#engineeredOURway - Claire McDonald

We hear from Claire our Principal Consultant, who shares her WSP journey with us.


What do you do?
I am a security, risk & resilience professional. Ultimately, what I do (or try to do) is ensure our clients, their projects and their organisations are resilient. To me, this means ensuring they can prevent, prepare, respond and recover from any security incidences that may befall them. This covers a huge area; from ensuring the physical security of a new building, helping an organisation implement their business continuity management systems effectively, to writing strategies on crime prevention measures.

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from East London, England. I was very fortunate to grow up surrounded by my close-knit extended family.

How long have you been with WSP? In the region?
My Middle East journey started in Bahrain in 2014. I was working as a security consultant in London and was seconded to Bahrain to help grow the Physical Security & Crisis Management capability in the region. I worked between Bahrain & Saudi Arabia while based there, and fell completely in love with the island of Bahrain. I was offered a role at a British owned Security Consultancy firm in Dubai, and relocated again in 2016. I joined WSP in April 2018 and have worked on some amazing projects since joining the company. 

What got you into security?
I always knew I wanted to work in an industry that kept people safe & secure. That principle was always very important to me. As my education progressed (I studied Law & Criminology as an undergrad, originally thinking I would become a solicitor, with a focus on criminal law) my thoughts evolved, and I realised I didn’t want to practice law, but I wanted to witness its implementation. I considered a career in both the police force and the prison service, completing the certification in the Knowledge of Policing and obtaining a place with the London Metropolitan Police, as well as securing a place on Her Majesty’s Prison Service Graduate Scheme in London. But, I still wasn’t satisfied. It was still not exactly what I wanted to do. After a gap year, and some insightful travelling, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship at the Centre for Security Sector Management at Cranfield University, where I was able to spend a year studying for an MSc in Security Sector Management at the UK’s infamous Defence Academy. It was here that I realised security was my calling. I was able to tap into an industry that was trying to prevent criminal activity, rather than dealing with the consequences after the event. I worked hard and landed a place on the Atkins Physical Security Graduate Scheme in London in 2011. I haven’t looked back since.    

What has been your best accomplishment at work?
I have had a few ‘wow’ moments so far. Being part of the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games, as my first ever project with Atkins. This was particularly poignant for me, as the Games felt like a regeneration of the area my family has grown up in, with a part of the Olympic Park built next to the road where my Nan lived shortly after WWII with her family.
However, I will never forget the adrenaline rush of my first presentation at the Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu in Saudi Arabia when I was just 25, something not many females of that age can say they had the opportunity to do.   

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the industry I work in. I am passionate about the promotion of effective, bespoke and fit for purpose security & resilience solutions that benefit communities and help them thrive.
Just an importantly, outside of work, I am an avid traveller and have a passion for seeing as much of the world as I can. I was proud to hit 50 countries by the age of 30, a personal goal of mine.

What is it you do outside of work that you feel most proud of?
I have a wonderful network of family and friends, both at home in the UK and in my adopted home,  Dubai. I live here in Dubai with my husband, and we are fortunate enough to have our close friends from the UK living down the road. Not many people get to experience the expat journey with their best friends, and we have been very fortunate to have had this experience all together.
When I am not working, and if I’m not travelling, I am spending time with friends & family, or you’ll find me at the gym, something I am very passionate about. In the cooler months, I enjoy hiking in RAK, heading to Kite Beach or kayaking at Hatta Lakes. Anything that gets me outdoors. I’m proud to say I have completed a half marathon, hiked the UK Trailwalker (100km walk in 24 hours) and undertook the UK’s three peaks challenge, climbing the three highest peaks in England, Scotland & Wales in succession. 

Are you involved / have you been involved in any innovative / future ready work?
I recently joined the WSP Future Ready film campaign – watch this space for when it goes live! I have also promoted WSP’s #balanceforbetter campaign on social media on the March social media takeover day.
I enjoy speaking at events whenever possible, to educate people about the security, risk & resilience industry. I recently spoke about the future of the built environment for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from a security & resiliency perspective at the Safety in Buildings conference in Riyadh & Jeddah.

What can you say about gender diversity? In the industry?
The engineering industry doesn’t have the best reputation for gender diversity. Add in the security, risk & resilience element and it gets worse. However, as I am progressing within the industry I am encouraged by the women I see behind me, also forging the same path. I see some brilliant young women coming up within the security, resilience & cyber security industries. Individually, and as a collective, we must do all we can to empower women to choose the career options that are right for them, and to insist on the removal of any barriers that would impede great women from succeeding. Equally, we must educate everyone on the benefits of a balanced work environment that goes beyond gender diversity, and ensures we have diversity in all our roles, to make sure the right people are sat at the table, no matter where they are from or what gender they are.

I am also actively involved in setting up a Women’s in Resilience Forum within KSA. Again, watch this space…