An open mind and respect for all people is key to workplace success and wellbeing, according to three of our people who have themselves benefited from extremely rich experiences of living and working across multiple continents throughout their lives.
Having each experienced very different upbringings and lifestyles in different parts of the world, they all agree on three key things: being adaptable and living and working with a diverse range of people from all parts of the world has been an enriching experience that had a significantly positive impact on who they are today; a strong workplace focus on diversity, inclusion, and breaking biases is an extremely positive thing for workplace culture and wellbeing; and a workplace made up of people who can find their passion and what fulfils them in combination with these things is ultimately what will lead to a positive environment and greater personal and business success.
In this article, Aarti Vaswani, Sarah Anderson, and Richard Stilgoe outline their experiences of working across the world and share their key messages of encouragement and advice for achieving a more equitable and fruitful workplace.
Finding what brings fulfilment
By adapting to different roles and different continents, Aarti Vaswani developed her career and the skills that fulfil her, creating success and positive influence in the workplace…
Aarti is American, of South Asian descent, and moved from New York City to Dubai 15 years ago only planning to do a two-year stint in the region.
“Two things attracted me to Dubai: (1) the cultural diversity – I love being able to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds and (2) the market – it provided opportunities for employees to really gain experience grounds up – from start to finish.”
Aarti has been working at WSP for the last seven years, during which time she has been able to assume different roles through various acquisitions of Parsons Brinckerhoff, Mouchel, and then Louis Berger. Her adaptability, interpersonal skills, and her drive and commitment towards continuous learning have been key elements to her growth and development throughout her career, but also key elements that bring her enjoyment and fulfilment in her work life.
“I love that in my role as Head of Project Finance, I am able to use both my interpersonal skills to manage interactions and relationships with a multitude of stakeholders, along with my analytical skills for managing project finance, both on a daily basis, to help improve business performance.”
“What I love most about WSP is the passion and pride everyone feels towards their work and the company values and sense of community. It’s an extremely positive influence within the work environment and this is something I really believe is important both for great wellbeing as well as for teams to have the most success together.”
Aarti greatly encourages open-mindedness and respect for different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives, and when it comes to imparting her wisdom onto the next generation of industry professionals, she says: “Embrace continuous learning, as change is the only constant, and follow your passions – fulfilment and success will automatically follow.”
Harnessing a world of expertise
Drawing on her global upbringing, Sarah Anderson details how a career in talent acquisition is enabling her to help change people’s lives…
“I lived in 11 countries and went to 10 different schools while I was growing up,” says Sarah Anderson, a Talent Acquisition Partner for WSP Middle East, as she reflects on her formative years growing up as a third culture kid.
“Being in that situation taught me to be very adaptable and flexible… being able to move to different schools and countries at a young age, make new friends, and adapt to new environments had a significant impact on who I am today.”
Since establishing herself in Dubai several years ago and joining WSP in 2022, Sarah’s now drawing on her international roots and exposure to help bolster WSP Middle East’s ambition of being an employer of choice for top, diverse talent.
“Working in talent acquisition, I count myself to be in a very privileged position. When I'm reviewing applications, for instance, I’m more mindful of trying to remove any unconscious bias and being open to considering people of different nationalities, ages, and backgrounds.”
She adds: “Considering the industry that we are in is very much a male-dominated one, having a strong workplace focus on diversity and inclusion is a great thing… I think, generally, it's nice to know that I'm working for an organisation that is putting a lot of energy into trying to be better.”
On the topic of role models, Sarah says she credits her dad for having instilled a strong work ethic and worldly perspective.
“My dad used to work in the project management and construction industry. So, the fact that he was moving his family around to all of these new countries for different projects, I think that gave me perspective. The connection is really cool – being able to work in the same industry and help source senior level talent for some of the most iconic projects in the region is fulfilling and something I’m really proud of.”
“But the thing that I'm probably most proud of is the fact that I am somewhat involved in changing people's lives. When you kind of step back for a bit, you end up realising that you are directly and indirectly changing people’s lives and having a massive impact on their future.”
‘Landing on both sides of the coin’
From Canada to China, and numerous countries in between, Richard Stilgoe shares how working across multiple continents has equipped him with know-how on tapping the benefits of inclusive, diverse working environments…
Prior to being appointed HR Director for WSP Middle East, Richard Stilgoe amassed a wealth of experience within the far reaches of the global human resources playing field. His stints in places as varied as Vancouver, Houston, and Milan have taught him a lot about how to create workplaces where people jell, feel valued, and where cultural nuances are a point of unity instead of disparity.
“I think there are two sides to the coin when aiming to embed inclusive working environments,” he says.
“One side of the coin is making sure we are actively trying to address and improve the opportunities that we afford to our multinational, culturally rich workforce. From minimising bias in our talent acquisition process and using inclusive language before role profiles are put out to market, to hosting diverse interview panels and educating our people on the merits of establishing gender diverse and psychologically safe places for people to work – we aim to leave no stone unturned when addressing the gender and diversity gaps that can arise.”
Richard says that the other side of the coin involves a much more kinetic approach towards diversity.
“Both operationally and strategically, I’ve put many initiatives in place that I'm proud of. But I think what I'm proud of most in in my career is the multinational exposure that I've had having worked in Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, Europe, and Asia.”
“I think the world is becoming smaller. Mentalities are changing, and racial and gender barriers are dropping. When I think back on my history and what makes me open minded towards diversity, it's very much the multicultural experience that I've had in my career.”
He adds: “By affording the same opportunities [global mobility] as far as we can to hiring managers and to senior leadership, encouraging them to move around WSP’s big global business, I think this will help open their mindsets to working in various regions and with various nationalities. I think that can be a big area of focus for us moving forward.”