Early in my undergraduate program, I was exposed to plenty of paths I could walk with my (then future) bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Sanitary Engineering. From solid waste management, site remediation techniques, air pollution control to water and wastewater treatment and management, I knew the range of options were extensive. Once, while attending a keynote speaker lecture, I realized that the water resources topics were the ones that attracted me the most, for its intrinsic importance to humanity and quality of life as well as for the endless career opportunities that arise from it. It was (and is) a win-win – improving communities’ lives, promoting sustainable development and growing my engineering career.
Knowing which path I wanted to walk, I started graduate school to have a degree focused in water resources. I intended to establish my career path and I believed I would become better equipped to pursue opportunities in the water field.
I first heard of Arcadis during those undergraduate years. A classmate mentioned she was going to stop by Arcadis booth at the career fair happening that spring. It was a name of impact, and after some quick research, I added Arcadis to my list of companies as well. I had never been to a career fair before. I had never approached any employer personally and talked about myself. It felt awkward at first. That was a skill that I have to constantly work on. Fortunately, I have come a long way improving that. Anyway, I did not stop by many booths that day.
When I established my master’s graduation plan and started applying for jobs, Arcadis was priority on my list of multinational engineering companies. However, I had never had any real-life experience with consulting nor project design, except for several class and a few community outreach projects during my studies. I was aware it would be challenging, but I was sure I was ready for it. After all, as a soon-to-be college graduate, I was trained for the challenges and I was taught the technical skills.
I was thrilled when the job offer came and I officially started on July 23rd, 2018. I moved in from out of state and the challenge turned out to be ever bigger. I almost felt like a new born starting from scratch and learning every single thing, except that I knew why I was here. I had a baggage that I had been creating and gathering over the years and I had a goal to contribute, perform and participate in project tasks, office activities, networking events. I was part of a worldwide family now.
Seven months later, I still come home everyday amazed by how much I am learning and growing as a professional and as a person. However, as young professionals, it is normal to feel a little insecure in the beginning, wondering how it is going to be like, if we are good enough or just feeling a little overwhelmed in the waves of new possibilities coming our way. From these past seven months, I summarized seven key points I collected and incorporated as a young professional at Arcadis and that are making me the engineer I want to be.
- Rely on your resources – any new environment brings a certain level of adaptation and offers its own tools and pace that are essential to achieve the intended results. Starting from day one until today, getting familiar with resources, culture, people, who to talk to, how to reach out, common and best practices, would all have been (even more) overwhelming had it not been the new hire check-lists, website and orientations. More than that, the commitment to people values that are largely spread and strong within Arcadis were crucial. My office colleagues, supervisor, regional and area teams, Human Resources, and professionals from other offices and businesses lines were and are always ready and willing to help out, answer questions and point the right direction (or person), by being at an email, skype call or text away.
- Value alignment is a must – when we think about aligning our values to the company values, sometimes we may not realize how meaningful this is. I’ll tell you what! It is very important! It is about mutual trust and respect, about waking up knowing that our team and all teams are engaged and committed to values that reflects who we are as people. It is being proud of putting efforts and dedication to deliver the best results to our clients. It is focusing on improving quality of life for real in a sustainable way. Our People First value is the one that amazes me every time. It was heartwarming to be welcomed by other professionals from our area offices (in my case, the Virginia and the Carolinas offices from Water South) and to be featured in our area call as a new hire. Not to mention all the benefits we have as employees that shows that we are not just one more in 27 thousand and makes your work-life balance possible.
- Do not be afraid to speak up – the times when I am new to an environment, I tend to be more cautious and observant than usual, while figuring out the dynamics and the pace of the place. Over the months I learned that I have a voice and power to add, suggest, improve and fully contribute. Either in projects or simply at out office space on how to improve aspects to make our workday more efficient, I know that my voice will be heard and considered.
- Health and Safety is a real deal! – From all the training courses we take as a new hire to tailgate meetings before field inspections to receiving a field bag (with lots of health and safety goods) to the stop work authority, health and safety is undoubtedly a priority. It is inspiring to see the health and safety ownership each one of us create and how we enhance our awareness and attention to anything we do, whether we are sitting at our workstations or opening a manhole for stormwater system inspections. As our Global Health and Safety day celebrated last year, “nothing is routine” when we incorporate H&S to our daily activities.
- Endless connection possibilities worldwide– it is very impressive to me the ability we have, as a global company, to never stop working, since offices are present in all time zones. More impressive than that is the opportunities we have to assist and work across offices, boosting our inter-office connections, adding to our professional development and personal growth. Global Shapers is a great example.
- Technical development is a continuous practice – practice makes perfection and easier to assimilate new knowledge, whether it is new software skills or standards and regulations. One of the hurdles I faced initially was lack of familiarity with local standards and regulations. My project managers assigned me with tasks that increased my exposure and accelerated my learning, while providing me with guidance and assistance when needed.
- Breathe! – everything is going to be fine. Find you a mentor, someone that inspires you. Engage in groups of your interest (Technical Communities of Practice, Diversity and Inclusion, Women’s Network). Lean on your peers. Ask questions. Ask for feedback. Give feedback. Make a list of acronyms (it will be very useful!). Attend networking events. Attend client meetings. Compile your goals and lay out a plan to accomplish them. Revisit your goals once in a while. Go for a 10-minute walk and stretch your legs. Eat well and hydrate. And always give the best of yourself.
In 2018, Arcadis North America hired over 600 college graduates. From where I stand, this is a strong example of a significant commitment to young professionals’ development and investment. In the Virginia Beach office, we are a group of six young professionals (for now!). We gather once a week for brownbag lunches to discuss topics of interest, catch up on each other’s workloads and projects, share stories and technical tips (like an interesting software tool), plan for social events and conferences and hear advice from guest project managers. For me, this is the best way to connect with my young professional peers in the office and learn from them. It is also another way to give each other support and encouragement.
I am glad I kept Arcadis in my list. The future project manager or vice-president will depend and be shaped by all the advantages and opportunities one had as a young professional. I cannot wait to find out what the coming years’ lessons will be.
By Giovana Batista