Interdisciplinary hiring leads to better work environment, better product at global firm

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Arup offices

Employing a workforce with diverse talents is a priority at an independent global design firm - and hiring University of Waterloo co-op students is a key part of their strategy.

Through community engagement and a team dedicated to mentorship as well as learning and development for staff, Arup’s Offices in Canada has distinguished itself as a standout student employer.

Arup believes that co-op students hired from different academic disciplines can benefit the organization.

“Arup is a multidisciplinary organization, we work across multiple markets, aviation, transit, energy, all aspects of the built environment,” says Arup’s Canadian group leader Craig Forrest. “The University of Waterloo covers a lot of ground. They’ve got a lot of deep programs that we can reach into, and we can cover a lot of the needs we (have), all from Waterloo.”

Arup has been recognized as the first-ever winner of the Impact in Interdisciplinary Recruitment Award as part of the Waterloo Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) Employer Impact Awards.

“Arup’s commitment to hiring University of Waterloo co-op students from a variety of disciplines reflects their commitment to be a future-ready employer and recognizes the importance of a strong connection to future-ready talent,” says James Rush, vice-president academic and provost at Waterloo.

“Waterloo is committed to providing that innovative connection by preparing our exceptionally talented students to problem solve for impact through our high-quality academic programs and by fostering the ability to work together across traditional disciplinary boundaries. When it comes to complex challenges in a rapidly changing world, that is often a very powerful and innovative approach to ensure that the right questions are being asked, and the right solutions are being discovered.”

With an internal network of 14,000 team members in 34 countries, Arup provides engineering, design, planning, and project management services in all areas of the built environment.

Cheryl Petersen, associate principal at Arup, says the organization, which opened its Canadian branch in 2000, really values academically diverse backgrounds. She describes Arup as a multidisciplinary organization at its “core.”

“We don’t want people coming in thinking the exact same way that we do; we want people who are bringing diversity of thought and a different approach,” says Petersen.

A wide range of projects is what led Sophie Potter, a Waterloo Planning student, to complete two work terms at Arup.

“I really wanted to obtain a diverse experience in transportation because that’s where my interests lie,” says Potter. “The Toronto office is becoming one of the major rail hubs for the company, so I was really fortunate to take part in some of the rail projects happening right now.”

Potter also mentions the wide variety of backgrounds and education among their workforce. Planners, architects, and engineers all contribute to the final design of a project, which she enjoyed.

“The work environment at Arup is a perfect balance of work and play,” says Potter. “There’s a lot of young people at the office, along with a mix of senior leadership. The atmosphere is so positive and welcoming, and I never felt intimidated about asking anyone questions about anything.”

Kaushik Sarkar, a Waterloo Mechanical Engineering graduate who completed two work terms at Arup, says the company is actively trying to recruit the best talent possible.

“At Arup, what they try to do is really promote a more collaborative culture,” says Sarkar. 

Arup and Waterloo

Arup has a longstanding relationship with Waterloo and hires graduates and co-op students across its North American offices. Arup participates in University events such as career fairs, while also hosting technical talks featuring their engineers.

“Arup goes to Waterloo for the right co-op students because of the quality curriculum and the quality of the interns themselves,” Petersen says. “They come from backgrounds and experiences that match our values and principles of wanting to lead as a humane organization, as well as wanting to make sure that we're shaping a better world, and that's important. Waterloo students help make Arup more future-proof and innovative, because of the unique backgrounds that they bring and different disciplines that they come from.”

Forrest says Waterloo students make a big impact on Arup. He describes an instance where a Waterloo co-op student contributed to building the organization’s MassMotion software. Through working on its redesign, the organization worked on developing better solutions for how people interact with the built environment throughout the pandemic.

“[Waterloo students] are very curious, they ask a lot of questions, they’ve got a strong inquisitive culture which fits the Arup culture as well,” adds Forrest.

Q & A with Arup executives