2019 Young Alumni Inspiration Award nominee: Cai de Ridder
If Cai de Ridder’s time at Waterloo is any indication of his potential to succeed then this young alumnus is going – or rather pedaling places. An avid cyclist, Cai is passionate about active transportation and currently works at his dream job; as a transportation planner for one of Canada’s leading professional services consulting firms, WSP.
Now a working professional, Cai reflects on lessons he learned here at Waterloo. One, from a first-year lecture from Professor Peter Johnson, stands out. “In a lecture entitled ‘How to Lie with Maps’, Dr. Johnson taught us that the presentation of data, using maps as an example, can often be misleading and may reflect an author's biases,” Cai explains. “Although this is not always intentional, it is important to apply a critical lens to the work you review. I try to apply this thinking when I review my own work to ensure that I am presenting information and data in an objective manner.”
Cai’s ability to absorb and synthesize lessons like this helped him make the most of this time as an undergrad. As co-founder and president of the Waterloo Geospatial Club, Cai organized a student mentoring program and presented to the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners Conference in 2016 on the integration of GIS and network analysis in police response times. As president of the Environment Students’ Society, he was awarded the Waterloo Environment Student Endowment Fund (WESEF) Student Award and the Federation of Students Student Leadership Award.
Waterloo’s co-op program gave Cai the opportunity to explore careers at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Statistics Canada, and the City of Toronto’s Transportation Services. As a recent alumnus, having graduated in 2018, he is excited by the diversity of work available in today’s working world. “There seems to be a job for everyone, from specialists to generalists, in just about every industry. I always wanted to work in active transportation, a niche field of urban planning, and was delighted beyond words when I was hired at WSP last year. Throughout my undergrad I was concerned about finding a job that could be specifically tailored to my interests and skills but here I am!”
When asked where he sees himself in 10 years, Cai says he hopes to still be working in the field of active transportation, with a project portfolio that spans the country. “I'd like to see cycling become an increasingly accessible, convenient, and safe mode of transportation in our nation's cities,” he posits. “I hope that I can be a part of the infrastructure projects that help make that vision a reality.” Cai will, without a doubt, excel in whatever endeavor he turns his attention to, always with keen passion and focus to move the dial towards making our communities more sustainable.