Talking Trenchless with Sheila Joy

Trenchless International talks with the recently appointed NASSCO Executive Director Sheila Joy about her role, the future of NASSCO and the benefits of being part of an industry association.

What is your educational background and how did you get started in the industry?

I received my Bachelor of Science Degree from Business Administration in the early 1980s at California State University. My first job after college was account supervisor for a global advertising agency,
Kresser Craig/Dai-Ichi Kikaku.

I worked in the company’s Los Angeles, California office where I had the great opportunity to manage Pioneer Sound Systems, ARCO Gasoline and other advertising accounts. After ten years of gaining solid marketing
experience in both consumer and B2B accounts, I moved to Washington, DC where I worked as the Director of Media for E. James White Company. One of my campaigns was for ‘Team in Training’, a marathon program that generates funds for Leukemia and Lymphoma research.

It’s hard to promote something you don’t understand, so I signed up for my first marathon – DC’s Marine Corps Marathon – in 1999. After that, I was hooked and have completed a total of four full and several half marathons since that time. That same year, I saw the importance of spending more time with my growing children, so I decided to break away and start my own small agency, New Phase Marketing.

My client base was very diversified and became even more so when, in 2000, I was introduced to Gil Carroll, Director of Business Development for Applied Felts. He was looking for a marketing firm to help bring awareness of the cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) process to the Americas, so my agency got to work learning everything we could about underground infrastructure and promoting the MaxLiner system and Applied Felts liners.

With my global marketing experience and Applied Felts’ international presence, it was a perfect match.

What is your history in the trenchless industry?

After my agency successfully launched the MaxLiner and Applied Felts marketing campaigns, things began to snowball. Gil generously introduced me to many others within the industry who needed a higher level of marketing support.

Around 2001, he recommended my agency to Mike Hogan of Duke’s Root Control in Syracuse, New York. We kicked off our engagement with Duke’s by researching municipalities to understand their awareness of the benefits of chemical root control and developed a campaign around those findings.

Over the years, New Phase Marketing also worked with contractors including Compliance EnviroSystems in Louisiana, Visu-Sewer in Wisconsin and Pro Pipe in California. Both my industry knowledge and relationships have grown tremendously over the years through the opportunity to work with manufacturers and installers of nearly every type of Trenchless Technology.

I also worked with associations such as Sustainable Water Infrastructure Management (SWIM) at Virginia Tech and the National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO).

Can you tell us about NASSCO and your new role as Executive Director?

In 2007, Gil introduced me to Irv Gemora, NASSCO’s then-Executive Director. NASSCO had never had a formal marketing program and Irv recognised the need to bring NASSCO’s identity to a higher level, so we got to work. Irv was an amazing mentor, helping me navigate NASSCO and its mission to set standards for the assessment,
maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure and to assure the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless technologies.

When Irv left NASSCO, I then worked side-by-side with my predecessor, Ted DeBoda. Over the years one of my biggest contributions to NASSCO was the development of articles promoting trenchless technologies. Working with the committees, our goal was to help keep NASSCO and the need for the proper assessment and maintenance solutions for underground infrastructure top of mind.

When Ted resigned in January 2018, I knew I had to help the organisation start looking for a replacement. Per NASSCO bylaws, the board began a thorough national search for an executive director. A few weeks later, when I received two separate phone calls asking if I would consider applying for the position, I was extremely humbled,
but I needed to make sure it was a good fit.

After some serious soul-searching, I realised that my entire life and career had led to this moment; with my knowledge of underground infrastructure and deep understanding of how to promote a non-profit organisation the opportunity made a lot of sense. So, I accepted the offer to apply, interviewed with NASSCO’s Executive Board and was extremely honoured when I was offered the position.

In what areas would you like to grow and develop NASSCO?

I have three very important short-term goals for NASSCO.

First, I want to serve the entire industry by returning focus to contractors. NASSCO was formed as a contractor organisation in 1976 and it has shifted slightly away from that focus. This does not mean it needs to 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.

