Alaurah Moss, 27
Coastal Scientist at Dewberry, Virginia Beach
Contributions to the business community:
How do you define success?
Success is loving what you do and knowing that your work has a positive impact on others.
What person or experience has made the biggest impact on your life?
My experience studying the impacts of sea level rise on Venice, Italy was one of the most influential experience so far. With six professors and five students, our group became very close and passionate about learning the history and potential future of this vulnerable island. Venice is on the leading edge of developing creative solutions to combat coastal flooding—one example being the recently installed Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico (better known as MOSE) underwater barrier designed to create a temporary wall against the sea in anticipation of high tides or large storms. This study abroad experience ignited my passion for helping Coastal Virginia since we face similar accelerated rates of sea level rise and can learn from the international community to combat coastal flooding issues.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
I hope that my biggest accomplishments still await me in my future; however, there are several notable accomplishments in both my education and my work experience. The one I am most proud of is my graduate thesis work at Duke University. I took on a project that was extremely challenging and a niche in which few people are experts—the focus, coastal groundwater in Hampton Roads, was completely new to me, and I had to complete the project in less than a year. This experience taught me how to network and collaborate with experts from all over the country and even internationally.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received from a colleague or manager?
Dewberry’s core values and behaviors include honesty, passion, contribution, individualism and perseverance. The Dewberry at Work Spotlight Award is used to demonstrate appreciation for employees’ contributions to these values. I was honored to receive a spotlight award for my contribution to FEMA’s Substantial Damage Estimate (SDE) project in Louisiana after the August 2016 flood event. Starting in early September through end of October, our team performed thousands of SDE evaluations during the timeframe and required working six days and over 70 hours a week. It was very rewarding to receive a spotlight award for our team’s hard work to help the people in Louisiana expedite building back their community.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little I would often proclaim that I wanted to be a “vegetarian veterinarian.” I did end up being a vegetarian for 10 years but never became a veterinarian. I think my career path has not strayed too far from my original goal because my work as a coastal scientist and resilience specialist helps to improve the habitat for plants, animals and humans.
Name a book that has inspired you professionally.
High Tide on Main Street by John Englander. I knew I was interested in studying flood risk management and coastal resiliency, but this book really opened my eyes to the magnitude of issues low-lying coastlines face and inspired me to pursue this as a career.
What is your best time management hack?
Get an early start to the day. I find that I can accomplish the most in the morning when the office is quiet and my concentration is highest. That way, I can complete the most important and challenging tasks first.
What’s your favorite restaurant for a lunch meeting in Coastal Virginia, and what do you order when you go there?
Definitely Taste Unlimited. It’s my favorite local chain, and their new location on Shore Drive has wonderful outdoor seating for a lunch meeting. I usually order their make-your-own salads.
Is there anything that you would change about your generation as a whole? If so, what?
In the age of information and instant gratification I think our generation can sometimes be too quick to change jobs if we are not 100 percent satisfied. I have found that it typically takes about a year to really feel comfortable and understand how you fit into the larger company. Sometimes, sticking it out is important because it takes time to build trust with new colleagues, and once you break past this learning curve and network building, that is when the real opportunities start happening.
What do you think is Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge?
Coastal flooding and saltwater intrusion. Southeast Virginia has five NOAA tide stations that are in the top 10 percent of the nation in terms of highest relative sea level rise rates. Our region has a higher sea level rise rate compared to other areas primarily because of local land subsidence resulting from groundwater extraction. Rising sea levels will lift and push saltwater further inland. While these are big challenges, there are many different groups proactively working to develop creative solutions.
How can Coastal Virginia better retain its younger population?
According to Forbes, the top six metrics young professionals look to when deciding where to move are salary, rent, unemployment, job growth, networking opportunities and social outlook. I think Coastal Virginia is moving in the right direction on many of these fronts. For example, Norfolk is investing in making the waterfront area of downtown more green and attractive, improving walking and biking trails and opening local breweries and parks—all of which the younger population is drawn to.
What’s something that gives you hope for the future?
The focus in Hampton Roads on community resilience. In the past, it would often take a disaster to trigger change, and communities would often build back to the pre-existing conditions. Through my work in disaster management, I have seen a real change in the way people are thinking about community resilience and planning. Instead of waiting for a disaster to happen, we are proactively thinking of ways to protect assets and infrastructure.