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Interview with GwenDolyn Hargrove Ruff, SPHR

Vice President of Strategic Planning and Employee Services, Columbus Water Works

GwenDolyn “Gwen” Hargrove Ruff has been employed with Columbus Water Works (CWW), in Columbus, Georgia, since 1996. As Vice President of Strategic Planning and Employee Services, Gwen is responsible for the senior-level supervision and management of Columbus Water Works’ Human Resources programs, as well as the successful implementation of strategic planning related processes, practices, policies and outcomes towards the achievement of CWW’s short and long-term business goals.

Gwen holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Mercer University, a master’s in personnel administration from Columbus State University (formerly Columbus College), and a master’s in strategic studies from the Army War College. As a 29-year veteran of the Army Reserves, Gwen currently holds the rank of colonel.

What do you love about your career in the water industry?

I love knowing that the high level of customer service we provide, in addition to our nationally recognized and award winning water and wastewater services, make a positive impact in the quality of our customers’ lives. When CWW is able to effectively communicate our mission and vision to our customers in such a manner that they embrace and appreciate what we do, it is extremely rewarding.

What are some of the benefits of working in the water industry?

The demands of the water industry are ever-changing, and in order to be competitive, our organization must be aware of the political, social, environmental and technological transformations of our environment. It is extremely exciting to be a part of these advancements and having a positive and long-term impact on our community. Every day has been an opportunity to learn and grow.

What skills and training from your military career have you transferred into your current career?

As a military leader, I have learned the importance of setting the strategic direction for members of a team and ensuring allocated resources (people, funding, training, etc.) are aligned with the strategies. In addition, as a leader, you have to monitor the performance of an organization in order to proactively respond to the environmental challenges, while at the same time have a good understanding of organizational priorities. Through my military career, I have acquired the necessary discipline in order to stay focused on the successful accomplishments of both short-term and long-term goals and objectives to ensure continuous organizational improvements.

Why should veterans consider working in the water sector?

Many of the skills sets and core values attained in the military are a perfect fit for the needs of the water industry as generally, military personnel are trained to be strategic thinkers and “go-getters”. For these veterans, the operational challenges of the water industry provide long-term and diverse career choices as well as the opportunity to grow. In addition, a number of careers in the water industry offer the options to acquire certifications and credentials which are both personally and professionally beneficial.