ESG, National Governments, People Spotlight, Sustainability

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a senior project manager from our Environment business line in Europe and India, and Defense sector lead for Italy, and providing you insight into their inspiration and work.

Ester Nana graduated with a degree in environmental civil engineering in 2011. After graduation, she worked with the Politecnico di Milano (Polytechnic University of Milan) to study the impact of climate change on hydrological regime and agriculture. Ester joined AECOM in 2013 with her first project supporting our work with the United States Department of Defense in Italy — first as a project engineer, and later as project manager, providing environmental compliance support for the Aviano Air Base. She now leads our National Governments team in Italy.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.

Since childhood, I’ve always had an analytical/schematic mindset and a natural inclination towards sustainability. This led me to pursue my education in environmental and civil engineering and to apply for a position at one of the best design and consulting firms in the world — AECOM. Having the chance to work with highly qualified professionals and subject matter experts (SMEs) from our team in Italy and abroad was a great inspiration for my career.

There are two things that I like the most when working for National Governments:

  1. You get to work on a wide range of projects, from design and construction projects for different types of facilities to environmental compliance or monitoring projects. You never get bored and there is always something new to learn.
  2. There is an opportunity to work with colleagues from different countries, leading to exposure to different cultures.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?

It’s not actually a project but a site, which is the Aviano Air Base. I started my career at AECOM working as a hazardous waste storage area manager at the installation. I spent more than a year on-site providing environmental compliance support and consultancy for the installation. I learned a lot during that time and got to know the people and the surroundings. I carried out environmental media sampling (wastewater, stormwater, groundwater, soil and soil gas) to assess compliance against the national governing standards and legislation and operated the central hazardous waste storage area.

I was also responsible for ensuring that the hazardous waste accumulation point manager is qualified, trained and in possession of the appropriate documentation to turn in the waste, waste unloading and weighing, verification of suitability for storage, including correctness of labels and containers. I carried out weekly inspection of the temporary storage area, yearly inspection of the location where hazardous waste was generated, verification of the documentation and the volume of waste generated and compilation of the annual waste report in accordance with national laws.

My experiences on this project helped me become more diligent and meticulous when performing a due diligence/inspection. It also made me more proactive in investigating and addressing non-compliance issues.

I am always excited when a new project takes place at this installation, and happy to provide technical advice and even give recommendations for good restaurants in the area. I’ll always have a soft spot for Aviano.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.

I believe each project I’ve been working on has its own positive contribution to the community and the environment, whether it is a remediation of contaminated site, a restoration of a facility, or a new construction project. However, one of the projects I am most proud of is the restoration of a wetland area inside a natural park at the U.S. Army Garrisons Italy-Darby Military Community, which is part of the Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli (MSMR) Regional Park and is marked as a special zone for wildlife conservation called “Selva Pisana.” The restoration of wetland was prescribed by the park authority as an environmental compensation measure for some construction projects carried out inside the MSMR.

The restoration consisted of proposing a final, demolition of two concrete pads, hazardous/solid waste removal, excavation/reshaping of soil, and planting of hygrophilous (plants thriving in damp environments) vegetation to include trees and bushes, improving the biodiversity of rare, vulnerable and/or threatened species.

With this project, we were able to re-naturalize the area, and thanks to the collaborative teamwork, we were able to recreate small creeks and peninsulas that encouraged the natural development of micro-habitats and ecological niches.

Share a piece of career advice

Be proactive and think ahead. When you identify an issue, propose solutions, corrective actions and show a way forward. One of the positive aspects of working for a leading company such as AECOM is that we have SMEs in every discipline. Involve them where needed. They may offer a solution you’d have never thought about.

Be a team with the client and your subcontractors. Be kind and accommodating, but resolute when needed. Take the time for a phone call or visit to show the client that you care.

Originally published May 24, 2023

Author: Ester Nana