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AECOM marks support for International Day of Families

AECOM marks support for International Day of Families

 May 03, 2022

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International Day of Families occurs annually on May 15 and provides an important opportunity to reflect on the support provided by progressive employers for employees managing family responsibilities.

AECOM marks International Day of Families and highlights family life of some of its employees as they continue to embrace the company's Freedom to Grow ethos.

AECOM employees are supported to choose the time, place, and type of work they do - through to the work style they choose to deploy, the way they communicate and think - and they are supported to being their 'real selves' to work. AECOM invites its people to embrace this support to determine what freedom they need to grow, develop, innovate, thrive and be their true self. A guiding principle to this journey is that if it works for the client, the team and for the individual, then it can work for AECOM too and the employee has the support to get on and do it.

Hear from some of AECOM's people on how they manage and integrate their family commitments with their worklife, and how they enjoy the Freedom to Grow

Meet Darcy Smith, Associate for Planning, Programme & Project Controls at AECOM based in Leeds UK

Darcy manages a team of five people within AECOM's planning team, who are spread across the UK and work for many different clients.

One of Darcy's favourite work responsibilities has been to run and manage programmes for the Environment Agency (EA) in the Northwest of England. Her work focused on liaising with EA project managers and updating the project programmes, managing risks, and identifying time impacts to best manage issues and ensure delivery is on time and on budget.

Married for 11 years, has a four-year-old daughter, three stepdaughters ranging from 29 to 18 years of age, and is a step Grandmother for five young children - all at just 37 years of age herself.

Flexibility and support 

AECOM International Day of Families
Darcy’s daughter, Ronnie Jean 

Due to her exciting family life, Darcy is a huge advocate for AECOM's Freedom to Grow. "I'm always promoting AECOM's Freedom to Grow to everyone. Recently, I've been interviewing a lot of potential candidates and I'm always saying that flexibility and support are not new items for AECOM. The pandemic has simply made many other companies catch up."

"I was approached to join AECOM in 2015 and accepted the role, only to soon find out I was six weeks pregnant. I rang the person I interviewed with and offered to decline the role as I felt it was perhaps somewhat unfair, but I was told this was not an issue and that I would receive all the support I needed, and this led to me having 12 weeks maternity leave – I could have taken more but this is what worked for me. I returned to work six weeks after my little girl was born. Without AECOM’s way of working and Freedom to Grow this would not have been an option for me," explains Darcy.

"I am lucky that, even pre-pandemic, I only worked in my client’s office for one or two days each week and the remainder I worked from home. I have an excellent work-life balance thanks to Freedom to Grow."

When it comes to combining a hectic work and family schedule, Darcy reinforces the importance of talking to your client and line manager to find a way to cope with the struggle of school runs and childcare.

This sometimes proves a challenge for managers too. "I don't have many early morning meetings with my team before 9am or post 5pm, so that we can all manage our outside lives. You must talk and build a working life that suits yourself. We all struggle and sometimes work can take over. I still try to absorb and enjoy those crazy busy days, knowing that tomorrow may be a bit easier."

AECOM is a supportive employer 

Darcy did find lockdown during the pandemic hard. Sadly, her husband was furloughed, then he was laid off. Darcy's daughter was out of nursery and so Darcy was just trying to get through the days.

"It was very hard, but I have an excellent team around me and all the support I needed was there. The team I work with at AECOM is amazingly supportive of me and my daughter was even an attendee at many meetings - meetings with AECOM Directors right through to meetings with my clients. She is officially now part of my team! Without the support I was shown from AECOM, I may have had to request to be furloughed - but my client supported me working at evening and weekends. If I couldn’t complete a task during the day, I worked at night to never miss a deadline. I just needed to adapt to not only managing my working time, but also managing my teaching time, Mummy time, and generally not having any break time. I’m sure most working parents can relate to this," laughs Darcy.

"I am guilty of always answering my phone and checking emails when I can, no matter what the hour, but I choose to do this because I know that when I can't always respond due to childcare issues, everyone knows I will always be available when I can be," she says.

"I have met people from all different walks of life in my career and I value everyone’s way of working. Some people need the commute, the office, and the routine that goes with working. Then there are others who seek to work flexibly and manage their time differently. I tell my team 'Do what’s right for you and as long as your client is happy, I will support you 100%' and this is how I operate," confirms Darcy.

Following the pandemic, Darcy believes that her colleagues more so now understand and appreciate how challenging being a working parent can be and how much easier life can be if you work for a company that supports you.

Outside of work, Darcy loves to spend quality time with her daughter. "Everything we do is designed around her. We are avid horse racing fans in this house and my daughter Ronnie Jean has been coming with us since she was a baby - except when we go to the Cheltenham Festival as that's crazy busy!"

Meet James Todd, Growth & Development Director at AECOM

AECOM Day of Families
AECOM's James Todd enjoys his time with family

James has always enjoyed being outdoors, working with others, traveling and practical science – and a career as a ground engineering specialist gives him all of this. "Also, ground engineering is not an exact science, there is lots of room for experience and professional judgement, giving room for thinking laterally and exploring multiple routes to a single solution," he explains. 

Enjoying work in ground engineering at AECOM

"My current role requires me to be a professional plate spinner! I am responsible for working closely with our clients to understand what their future needs might be, aligned with the challenges and opportunities they may face as the world changes," shares James.  

Working with the amazing team of specialists in AECOM, James helps to develop a solution to address the client’s need and help them articulate the benefits it can bring.

"Typically, I stay with the project until it progresses into delivery, helping steer direction and to provide continuity for our clients. At any one time I can be involved in multiple projects, plus work winning and skills development and growth – hence the plate spinning analogy."

Freedom to Grow

Freedom to Grow is very important to James, as it means he can work around his family commitments and to a rhythm that suits his personal life and his clients.

