Canada, People Spotlight, Water, Water & Wastewater

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a process engineer from our Water business line in Canada and providing insight into their civil engineering inspiration and work.

Based in our Winnipeg office in Manitoba, Canada, Natalie is the Area Market Sector Leader for Western Canada and a process engineer focusing primarily on wastewater treatment. Natalie completed her master’s thesis in civil engineering on deammonification in 2017 while on maternity leave. She and her family are avid camping enthusiasts.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.

I fell into the water industry by accident. I had originally entered engineering thinking that I would be mitigating environmental degradation through environmental impact assessments, following my mother’s footsteps as a soil conservationist. In 2016, a co-op position within AECOM’s Water business line in Winnipeg changed my mind, where I was able to work alongside inspiring people on interesting projects.

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

I’ve been lucky and very grateful to work on many projects, where I’ve been challenged with stretch goals, interesting clients and different infrastructure concepts. One of my favorite projects is the Regina Wastewater Plant Upgrade. The preliminary treatment mechanical facility, with lagoons and UV, needed to be upgraded to meet more stringent effluent limits. Our team worked with the city through conceptual design, and then assisted in finding the best construction delivery method. Construction proceeded with AECOM as the owner’s engineer. Through this project, I was able to work alongside some of our most talented team members across Canada. We developed the contract documents that successfully met the client’s needs for current and future growth, with the level of risk transfer that they were comfortable with. Construction went well and the city was happy with the outcome. AECOM has continued to manage the contract throughout the O&M phase and is now looking at the next plant expansion.

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

When I started working full-time after graduation, I was given the opportunity to relocate to Trinidad to help a team on the design of two new wastewater treatment facilities and collection systems that AECOM had been awarded. I was able to help but also learn on every project aspect. In addition to the design of the facilities, we also came across challenges that would likely only be found in developing countries. For example, there were no proper as-builts on some of the sewered portions, so we had to build our own – popping manholes and measuring. It was personally eye-opening to see how the wastewater collection and treatment had been previously handled. Almost every community had potable water, but wastewater was either overflowing into drainage ditches, or running through abandoned or neglected treatment facilities. Although it took a while for construction to begin, the impact that AECOM’s team has made on improving the wastewater infrastructure and overall environment in Trinidad cannot be overstated.     

Share a piece of career advice.

Never stop asking questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s through setting those stretch goals for yourself and figuring out how to achieve them that you can meet some incredible people within AECOM and our industry.

You should also try to get involved outside of work in a professional organization. Help organize an event, meet up with a local young professional (or old professional!) group, provide mentoring, and just get out there and meet your peers from other companies. Share your passion for doing what you love.

Originally published Apr 27, 2022

Author: Natalie Wilson