10-YEAR SPECIAL (Part 5) – From Ballito Barman to International Environmental Consultant

The latest in our series of articles celebrating WKC’s 10-year anniversary tells the story of WKC’s Abu Dhabi Office Manager, Shaun Pearce. Shaun went from mixing cocktails in his hometown in South Africa, to travelling the world advising a broad range of multinational clients on important environmental issues in an amazingly short space of time; not least due to good old-fashioned hard work, dedication, and understanding the importance of putting clients’ needs first.

From Ballito Barman to International Environmental Consultant
(By Shaun Peace, Abu Dhabi Office Manager and Air Quality & EIA Specialist)

Working my way through high school and university as a barman taught me the value of hard work and keeping your customers happy. Those skills, as much as my academic background in mechanical engineering, would turn out to be vital in helping me progress my career.

After finishing my studies, I found employment first in the municipal waste and wastewater industry, and thereafter in the oil recycling industry. Unfortunately, redundancy necessitated another stint back behind the cocktail bar in Ballito.

Working my way through high school and university as a barman taught me the value of hard work and keeping your customers happy.

During this period I was put in touch with an old school friend, Marc Blanche (read about Marc’s story in WKC here), who had recently joined a new consultancy start-up and was looking for some temporary help with acoustic and flow induced vibration work for a large, international oil and gas project they were involved with. This sounded like a great chance to use some of my mechanical engineering skills and, realising that it could lead to other opportunities, I jumped at the opportunity.

It was a squelching hot summers day in January, with humidity off the charts, when I finally met with WKC’s co-founder Dr Ian James in a local coffee shop along the seafront in Ballito. Dressed up in a full suit and tie, shoes polished, and barely able to breath with the heat, I felt somewhat over-dressed as Ian casually strolled in wearing his favourite Ballito-style beach gear.

Interview day, 2012

Understanding the importance of preparation, I’d done lots of research into vibration fatigue related services, only to be wrong-footed (again!) by being asked whether I would consider a broader role in their environmental consultancy business. Environment? Pollution? What would a mechanical engineer do in an environmental consultancy business?

What separates WKC out from other environmental consultancy firms is, amongst other things, the strategy of recruiting candidates from engineering disciplines. Following that up with intense on-the-job training in the more technical aspects of the environmental consultancy sector has proved to be a winning combination.

What separates WKC out from other environmental consultancy firms is, amongst other things, the strategy of recruiting candidates from engineering disciplines.

Ian’s general approachability, but perhaps above all, his unwavering optimism about the exciting business they were creating left me keen to get started! The prospect of travelling the world to work on some of the world’s largest oil and gas and mining sector developments was also something that I could barely imagine, but was assured that that is exactly what would await me should I rise to the opportunities put in front of me.

In February 2012 I joined WKC as an Environmental Engineer. I quickly found myself exploring the fundamentals of chemistry, being exposed to various specialist computer models and going back to engineering first principles to develop emissions inventories from basic engineering data. This is where I found my niche. Fluid mechanics was always a strong point and understanding these principals and applying them to emissions inventories, and air quality issues in general, is where I excelled technically.

I quickly found myself exploring the fundamentals of chemistry, being exposed to various specialist computer models and going back to engineering first principles

In my first year I found myself on my first journey into the wider African continent (and my first ever international flight!). Marc and I headed to Tanzania to undertaking air quality and noise surveys for an internationally financed project. We found ourselves on a turbo-prop airplane on our way to Mwanza on the edge of Lake Victoria. Seeing the peak of Kilimanjaro breaking through the clouds mid-flight is something I’ll never forget. Long drop toilets, bucket showers, breath-taking views and lots of chaotic driving all added to the experience! Etched in my memory is the chipsi mayai, a local omelette made with chips inside, served with birds-eye chilli, having a cold beverage on the banks of Lake Victoria and eating a chicken dinner that was earlier that morning running around outside of our accommodation!

WKC in Tanzania
Snaps of Tanzania from the Trip, 2012

Later that year I took a trip to Abu Dhabi to meet our UAE team; at that time still just four people led by WKC’s co-founder, Tristan Coleman. The hard work I’d been putting in had obviously been paying off, since that visit led to an offer of a permanent move to the UAE to help with growth plans in the region. In January 2013, as a young bachelor I arrived in Abu Dhabi with my most prized possessions packed into two suitcases.

Seven years later, I am still proud to call the UAE home to myself, my wife and young son.

Since being in the UAE the diversity of projects I’ve worked on has been incredible; I’ve travelled to South Korea, taking care of major acoustics and vibration related studies while consuming too much BBQ and kimchi, to Madrid working on refinery EIA’s while over-indulging in Spanish tapas, to Saudi Arabia to visit the worlds’ largest fully integrated aluminium smelter while enjoying Arabian coffees and dates, and to Eritrea for environmental surveying while filling up on taita (sorghum flatbread) and tshebi (stew), to name but a few.

WKC in Korea
Visit to South Korea

More locally I am fortunate to work with major companies such as Abu Dhabi’s state-owned oil company, ADNOC, and having involvement in important local projects such as EXPO2020 and the Dubai Creek Harbour development.

The Abu Dhabi Office I once visited with the hope of having an international placement, I am proud to say, is now under my management.

WKC Team Abu Dhabi
The Abu Dhabi Office I once visited with the hope of having an international placement, I am proud to say, is now under my management.

In keeping with WKC’s core values, if you work hard for your colleagues and clients, have the confidence to apply some entrepreneurial flare to the business then the sky really is the limit!

if you work hard for your colleagues and clients, have the confidence to apply some entrepreneurial flare to the business then the sky really is the limit!

Looking back at WKC’s successes during my eight years with the organisation, I can only see great things ahead. We are continually strengthening our current service offerings, as well as diversifying into new areas and markets. Our ever-evolving, innovative approach to offering high quality advisory services will continue to place our specialist teams at the forefront of what we do both locally and more so, globally.

Please feel free to contact Shaun to find out about the range of services we provide from our Abu Dhabi office at +971 (0) 2 644 5224

Imagery in header:

Dubai Creek Harbour: http://meconstructionnews.com/32450/emaar-launches-residential-development-in-dubai-creek-harbour

Al-Wasl Dome at Expo 2020: https://www.meed.com/al-wasl-dome-installed/

Previous 10-Year Special Stories:

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