Julian Phatarfod

WSP in the UK

As a founding member of WSP’s UK VIBE team, Julian has been active member in promoting Diversity and Inclusion since 2015.

How has being part of the VIBE team supported you in your professional life?

Being involved with LGBT+ inclusion at WSP has helped me to understand the operations of a large organization like WSP and how our policies, processes and systems are designed and implemented. It goes beyond LGBT+ inclusion: every one of our 50,000+ staff is different in their own way and we need to make sure everyone can perform at their best at work. This has helped me in a broader sense with project teams – both internally with my colleagues but also externally with regards to client care and business development. By continuously looking to check and challenge the status quo, I can ensure that our way of working is tailored for people to perform their best. More specifically, helping to develop and co-chair VIBE has helped me connect with many of our business units, technical disciplines and project teams across not only the UK, but also internationally, which has helped me establish a sense of family at WSP. 


What does it mean to be working in a professional environment where diversity and inclusion are a core value?

For me personally, this means never having to second-guess, reconsider or censor who you are as a person. I’ve never been made to feel that being a gay man has negatively impacted me at WSP and I hope that nobody else has, irrespective of who they are. Of course, there will always be day-to-day circumstances – say when meeting a new colleague or during new project team meeting, where you may be uncertain about the audience and have to test the water, however knowing that WSP has my back has always provided me with the reassurance and confidence I needed to succeed at work.


In what ways has your group adapted during the pandemic? What is the impact on your planned celebrations for Pride month? What are you hoping the events will accomplish?

The distancing arrangements due to the outbreak of COVID-19 have certainly changed some of our plans, and while it’s being referred to as ‘social distancing’ it’s been quite the opposite for us. We may be physically distanced but VIBE and its members in the UK have been more socially connected than ever. We launched a “VIBE in your Living Room” webinar series that takes place every two weeks with a guest speaker to discuss a specific LGBT+ theme with an open forum and Q&A to close. Being digitally-reliant has made it easier to connect to members across all our regions, and although cancelled Pride parades in specific cities has been a shame, we can still very much raise the profile of the LGBT+ community at WSP from our own homes.

Knowing that WSP has my back has always provided me with the reassurance and confidence I needed to succeed at work.
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2019 Pride Parade in London, UK

Tell us about marching with WSP colleagues in Pride events?

I had been to numerous Pride parades in the past and they have always been unforgettable, loud, bright and colourful. However, representing your employer as part of the parade is a whole new level of rewarding. I think people compartmentalise themselves and do not expect there to be an intersection between their sexual orientation and their working life. WSP has broken this mindset and I was quickly able to realize that I can be very visibly proud of who I am, proud of my technical contribution to the business. The support of WSP behind me is truly remarkable and I hope that every LGBT+ colleague across the world feels the same way. 


Is there anything you have learned during this pandemic that you would like to see continue?

What I’ve witnessed during these past months while working from home embodies the narrative behind diversity and inclusion that we have been trying to promote. Colleagues are continuously put into new circumstances and I noticed that we have all become more accommodating, considerate, understanding and compassionate towards others and their circumstances. Seeing as WSP always aim to challenge the status quo, I trust we will embrace this disruption to the way we work because it’s shown a new era of flexibility and adaptability. Almost every work call I’ve had over the past months have included colleagues inquiring about how people are getting by: putting oneself in someone else’s shoes lies at the core of diversity and inclusion.

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