometimes I had to go back after my second shift to my first shift to finish up some lab testing. That is when I really learned what having grit was like.”
He started working at VCPWA in 2016 as the Water and Wastewater Lab Technician. “I enjoyed the fieldwork of this position, the different aspects of the different treatment plants, the drinking water side, the wastewater side, the lab does everything.”
Now, as the lab manager, he deals with a lot more data, paperwork, and customer service. “Our main objective here is to provide not just wastewater but safe, clean drinking water. We must maintain our sewer system, and any type of health issues related to drinking water is super important. Really, I am providing safe drinking water, providing our customers with data questions, and dealing with customer complaints related to drinking water.”
One of his biggest obstacles at VCPWA was transitioning from lab tech to lab manager. “Becoming manager, it was a difficult transition. You work side by side with your coworkers, grow friendships, and then you become management, and you must tell them what to do. Being a manager, I try to balance the fine line between friends and coworkers. The main thing is just being patient with everyone and figuring out how to deal with different personalities.”
Many aspects at VCPWA make Dass’s job a lot more fascinating (“a lot less boring”) than his past jobs. “At VCPWA we do a little bit of everything. We have dozens of permits, we have three treatment plants, we have four water districts. We maintain all the testing that’s required for each. All these aspects make the job a lot more interesting, but it does make it more challenging.”
Al Sexton, a past VCPWA employee, has been Dass’s mentor since he started working at the county. “Al is the one that, even when he left, he was helping me out. I had no idea how much paperwork was involved in the job. He was guiding me after he left which I will always appreciate. When he left, he didn’t just leave the job on the table for the next person to figure out, he gave me pointers, trained me on everything, and left a lot of guides for me to always look back on.”
Dass considers himself a dog-loving outdoorsman. In his free time, he loves to backpack, camp, hike, and work on his newest project, renovating his backyard. He recently bought a truck to go overlanding, off-roading, and exploring.
In 2022, after COVID put a wrench in wedding planning, he hopes to finally tie the knot with his beautiful fiancé.
About Pathways: This newly added section to our monthly “The Works” newsletter – “Pathways” – will highlight the unique pathways that each of us has followed to the Ventura County Public Works Agency. We hope to highlight the “pathways” of an individual in each newsletter. If you have a story you’d like to share for a Pathways feature, please contact our Director of Central Services, Joan Araujo at your earliest convenience.