Australia New Zealand, Career Fridays, Career Paths, Water

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 Marco van Winden, technical practice leader, technical lead and lead verifier, to discover how he chose the path he’s on today.   

Hi Marco. What do you do for AECOM?

I am a technical director in our Water business line. I have two key roles, one being Technical Practice Leader of the water infrastructure practice area in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), and the other as technical lead and lead verifier on major water projects. Our water infrastructure practice in ANZ is about designing pipelines, pump stations and treatment plants. I work across the region to help the practice make our project designs as technically excellent as possible.

Tell us about your journey and how you got here.

I graduated from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand with bachelor’s in civil engineering with first class honors. My first six years after graduation were in land development, where I undertook planning and design of many subdivisions in Christchurch.

After moving back to my hometown of Auckland, I spent four years in a consultancy designing civil and sewerage infrastructure before joining legacy AECOM company Meritec. I became associate director managing a team of 15 environmental engineers. I also managed our Auckland City/Metrowater’s Integrated Catchment Study project.

To gain major project experience, I relocated to our Brisbane office for two years. However, my family and I decided to call Brisbane home. Over the next four years, I became design manager and project manager of the Toowoomba Pipeline Alliance. This role contributed to my promotion to technical director and roles on key projects such as the concept design and business case for the Cedar Grove Connector pipeline and project management of the South-East Queensland Water Grid Disinfection Options Study.

Following that, I spent six years with a small firm starting an engineering business, before returning to AECOM to focus my career on technical excellence. I returned with an interest in pursuing technical roles and technical leadership of major water projects, which subsequently included Unitywater’s Wamuran Irrigation Scheme and working as a design manager for Sydney Water’s ProMac project. I am proud to have achieved these outcomes and to be supporting technical excellence in ANZ as technical practice leader for water infrastructure.

What was a career defining moment for you?

A career defining moment was early in the Toowoomba Pipeline Project. It became evident that the client and construction partners were deferring to my advice and leadership more so than the design manager who had been brought in from overseas. I realized that experience is not the only quality a professional engineer must have. I didn’t have more experience, but my clear communication style was confident, and the design team had my back.

What would you say is the best part of your job?

Earlier in my career, I got a kick out of seeing my designs constructed (and I still do!). But now, what motivates me are the opportunities where I get to mentor water infrastructure engineers to hone their skills and become technical experts, and to support project managers by nominating experienced professionals from Australia and New Zealand or globally to work in their projects.

What’s something you wish someone had told you years ago?

I wish I had understood a lot earlier the impact that humanity is having on our ecology and climate. I have only really discovered this truth in the last two years. My focus now is to plan for creating social value in projects at their inception for better outcomes – environmentally and socially.

If not this path, what would have been your career plan B?

I could just as easily have followed a project management career path within AECOM, given my roles as project manager on major AECOM contracts in Auckland and Brisbane.

Originally published Feb 24, 2023

Author: Marco van Winden