BLOG – Learning about water management from the Dutch

17 augustus 2018

Quest is an international transfer program which connects Arcadians from all over the world. The Quest program is sponsored by the Lovinklaan Foundation. Every week we are highlighting one of the stories of our employees who went on an exchange. In this blogpost we cover the Quest story of Isabel Sarriera who traveled from Guaynabo to Amsterdam.

Why did I apply for a Quest

Hearing about the great experiences my colleagues had on their Quests, I was eager to go on my own Quest. I applied with the intention of exchanging knowledge with the Dutch and learning more about water management; specifically, in the areas of drinking water supply and treatment, resiliency (flood protection) and business advisory. I was very interested in learning about resiliency projects the Netherlands have advanced knowledge about this. In Puerto Rico (where I am from), the Government has only just begun talking about it and prioritizing it when it comes to projects. Also, I was very interested in sharing my skills and knowledge as well as my professional and personal culture with them. I hoped to expand my network and identify new collaborating opportunities between regions.

“It was great learning how Arcadis has been a key player in the Netherlands at presenting and implementing integrated, innovative and multifunctional solutions

Highlight of my Quest experience

The people I met must have been the highlight of my Quest experience. Arcadis has a broad range of talented and great people and this becomes very clear when visiting new offices. The local team was extremely welcoming and made my Quest experience an interesting, fun, and versatile one. Every day I had a schedule planned out to not only learn about projects, but also meet colleagues and learn about the Dutch culture. I ate everything from Stroopwafels to raw herring with onions (!!) and the famous Bossche bol (chocolate ball) in the city of Den Bosch. All were delicious!

As for the projects, I was able to visit a water treatment plant and meet the client. I also visited several project sites to meet with different project managers and get their take on how they manage their projects, the challenges they encounter and their achievements.

The sites that impacted me the most were the Delta Works and the Maeslantkering storm surge barrier in Rotterdam, both projects are managed by Arcadis. The Maeslantkering is an impressive, massive (twice the size of the Eiffel Tower), movable storm surge barrier constructed in response to the 1953 floods and finished in 1997 to anticipate and minimize the risk of flooding. To my surprise, even though this project cost millions of dollars to the city of Rotterdam, it has only been used once. When asked about the cost efficiency of the project, considering the huge investment and low expected usage, I got an impressive answer: “If we use it only once in our lifetime, it means that we have avoided a disaster and have saved thousands of lives from the risk of flooding, which is more than worth the investment made”. It was then when I became aware of the difference between the Dutch culture and my own. I believe it is a culture we should all admire and mimic. Moreover, when asked about climate change and how they are preparing for it the answer I received was: “We are not preparing for climate change, we are living it”.

My Quest in one word


Learnings and experiences

Ironically, as I was doing my Quest, Hurricane Irma (a category 5 hurricane) stroke my country, Puerto Rico. My flight even got cancelled due to the hurricane impact. As if that wasn’t enough, two days after my return, another hurricane impacted the island, this time Hurricane María (a category 4 hurricane). The eye of the storm directly hit the island provoking massive damage. It is the worst hurricane that impacted Puerto Rico, with damages estimated at $90 billion. The power grid was completely destroyed, drinking water services interrupted, and the communications network was greatly impacted. I personally remained three months without power, and approximately 3 weeks with intermittent communications services (internet, cellphone).

Having been to the Netherlands for my Quest, I received many emails from the Arcadians I met, checking up to see how we were doing. Further, my host put me in contact with Piet Dircke, Arcadis Global Leader for Water Management, who wanted to contact the Puerto Rico office to see how his team could collaborate with us in the relief and recovery efforts, since he had already been contacted by a partner. The Quest definitely helped me in expanding my network.

The international transfer program Quest, which connects Arcadians from all over the world, is sponsored by the Lovinklaan Foundation.