Bridging the Digital Gender Divide

With a swag of patents, named in BRW’s Upstarts list and one of Australia’s fastest growing and most innovative start-ups, Henry Okraglik joined WSP to lead the Software Engineering Division in 2009.

As Global Director for Digital, Henry (pictured above left with his son, Joe) currently leads a team of more than 40 elite software and mechatronic engineers, business analysts and project managers, enhancing clients engineering, infrastructure, building, and environmental projects.


Henry says, “I have a great team of talented individuals and am constantly looking for ways in which we can grow our skillset and gender diversity. Software engineering has been painted as an unattractive domain for females, but it has so much to offer – you can work anywhere, it’s flexible and it’s a great discipline in which to build your career.”


In recent times, WSP has been making great strides in growing our gender diversity in the hard coding space, and its paying off.


“Bringing diversity, in all its forms – gender, age, thought – to the table delivers a huge advantage for our clients. If we are going to solve key challenges for them and for society, we need to look at issues through many diverse lenses and gain as many perspectives as possible.”


As part of shaping the global digital strategy for WSP, Henry is playing a key part in delivering ‘digital first’ projects and working with clients to harness the benefits of technology disruption and innovation. Recently, he has been focusing on utilising technology to improve and inform our cities.


He says, “With most Australians living or working in cities, ensuring they are responsive and sustainable is essential in securing their capacity to survive and thrive, better servicing their citizens.”


Henry, and the Digital Team, in collaboration with key partners, developed and implemented a world-first Internet of Things (IoT) Platform, The Melbourne Liveability Monitor. This platform receives data from sound, vibration, and air quality sensors put in place for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project. The system aggregates the data received from the sensors, and performs real-time analysis to enable compliance with environmental regulations via notifications and audit records.


More recently, he led the team working with the City of Newcastle, co-designing and implementing a Smart City Intelligent Platform, that will make data available to citizens and interested parties. Using Open Data Sets, accessible by easy to use, web-based tools, the platform enables the visualisation of large bodies of information relevant to Newcastle and surrounding areas. The key to the project’s success, has been the collaborative nature of all stakeholders.


“In my experience a successful project is usually the result of close collaboration with clients, a shared vision, and a deep understanding of their needs. The City of Newcastle project exemplifies this.”


Henry’s enthusiasm for technology developed at a young age. However, he originally studied architecture at university, practised for a short while, then took on an academic role at RMIT before starting a company with his friend and relocating to San Francisco to secure funding.


Reflecting on his university days, Henry states “I really should have studied engineering; it’s where my passion lies. Technology and engineering will change how we do things in the future, and how we shape the world around us. I never thought I’d work for a large organisation, but WSP has provided an interesting and attractive opportunity to create something new, build it up and see where we can take it.  This spoke to the inventor in me, excited me. I’ve been given the space and freedom to do cool things and create real value for clients.”


Outside of work, Henry is an adventurer, enjoying regular trips in Australia and oversees. He is an avid motorcycle rider and is in the process of coordinating 10-day tour with like-minded riders, starting in Siliguri and snaking through Sikkim in north eastern India. “Riding a motorcycle requires mental and physical engagement, it also keeps you in the moment – my version of mindfulness.  My wife and children don’t share my love of technology or motorcycle riding, but they do share my love of the beach, and we often come together in that setting to relax and enjoy nature.” Henry credits taking time to relax and refocus as the key to thinking around client’s pain points and finding innovate ways to resolve them.


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