Shirel Stedman - Director, Water

My role is a balancing act between external and internal demands. I’m here to make sure we’re always aligned with the market and sector and maintain connections between all levels of resources – from technicians to directors. Around 70 per cent of my day involves management tasks. The remainder is focused externally: supporting major contracts, focusing on key strategic client relationships and keeping up with the latest developments and innovations in Water generally.

Water’s digital future

The whole Water industry is undergoing a transformation – moving from its traditional origins to become much more technological and embrace the opportunities that innovation brings. It’s a huge challenge for the whole sector, but one that will bring big benefits.

An example is the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning for pumping stations. By taking the various parameters into account and running thousands of different potential scenarios, computers running a pumping station learn to optimise their performance. This way they function more efficiently and reduce their carbon emissions.

The challenges in getting there

A key challenge is the skills gap – how we give our people the skills they need for this new environment and help them through the transformation. There’s a long way to go, but at Royal HaskoningDHV our senior leaders really understand what’s needed and why it’s so important. 

We’ve been focusing on identifying our requirements in embracing technology, and as a result are recruiting new people with the right expertise. Partnership is essential – by working with organisations and clients that are leading the way in adopting the new, we’re learning together.

An example is a project we’re doing with the Environment Agency. 70% of UK Government capital investment projects in water are to invest in flood resilience – but often these schemes fail to deliver. We’re using technology to model scenarios and solutions on an interactive map of a whole flood region. That way the right approach can be agreed before any work physically starts, potentially saving millions of pounds.

What motivates me

I love our flood resilience projects and our work in smart water. Every one of our projects is different. I particularly enjoy the ‘mega’ contracts: the heat and challenge you feel as you’re nearing the deadline to propose the best solution… and then the final project comes out even better than you had expected. That happens a lot and we get great recognition for it, most recently from an Environment Agency scrutiny committee. Those successes come out of partnerships – we are always learning, and working closely with a client means both sides gain a great amount.

The technology is hugely exciting and delivers major benefits. We already have some fantastic projects in Water, such as Nereda and Aquasuite, and I know Royal HaskoningDHV will produce many more innovations like these in the years to come.

Why I chose Royal HaskoningDHV

Royal HaskoningDHV has a very strong brand and reputation in the Water sector and that was what really attracted me. Now that I’m here I’m really motivated by the breadth of the work. There’s so much to do and there are enormous opportunities when we connect the dots.

A great example is where we apply the vast expertise our Dutch colleagues have in flood resilience, now successfully deployed in so many projects across the UK and worldwide. It’s great to have the ability to access that knowledge so easily.

Meanwhile, in the UK our biggest strength is the depth of collaboration across the business lines – we’re excellent at sharing knowledge.

We have every opportunity to be the best in our sector. We have all the ingredients – a strong brand, a support network, a growing skills base, and really exciting technology products. I’m excited about the future.