Environment, Madrid, People Spotlight

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting an environment, health and safety (EHS), and sustainability services manager based in AECOM’s Madrid office.

Mencía Martínez is an EHS and sustainability services manager based in AECOM’s Madrid office. Her work focuses on impact and risk assessments, environmental, health and safety audits, and sustainability services. She has travelled widely and worked on a range of international projects in regions such as Abu Dhabi, Gabon, Bolivia and Greece.

What inspired you to join the industry?

When I finished my degree as an agricultural engineer, I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do. I had done several international cooperation projects, spending my summers studying tropical agriculture in Latin America. This inspired me to spend several months in Nicaragua and Honduras collaborating with two non-government organizations (NGOs).

Although working on international projects like this was satisfying, I started thinking where else I could use my skills, and environmental services made total sense to me. AECOM was a great fit well as had the global scope to embrace different cultures and geographies, and I could provide services where social aspects wee part of the analysis. I’ve now been working in the sector for nearly 20 years!

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

This is very tough as I love my work! One relates to an old copper mine the south of Spain where I helped assess the liabilities derived from the past mining activity, while analyzing the presence of protected species, such as bats in former galleries or vegetation that had adapted to very specific acid soil conditions. This project was both enjoyable and challenging as it was one of the first larger schemes I managed, so it boosted my confidence as well. The project allowed me to work with many other specialists, firstly in the mine area, and later, in developing a clear and transparent assessment report.

Within my role, I often feel like an investigator in learning how to improve environmental and social practices, which can be passed on to clients so they can have a positive lasting impact on the communities they serve. I remember I once did an environmental monitoring of offshore drilling works following measures we had defined in an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Although these measures were approved by the client, the drilling rig operators were unfamiliar with the new environmental requirements. Over a few months, I was on hand to teach the rig operators how to improve their environmental management which has had a lasting impact in changing mindsets.

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

One that is most memorable is a project within the Amazonian rainforest where I helped our client understand the viability of developing new oil wells, while also analyzing the access options in terms of engineering, health and safety, environmental, social, and economical aspects.

This project was a truly collaborative effort, working with global experts. I travelled to Ecuador, to gain an understanding of the region, the operations involved, the site-specific characteristics, and most importantly, about the culture as the site presented evidence of indigenous tribes living in voluntary isolation in the area. In the end, the project was never taken forward and I like to think it was our assessment of the social impacts on these communities that helped the decision. I gained a lot from this project in working with a great team and learning so much by being on-site, embracing new cultures and protecting communities.

Share a piece of career advice. 

Enjoy what you do and keep learning new things! The environmental sector is changing rapidly, and our clients’ needs are also adapting as they meet social and sustainability challenges affecting their business and customers. See change as an opportunity to grow professionally and improve on traditional approaches with a new point of view. So go on, ask for help, connect with colleagues, further your training and don’t miss any opportunity to learn from others!

Mencía Martínez

Originally published Jul 13, 2022

Author: Mencía Martínez

Mencía Martínez is an EHS and sustainability services manager based in AECOM’s Madrid office.