Career Path Spotlight: Claire Bonham-Carter
At AECOM, employees are encouraged and supported to pursue career paths that best fit their unique capabilities, interests, and aspirations. Our Career Path Spotlight series takes you through the rewarding career journeys of our employees who have stepped out of their comfort zone and taken on new challenges to chart their own successful careers and growth.
This time, we caught up with Claire Bonham-Carter, vice president of sustainability and resilience in our Buildings + Places business line in the U.S. West region, to understand her journey and experiences across all four AECOM career paths.
Hi Claire. What do you do for AECOM?
I lead AECOM’s Global Center of Excellence for Sustainability and Resilience for the Buildings + Places business line and am ESG Technical Lead for the U.S. West Region. I help clients understand why, where and when they should integrate low carbon, equitable and resilience thinking into their projects.
Give us a summary about how you got here.
Communication of science has always been important to me. My first job was at the Science Museum in London where I produced educational shows and exhibitions on topics from solar power to the history of bicycles, nuclear fusion and fake photography. My career at AECOM started in London with legacy firm Faber Maunsell in 2001, working with local, regional and national governments on sustainable design and construction solutions with a focus on renewable energy. I worked on the first-ever UK Government technical planning policy guidance on climate change, and even made the case for AECOM to undertake its first carbon footprint calculation back in the mid-2000s.
In 2007, I moved to the AECOM San Francisco office, having fallen in love with the city during a work trip. There, I established a climate action planning practice and was soon promoted to principal, director for sustainable development. My focus shifted to climate adaptation in around 2011 as clients realized climate change was happening and broader city resilience was introduced with the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) program.
I was part of AECOM’s inaugural ESG Global Council and helped to develop our Sustainable Legacies strategy which was launched in April 2021. While my primary responsibilities fall within the technical excellence career path, I wear many hats and my role frequently encompasses parts of other paths, such as managing and directing projects, developing and leading teams, and winning work.
What was a career defining moment for you?
AECOM’s work with 100RC came about through a conversation with the head of the very new 100RC organization at a C40 Mayors Forum in Johannesburg. I talked to him about the sustainability and climate work we were doing and shared some stories about my own personal resilience getting held up by Colombian guerrilla freedom fighters in the early 90s. From that connection, 100RC tried us out on a few cities and we essentially built the plane while we were flying it with the 100RC staff. It really forced me to learn about other elements of resilience beyond climate. Due to an amazing AECOM team around the world, we ultimately worked on 34 of the 100 cities in the network between 2014-2019.
What’s something you’re proud of?
Always looking to innovate and push the boundaries with our projects. Surrounded by a great team, we look to develop new tools or methods to problem solve for clients. The team is small, but our reach is mighty—my team’s sustainability and resilience project examples are used by teams in proposals across the world.
A recent, personal event I am proud of was riding my bike over 500 miles from London to Glasgow over six days through wind, rain and rainbows to raise awareness for climate action. The destination was the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) where I represented AECOM and our work on several panels with clients.
What advice do you have for people who want to chart their careers?
Take advantage of innovation programs and put forward your ideas. Collaborate with colleagues on competitions and volunteering, join local industry chapters or organizations, attend networking events (in and outside your company).
If not this path, what would have been your career plan B?
I am an avid rock climber and spend as many weekends climbing as I can in Yosemite National Park. I would have been a rock climber living out of my van.