#EngineeredOurWay – John Gillespie

Take a look at our latest #engineeredOURway article! We caught up with our Principal Engineer in Transport Planning who shared with us what got him into engineering, what he’s most passionate about, what he does in his spare time, his career aspirations and what he thinks makes WSP a great place to work.

What do you do?
I am a Principal Engineer within our Transport Planning team. I plan the way we move around cities, master plans, developments and even car parks. It’s very interesting to be a transport planner currently with all the disruptive new technologies such as autonomous vehicles and the hyperloop are bringing. I love solving problems, so it’s great to do that every day at work.
Where are you originally from?
I am from a small town in Scotland, roughly in the middle of the two main cities Glasgow and Edinburgh. It’s where my full family and extended family live, all stay within 30 minutes of each other, only myself and my sister (also in Dubai) don’t live there!

How long have you been with WSP and in the region?I have been in the UAE for about 5 and a-half years, all with WSP. My brother in law works in the construction industry and has been here for 16 years, so he convinced me to come out.

What got you into engineering?
I was good at maths and physics at school, so it was a natural academic progression. Its also in my blood – my grandfather joined the Royal Engineers division of the British army during the period of conscription after WW2. He came out qualified to operate heavy excavation equipment and set up his own contracting company. From there, my father also set up his own civil engineering contracting company, at the age of 18! He progressed to have over 50 employees at his peak. I was always desperate to get out and work with my Dad, learning to operate an excavator at 4 years old sitting on his lap. This evolved to me working for the family business on all school holidays when I was of age, between university and subsequently after I had graduated. The contracting business is pretty tough as there isn’t as much room for creativity, and being in a family business there wasn’t much room for growth – so that’s where Dubai, WSP and Transport Planning came in.

What has been your best accomplishment at work?
I led the proposal for the Expo Crowd & Event Management prospect and I am now Deputy Project Manager. WSP’s scope is to coordinate the development of plans and activities of all identified departments in the RTA (metro, bus, taxi, traffic, ITS, parking, marketing etc) along with other strategic stakeholders, including Expo 2020, under the leadership of the RTA Expo Event Higher Committee. Over the past year, we have coordinated the development of transportation management plans for each mode of transport and suitable contingency scenarios. The project has also led us to the direct award of a further >2 million AED work with both Expo and RTA. It has consumed the last 2 years of my life, we have presented to the CEO of the Roads and Traffic Agency, the Vice-President of Expo Real Estate and many other key senior management personnel in delivering Expo 2020. It’s been a great learning curve and been a privilege to be involved in. I even heard Sheikh Mohammed admired some of our technical drawings that were presented to him by the chairman of the RTA!

What are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about ensuring we deliver the best quality work to our clients, I like to challenge the status quo and think outside the box. I still have this naivety that I can change the world. Coming from a family business I am passionate about what I do, you tend to treat everything as your own. Therefore, I always try to strive for the best and make sure we have the best design possible. I am also passionate about reaching my potential, trying to learn every day and expand my skills.

What is it you do outside of work that you feel most proud of?
Outside work I spend most time with my wife and 8-month-old daughter. Family is hugely important and since I have my sister and her family here we meet up quite a lot. I am also an avid football fan of, and follow, Glasgow Rangers – which has been pretty painful for the last few years!

How has your career advanced in WSP and what has this meant for you?
I moved here 5 and a half years ago, and took a role as a graduate, despite having worked in civil engineering contracting for 2 years after graduating from university. I wanted a change of career and took a role knowing I had the potential to accelerate quickly. I couldn’t believe the opportunities available for a young engineer after moving from a family business where you were on-site all the time and nothing else. I quickly tried to become involved in whatever I could - Taskforce, working groups and I now lead Future Ready for T&I. All this involvement has improved me as an engineer and my appreciation for what we do as a business. It helped to establish contacts and exposed me to different elements of the business. I have just recently been promoted to Principal Engineer following my work on Expo and really, I see the sky as the limit for the development in WSP.

What are you most looking forward to in your future WSP career?
As any young engineer, technical excellence and developing the fundamentals of your subject is critical. Following my promotion, although this technical excellence continues I will also begin to inherit the support of more junior staff that will require my direction and time. Being able to impart my knowledge on others and manage a team and project is something I am looking forward to, taking greater ownership and responsibilities to drive the company and my development forward.

What do you think makes WSP a great place to work?
The people and the culture we drive here is special. Anything that you want to achieve is here for you if you have the capability and are willing to work hard for it.