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Embark on a WSP career forging Net Zero, like Andrea Gysin

Embark on a WSP career forging Net Zero, like Andrea Gysin

 June 06, 2022

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The race to net zero is on and the team at WSP is working with clients to make sure they are all winners – meet Andrea Gysin, Net Zero and Innovation Director for WSP’s Water, Energy and Industry business unit.

Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today and is already manifesting itself in every part of the world. We are seeing more frequent, more extreme weather events, leading to droughts and flooding. The IPCC’s special report showed the catastrophic consequences of warming of more than 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial average and re-affirmed the need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. WSP has embraced this need for action, setting science-based GHG emissions reduction targets which have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative. In the UK, WSP is going even further and faster – committing to net zero in their operations, and to halve the carbon footprint of the designs and advice they provide by 2030.

An unequivocal commitment to mitigating climate change

WSP water careers Andrea Gysin

“Being part of an organisation that has made an unequivocal commitment to mitigating climate change and is taking clear and tangible steps towards this goal gives me a clear sense of purpose, satisfaction and pride,” says Andrea Gysin who joined WSP in April 2022 as Net Zero & Innovation Director in the Water, Energy & Industry business unit.

Transitioning away from carbon intensive systems, processes and products

WSP water jobvacancy Andrea Gysin

Andrea's role is to develop and deliver the strategy that will enable the business unit to play its part in meeting these ambitious goals. “Water, Energy and Industry has a really exciting range of opportunities – not only are we at the heart of the transition to decarbonise energy systems, but we are also working with a wide range of clients that need to transition away from carbon intensive systems, processes and products.”

The key word is system, and nowhere is this more evident than in the energy sector. The increase in renewable generation is driving increased complexity in electricity network operation, and the need to transition away from natural gas is adding to this complexity as we move towards electrification of heat, explore alternative fuels such as hydrogen, and develop district heating networks with renewable inputs such as ground or air-source heat pumps.

Andrea is keen to emphasise that systems thinking should not be limited to energy. “In the water sector we have an opportunity to re-design systems to recycle water locally, which not only reduces demand, thereby protecting our water resources, but also reduces the requirement to upgrade infrastructure, reducing cost and embodied carbon.” She goes on to say that “drainage is a key opportunity to reduce pressure on wastewater networks and treatment plants, by opting for sustainable urban drainage options which have the potential to provide multiple benefits, including biodiversity improvements, and even combatting the heat island effect in urban areas.”

This is a complex challenge but one which Andrea sees as an opportunity. “WSP is in a brilliant position due to the breath of services we provide, and the wide range of clients we work with. Many organisations are now being required to operate beyond their traditional boundaries or comfort zones, and we can support them through our multi-disciplinary teams.”

Innovation is essential for addressing climate change challenges

Bringing people together is not new for Andrea, who, whilst working for Mouchel (now a WSP company) in 2005, formed the Technology Approval Group or TAG. TAG was aimed at breaking down barriers to innovation in the water sector by bringing together utilities (end clients), technology providers and investors, with the aim of accelerating new technology adoption to tackle key sector challenges. Over a period of five years, Andrea led TAG as it facilitated routes to market for over 50 new technologies and generated over £20m of venture investment. Since then TAG has continued to grow, and is now operating in every continent except Antarctica. Reflecting on this, Andrea says "for me, the growth of TAG highlights the change of pace we’re living through – innovation is no-longer a ‘nice to have’ - it’s an essential requirement to address challenges such as climate change. At the beginning of my career, the focus was predominantly on physical solutions and those innovations continue to be vitally important, but digitalisation brings a new opportunity, with a new era of improved asset performance, capital delivery and investment planning which is data driven and allows us to tackle the complexity of the systems we now operate in.”

Work with scientists and engineers solving critical challenges for clients

Andrea’s passion for driving positive change is apparent but, at the beginning of her career, she was less clear on where her interests lay. “After leaving school, I didn’t have a plan, but I was keen to be independent – and for me that meant earning a salary while I worked out my next steps. I took a role with the water team in Atkins and never really looked back! My role was administrative, but I was very fortunate to work for people who saw my potential and I was given the opportunity to develop a range of skills – from project management to bid writing, and developing marketing collateral to managing stakeholder relationships. I was part of the research and development team, and what made the role exciting was the opportunity to work with scientists and engineers who were solving critical challenges for clients – and I was able to help translate that work into clear messages and business propositions that resonated with a non-technical audience.”

There are two continuous threads to Andrea’s career – she has worked in technical environments throughout, always with a remit to develop and commercialise new solutions. Immediately prior to joining WSP, Andrea worked for Thames Water, initially leading the Research, Development & Innovation team before moving into a strategy and partnerships role. “If you had told me at the beginning of my career that I would one day lead the innovation team in the UK’s largest water utility, I wouldn’t have believed it. I always felt that role would be reserved for people with deep scientific or engineering expertise. What I’ve come to realise is the skills I’ve developed over my career are highly complementary to those of the technical teams that I’ve worked with.”

It’s clear that Andrea has the greatest respect for the technical professions that she works alongside. “I passionately believe that science and engineering are at the heart of ensuring our future, including tackling climate change, but there are many complimentary skills required if we want to rapidly drive action. I sometime describe myself as “an accidental scientist” and believe that this has made me a better leader – my natural curiosity has allowed me to build strong relationships with the teams I’ve led, based on mutual respect and understanding.”

WSP careers help solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges

Andrea is keen to emphasise that there are careers in WSP for everyone. “My career path wasn’t conventional, but I’ve come to realise is that this is the story for so many people. If you have a passion for engineering or for climate change, don’t be put off by a perception of what it takes to work in these fields. There really is a role for everyone in solving humanity’s greatest challenge.”

WSP water jobs Andrea Gysin

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