People Spotlight, Rail, Transportation

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting an associate director from our stakeholder engagement team in the United Kingdom and providing an insight into his inspiration and work.

Mark Williams joined AECOM in early 2022. Based in London, he is working with a range of clients and stakeholders to tackle entrenched challenges in infrastructure projects and has a keen interest in working to help the UK meet its net zero targets. Most recently, Mark completed a master’s degree in infrastructure planning appraisal and development at University College London.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.

Having spent four years as a cabinet member for regeneration and new homes for a London borough council, I learnt a huge amount about infrastructure and development, and was fortunate to work alongside talented officers. I’ve always been fascinated by how projects get off the ground and how you maximise the benefits from them. Before joining AECOM, I worked at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on the legacy of the London 2012 Games. This really opened my eyes to how projects can leave a lasting positive impact for communities if they are well planned.

When I came across the opportunity to work at AECOM, I applied because of the company’s reputation and flexible working policies. It has been fantastic because it has broadened my experience with a diverse range of projects and allowed me to build connections through stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholder engagement is vital throughout the lifecycle of major projects in ensuring all views feed into the project and decisions are made taking these into account alongside other factors. This is something I’m passionate about — I really enjoy hearing out and acting on people’s ideas for a massive project that will add value by increasing access to jobs and housing and improving quality of life. Deriving maximum opportunities for communities from major infrastructure projects and seeing them be delivered on the ground is really rewarding.

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

I really enjoy working on the proposed new rail line from Oxford to Cambridge in England. We have an experienced team supporting East West Rail Company — a government owned company — assisting on planning and delivering stakeholder engagement and public consultations to progress the project. This includes engaging with a wide range of stakeholders, including local authorities, universities, trade associations, communities, and Members of Parliament.

We help clients engage various stakeholders for a project, and AECOM’s integrated approach helps deliver that service. We collaborated with our digital experts to develop PlanEngage, an interactive online platform that enhances communication and engagement, and promotes collaboration and feedback, minimising risk and improving outcomes for the project owner, the community, and the environment. We also use virtual consultation rooms which promotes inclusivity as wider audience engagement is possible and allowed engagement to continue during the pandemic lockdowns.

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

I’m currently working on the South Westminster area Heat Network project in Central London, collaborating closely with government and the local council to help design and deliver work that will decarbonise hundreds of buildings and improve air quality in the area. The project will replace gas-fired boilers (which contribute to poor air quality and climate change) with a network that will take heat from the River Thames, sewers and other local sources. As a third of the UK’s emissions come from heating buildings, this decarbonisation project is important for the UK meeting its net zero ambitions to tackle climate change.

It’s a very collaborative project. At AECOM, we understand that combining a diverse mix of people and collective efforts is the only way to solve complex issues.

Share a piece of career advice.

Always ask questions. If you don’t understand what’s been discussed in a meeting, someone else might be wondering about the same thing. We all excel when we are open to ask questions and receive support from colleagues.

Expose yourself to as many experiences as possible. Enjoy the diversity of roles you’ll have and take the opportunity to learn from people around you.

In short, ask questions, be curious and take on all and any challenges that come your way.

Originally published May 9, 2023

Author: Mark Williams