"Ultimately, it was one of the main reasons I decided to join AECOM and has been extremely important throughout the recent pandemic and as we start to emerge into normal working conditions."

When not working, James spends his time with his wife and kids, playing on the beach or in the woods. James explains: "I am lucky to live on the coast, so our two young girls have no shortage of space to run around and to explore. I also love to cook, for family and friends – ideally on a BBQ with a beer in my hand."

Advocating for women in STEM 

James is also a strong advocate for championing women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics roles (STEM).

"We need a more diverse workforce. One of the key ways I am trying to support this is by raising the profile of some of the talent we have at AECOM, to provide better visibility externally and to give people considering a career in ground engineering a role model to look up to. In project delivery we need to ensure we offer our clients a diverse team who bring better decisions and outcomes – this is something I am very passionate about and have been pleased by the progress we have made in the last year, but there is still more to do," he says. 

And what actions can help ground engineering be inclusive and diverse? "Improving the visibility of some of the amazing talent we have in the industry would help – we need to provide role models to inspire our future ground engineers," James explains. 

 "As an industry we need to get people excited about the profession by giving a clear statement of intent, focusing on how we will solve the challenges we now face, and how important this career path is. We also need to bring in more diverse minds by supporting apprenticeships and alternative career paths. Finally, all companies in the industry need to promote diversity on projects and in activities. Ultimately diversity is about adding more value, so it is in all our interests to push this in everything we do."

Meet Chris Coupland, AECOM's Senior Technican for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Plymouth UK

AECOM Day of Families
AECOM's Chris Coupland enjoying downtime with his family

Chris Coupland leads a team providing CAD, GIS and Graphics support to the Landscape, Urban Design and Arboriculture team. Chris also leads the Environment Media and UAV team producing digital media assets for marketing and project deliverables.

Chris leads a full and busy life living in sunny Plymouth in Devon with his wife Ruth, a primary school teacher, three-year-old daughter Luna, baby twin girls Elise and Daisy, and their twin cats Caspar and Toby.

"I recently returned from paternity leave. Our twin girls were born two months premature, so they spent their first month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in hospital. I was keen to save my full paternity period for when they came home but luckily, due to the pandemic, I had a large amount of annual leave remaining for the year. This meant in agreement with my line manager, I was able to work reduced hours allowing me to pop into the hospital each day to visit them until they finally came home, and I could take my paternity leave," explains Chris.

"Working at home full-time now meant my return to work was quite fluid but luckily I have a fantastic team and family around me for support and this meant I could use my annual leave and Freedom to Grow, where appropriate, to still be around to support my family."

Make a slow and measured transition

Chris offers some good advice for other Dads returning to work: "Plan ahead and utilise flexible working and annual leave to slowly transition back into working a full week. Before having a baby, it is hard to understand how much stress - both physical and mental - your partner and you will be under during those early weeks and months. Making a slow and measured transition should benefit the whole family. And don't forget to look after yourself. When you combine a busy work-life with the pressures of being a parent, there can be very few minutes left in the day. Make time for what you enjoy, be it taking an hour out of the day to go for a run or catching up with friends for a drink in the evening. This goes for your partner also, help them to make time to do the same."

Chris believes that AECOM's Freedom to Grow provides the necessary structure to enable employees to work their day 'around' their responsibilities - be it work or life.

"I use the flexibility I am provided every day to adapt my working day around my family life. No one day is the same, but it might involve taking time to look after the children while my partner goes to an appointment, or me starting my work later or finishing it early to allow time to see friends or family visiting for the day. If I get the work and hours done and am communicating effectively with my team, then I am able to put my life before my work."

Adaptable working life 

During the pandemic, working from home full-time helped Chris reinforce how important his family is to him and how much they benefit from his time with them. "Removing the need to travel to work and the rigid hours of the office has meant I see much more of my family throughout the day, rather than short periods at the beginning and end. I now work from home full-time, and my team predominantly works remotely, so I have little reason or need to go into the office."

Chris does however miss the social side of the office and some of the opportunities it creates from those informal conversations, so he intends to adapt his week to go into the office once a week. "I realise how important meeting people face-to-face is, even if only occasionally, so I also intend in the future to make time to visit my wider team during the year."

At home, Chris was fortunate to have his own office room to work from throughout the pandemic. This created an effective barrier when work finished as he was able to just close the door and get back to his home life. But, due to the arrival of their twin babies, Chris has now moved into other rooms of the house, and this has meant he can't just lock away his desk from sight in the evenings or on weekends."I have found my daughters bed and bath time routine acts as the perfect divide between work and life. If I’m still working when she is heading to bed, I can be sure she will barge into the room and demand to have cuddles and a bedtime story which always provides me with the perfect excuse to finish for the day."

"I have always been keen to have more time to spend with my family and pursue my hobbies. In the future, when my partner returns to work again, I am hoping to reduce my work hours to share childcare duties more equally with my wife. You can't buy time, but you can quite literally manage time better by living to your means and adapting your work to suit your lifestyle."

Getting the right work/life balance 

Outside of work, Chris enjoys making the most of the amazing part of the world he and his family live in, with miles of incredible coastline and Dartmoor right on their doorstep. "Although I seem to have less and less time with a growing family, I am a keen photographer and visual artist, so I am slowly integrating this more into my day-to-day role at AECOM. I also enjoy white-water kayaking, mountaineering, running, hiking, wild camping, snorkeling and anything else that gets me outdoors. This passion for the outdoors was passed on from my parents and I'm now very fortunate to be able to pass it on to my daughters."

AECOM gives employees the Freedom to Grow 

AECOM offers flexible work options that help balance the demands of work and life.

Looking for meaningful career advancement and the potential of working on projects around the world?

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