More importantly, our communities benefit when our underground infrastructure is assessed and maintained properly.

Secondly, I want to further grow and develop relationships with other organisations aligned to NASSCO’s industry such as Water Environment Federation, North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT),
National Utility Contractors Association, ISTT and others. In my opinion, this is not a competitive space – we are all working together for a common goal, 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. For a while, we have been flying under the radar, and even today members sometimes still ask ‘what are you doing for me?’ Over the years, NASSCO and its committees have done a tremendous amount of work to change the trajectory of our industry.

Today, we are coming together with NASTT and other industry leaders to address published reports regarding the safety of CIPP emissions.

Why are organisations like NASSCO important?

They are critical for industry professionals because they bring important issues to members’ attention and give them a unified voice. Contractors are busy and don’t always have time to keep up with industry opportunities or threats.

For example, an important initiative NASSCO has undertaken this year is closely monitoring Washington. With infrastructure budgets being approved and allocated, it is critical that NASSCO and other organisations ensure that underground infrastructure is included when those funds are being allocated.

What benefits does NASSCO offer its members?

Last fall, while I was still a consultant working with NASSCO, I conducted a member-wide survey asking the simple question: ‘What keeps you up at night?’

The answers were quite clear, with safety being the number one concern. Close behind were other concerns including hiring and retention, drug and addiction programs for employees, succession planning, making
payroll and all of the things that business owners deal with.

While our Pipeline Assessment Certification and Inspector Training Certification Programs are the hallmark of
NASSCO, we can’t ignore other issues that should be addressed to help contractors succeed. So while we continue to improve training for everyone aligned to our industry – whether they are NASSCO members or not – we want to incorporate programs that help contractors succeed in their day-to-day business.

Tim Vivian of Green Mountain Pipeline is this year’s President, and he and I have made a commitment to travel across the country to meet with members to understand their unique needs and specific geographic challenges. In short, we need to listen better and respond faster.

What project or initiative are you particularly proud to have been involved in?

One of the things I am most proud of is bringing competitors together. While with New Phase Marketing, which I have since sold, I represented a handful of companies in this space. Clearly there are many more. While I love my former clients, and I’m so grateful for their support for me and my agency over the years, I know that in this role, my responsibility is to be objective and represent all members equally.

This comes easily, because I have always seen the value of competitors coming together. A few years ago I wrote an article that included the perspectives of two competing manufacturers of grout material. They clearly
had different objectives and goals, but when it came to doing what’s best, their competitive natures were put to the side. They were smart enough to know that there is plenty of business for everyone and to build that demand, we sometimes need to come together.

NASSCO members who don’t understand that, or have their own agendas, typically don’t last very long in our

What does the future hold for NASSCO?

I see NASSCO’s benefits becoming more clearly defined in the coming years, helping it to expand throughout North and South America, and hopefully beyond. Ageing infrastructure is a universal issue and not one
of us can do this alone.

I see our industry becoming more sophisticated in the near future. I recently attended a congressional fly-in in Washington and was extremely impressed with the holistic theme of water, wastewater, stormwater, and every aspect of our industry having a real and direct effect on the other.

The unification of associations for a stronger voice in Washington – and around the world – will help us achieve greater awareness of what’s beneath us and the importance of keeping underground infrastructure in good repair, just as we do roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure.

What do the results of CUIRE’s review of potential safety impacts associated with CIPP mean for the industry?

Questions about safety must always be taken seriously, and when various reports were published questioning the safety of styrene-based resin used in the CIPP process, NASSCO stepped up because safety is our number one concern. CUIRE’s study began last December and the results, which found the earlier reports to be non-conclusive, were recently presented to us.

However, this is just the first step – NASSCO recently published a request for proposal for phase two of the study. We expect to have the final report by the end of the year.

This article was featured in the Summer edition of Trenchless International. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.

For more information visit the NASSCO website.

If you have news you would like featured in Trenchless International contact Assistant Editor Chloe Jenkins at

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