Building Bridges to Connect Opportunities

Tom Cooper, Section Executive for Bridges and Structures joined our Australian business in early 2019, transferring from WSP’s operations in the United States.

With experience spanning Europe, Asia, North and South America and now Australia, Tom is well-respected for his skills in the delivery and management of iconic and innovative road, rail and pedestrian bridges as well as structures. He says, “I’ve embraced the challenges of working across the world because this is where the big technical challenges and opportunities have been.”


Having studied environmental engineering and architecture prior to getting a degree in Civil Engineering, Tom’s decision to move into a technically-focused role manifested out of a desire to be in a stronger position to directly affect change and to incorporate environmental principals into development projects. He adds, “Engineering allows for creativity and a bit of entrepreneurship in design.”


“The firm has always been encouraging of its people in exploring new and innovative ways of doing things and that is why it has been such a fantastic place to work . Risk excites me, and I get a real kick out of creating entirely new technical methods to solve unique challenges.


“There are ideas and methods that I’ve implemented on projects in the past that are still being used today, and that is great recognition!”


Connection is the Foundation of Opportunity

With a desire to give back to areas in need, Tom has worked closely with Bridges to Prosperity, a non-for-profit organisation with a purpose is to connect poverty-stricken communities in rural areas to opportunities. “I got involved in the cause back when I lived in Denver because the organisation’s purpose is aligned closely with my own,” explains Tom.


“Having travelled to El Salvador, Bolivia and Rwanda in the past, I wanted to use my technical engineering skills to really make an impact.


“Now it’s more about allowing younger professionals to really make a change to communities. When I moved to Australia, I was keen to get a local presence on the project and we were lucky enough to have three young professionals from our ANZ business join the wider WSP team in Rwanda this year.”


Balanced Teams Design Balanced Communities

On the topic of gender equality in the workplace, Tom is forthcoming with his opinion. He adds, “I honestly believe that we can’t truly create public infrastructure without balance. As an industry, how do we plan to relate to our clients if we are constantly going into meetings with male heavy teams?


“Perhaps there is an inherited (inherent) societal issue where men and women are suited to different industries but I don’t think we should accept this. I believe that we need to recruit more women into leadership positions and more women into client facing roles to help us push the gender balance conversation harder.”


For Tom, equality extends to how we use our own personal time. He explains, “Work-Life balance is a key area of consideration and I think Australia does it well. I take time out of my mornings to make sure I’m mentally ready for the day; this means going for a run or cycle and for others it can mean something else, such as working flexibly to accommodate personal or family commitments.


“People should be able to work as they need to, to get the most out of themselves, not how society has historically told us to work.”


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