#engineeredHERway - Caroline Parsons

We hear from our HR Director and Director, Shared Services, Caroline who shares her WSP journey with us.

How do you describe your job?
Awesome! I get to lead, influence and my job is very varied, whether it is HR strategy or corporate cost issues I spend the majority of my time doing something that in some way or another is for WSP’s people; This can be a situation that impacts one person or everyone, including our people’s families.  This, as you can imagine, is quite far reaching and thankfully I have a great team of people supporting me. 

Where are you originally from?
 I am from Manchester in the UK however I have been living in Qatar since 2011.

How long have you been with WSP? In the region?
In 2005 I was employed as a HR Advisor for Balfour Beatty Engineering Services covering the North and Central UK. I then moved to Balfour Beatty Head Office in London in 2009. In October 2011, I accepted a 3-month assignment for Parsons Brinckerhoff in the Middle East to lead the HR team and to help with two major projects we had been awarded, LRDP PMC and Qatar Rail SPM.! I enjoyed it so much that I am still here 7 years later and of course now a part of WSP!

So far, I have had a wonderful 12 years with the company and appreciate every single opportunity I have had. I have been fortunate to have some of the best possible managers and mentors and countless people who believed in what was possible from this young (still youngish) Manchester girl.

What has been your greatest accomplishment at work?
Can I mention a few?

Witnessing the growth and progression of people in WSP. In the last 7 years, I have had the opportunity to hire, appoint and support some incredible people, who have, through their own capability and ambition, gone on to do incredible things.

Actively supporting the Women in Professional Services Network is something I regret not being part of sooner, but I am pleased with the progress we have made and especially the more recent development of our gender balance action plan.  Taking the decision to get more involved as a regional leader and to allocate time and budget to the support of women in WSP was a key moment for me. We still have progress to make but we can only improve.

At the end of the week I look back at what has been achieved and all the people who played a part in that. As I get older I encounter more and more woman who have not only survived but thrived despite the most challenging professional and or personal circumstances. High five to all of us!

What are you passionate about?
I enjoy challenging the status quo when considering what is possible, but most of all I am passionate about working with other people to generate ideas and equally support people to deliver new and exciting things. I am passionate about accelerating and inspiring people who want to achieve something more.

It is like starting fires; We need three core elements for a fire to ignite – heat, fuel, oxygen. I can be all three elements and start the fire myself, but I am really having fun when I am one or two of the elements and other people make up what is needed to ignite something great.

How do you like to spend your non-work time?
After a busy week, I like to just sit down for a few hours, enjoy good food and spend time with my partner. But, I do like to keep active.  I combine things like sport or activity with meeting friends. I have mastered the weekend catch up with friends whilst kayaking or horse riding, and the post workout coffee or breakfast works out well. 


Luckily for me I have friends who like to be active and maximise time too so they don’t mind if this is the only way to meet up sometimes. I also have a lot of time alone when travelling, which is not very glamorous. I try to make this more useful and not so isolated by listening to audio-books, reading the news or thought pieces, and of course watching in-flight movies. 

 I am also mother to Zilver the Great Dane, Pepper the Cocker Poodle and Marvin the Golden Retriever and they are always happy to hang out with me. 


Are you involved / have you been involved in any innovative / future ready work – tell us briefly about it.

This is a great question for someone in support services. It may not be so obvious how we handle future ready but one of the things I spend a lot of time working on is the future of workplaces and particularly what will put WSP as an employer ahead of anyone else. This is about creating workplace experiences that see employees as customers to the WSP experience. Being future ready, for me, means designing a workplace that is ready for tomorrow because standing still is not an option.

The other dimension of future readiness is looking to the future of our industry. We are increasing our support to attract women into the STEM sectors. In 2019 we will be launching a series of activities aimed at education liaison from young children to graduates. The ambition is for WSP to inspire and attract women into STEM professions. This is essential for the progress needed in our sector and we must be leaders on this for the industry, not just for ourselves.   

What can you say about gender balance? In the industry?

When I look across WSP globally I can see we have greater gender balance in some regions and lesser progress in others. There are many factors behind this not least the context of regulatory influence on diversity and equality. This variability of progress serves to reinforce that we cannot wait for regulations to tell us what is the right thing to do. It is in the hands of business leaders to set direction and provide investment. Gender and diversity balance is not someone’s else job to do. It is our collective responsibility. It is the responsibility of every engineer to take their role in progressing diversity and inclusion in all forms.

Imagine if every WSP engineer today acted on that responsibility? If they did just one action or took one step to hire differently, mentor someone new, inspire female or minority students, make sure all meetings are inclusive, change policies to remove bias, reject discrimination.  Can you imagine what 50,000 WSP people can do? I can.