10-YEAR SPECIAL (Part 8) – Dubai’s Homegrown Environmental Consultancy Talent

The latest in our series of articles celebrating WKC’s 10-year anniversary, Greg Ashcroft answers some questions regarding his time with WKC, and gives some insight into what is to come. Greg is a Partner and WKC’s Dubai Office Manager. Greg’s technical background is in oceanography and marine sciences, and now also oversees the Dubai team’s terrestrial ecology and EIA work.

By Greg Ashcroft, Partner & Marine Modelling Specialist

How long have you lived in the UAE?

I first moved to Dubai when I was just eight  years old. I spent much of my childhood in Dubai and consider it to be ‘home’, but not just in the usual ‘ex-pat’ sense of the word. The changes I have seen over the years are simply mind-blowing, and now I am especially proud to still be able to call the place home for  me and my family, and to be contributing professionally to the amazing pace of development I see around me every day.

Greg playing in the Dubai desert during his childhood (left), and with his young Dubai-based family (right)

How long have you been with WKC?

I joined WKC back in 2011, when we were based in the Al Bateen area of Abu Dhabi. I first came to hear about the company through a fellow University of Leeds graduate who had heard of WKC and the work they were doing. I have an ecology background by education, and previously had some experience working in a landscape architecture  firm in Dubai, but hadn’t had any real exposure to the environmental consultancy work being undertaken by WKC. At my interview I remember Tristan (one of the WKC founders) telling me that I could forget any ideas I might have working on ecology projects since at that time they had other priorities – but thankfully a couple of years later that situation changed drastically!

Tristan Coleman and Greg first opening the door to WKC’s current Abu Dhabi office

When I joined the company, these really were ‘early days’ in the WKC story. But at the same time, it was such an exciting time to be working in a company that had so much potential; a clear vision, talent, and a plan that would bring it all together. Despite us being just four guys crammed into a tiny office, I loved being the underdog! We worked extra hard to get to compete on projects, but we celebrated every new project that we were awarded. The travel was tiring, but exciting. Some of the technical challenges we were paid to solve were extremely difficult, but I felt privileged to be part of the team trying to come up with real solutions.  I look back with such fondness on those early days in WKC.

…it was such an exciting time to be working in a company that had so much potential; a clear vision, talent, and a plan that would bring it all together.

I still try and instil the same sense of excitement amongst the Dubai team that I am now fortunate to manage. For example, we include all of our team in important decisions and actively encourage them to put forward their ideas on how we can do things better and further develop the business. I also learnt the importance of collaboration across our other offices – our ‘one team’ core value is so important to continue giving us that extra edge and competitiveness.

Greg leading some members of the Dubai Ecology Team out into the field

When did you take over management of the Dubai office?

After representing the UAE from our Abu Dhabi office for a number of years, we set up the Dubai office in 2015 which, thankfully, slashed my commuting time, not to mention my carbon footprint! In 2017 I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to take on an acting manager role, and shortly after that offered the position formally along with Partnership in the company.

I have worked hard to build a team to best serve our clients, and I am proud to boast one of, if not the, best terrestrial ecology and marine science consultancy practices in the region. We have a number of general environmental management contracts on some of Dubai’s most high-profile projects. Contributing to projects such as Expo 2020, Dubai Creek Harbour and others has been a particular highlight for a ‘Dubai-boy’ such as myself!

I have worked hard to build a team to best serve our clients, and I am proud to boast one of, if not the, best terrestrial ecology and marine science consultancy practices in the region.

Greg (middle), with Tristan Coleman (left) and Ian James (right), after being offered his promotion to Partnership

Your Highlights so far?

Getting the UAE’s most specialised, locally-based marine modelling capability set up in Dubai is something I am particularly proud of. Our clients really appreciate having the team close by, not to mention the quality and value that we offer, from a team who understands the time pressures that such dynamic economies demand throughout the supply chain.

In terms of specific projects, there have been so many that have each been special in their own way, so here are just two exapmles;

We worked on a truly unique but fascinating meteorological modelling project on behalf of a government department back in 2013. While we had bags of air quality expertise within the company, finding specialists with the very niche meteorological modelling skill set anywhere in the world would have been a challenge, let alone within a company less than 4 years old! I took the bull by the horns so to speak, quickly familiarised myself with some open source software, normally used for more academic applications, and was able to apply it to this very interesting project. The outcome was fantastic and very successful for WKC and the wider project team. The results were used for some highly strategic infrastructure disaster management planning.

The outcome was fantastic and very successful for WKC and the wider project team. The results were used for some highly strategic infrastructure disaster management planning.

In 2012 WKC were retained to provide air quality advice on the world’s largest gold mine at that time based in Mongolia. The project required a field visit to the extremely remote mine location to undertake some emissions sampling which I was keen to volunteer. The trip was memorable for so many reasons, not least experiencing the local culture, cuisine and warm welcome offered to me in the Gobi Desert!

Inside Mongolia's Oyu Tolgoi Copper-Gold Mine...Bloomberg Photo Service 'Best of the Week': Heavy machinery operate inside an open pit at the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine, jointly owned by Rio Tinto Group's Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. unit and state-owned Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi LLC, in Khanbogd, the South Gobi desert, Mongolia, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Mongolia's Vice Minister for Mining Erdenebulgan Oyun said mining law amendments would increase MongoliaÕs area available to mining and exploration to 20 percent from around 8 percent, by lifting a 2010 ban on new licenses. The period of exploration would also increase from nine years to 12 years. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
Mongolia’s Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine © Bloomberg

More locally, in 2014, we were retained by a high-profile hotel chain to do beach erosion studies at some of their local properties throughout the UAE. Using some of our newly acquired skills and specialist modelling software systems, we were able to put forward some very practical, hands-on, engineering advice to minimise the rate at which the ‘5-star’ beach would be lost to the Gulf. Taking site visits to 5-star hotels certainly had its perks!

What’s next?

I remember going to Dubai Offshore Sailing Club as a youth with my family. Now I spend much of my time working professionally on projects to protect the UAE’s coastline and marine life. I feel extremely privileged to be leading a team that gets to contribute on a daily basis to the phenomenal success story that is Dubai, and the wider UAE.

I feel extremely privileged to be leading a team that gets to contribute on a daily basis to the phenomenal success story that is Dubai, and the wider UAE.

WKC has now completed its first 10 years of operation, and I am excited about the next 10. We are still growing, finding new markets and opportunities, learning new skills, and despite the difficult and stressful sector that we work in, we still have fun! I am particularly excited about the company’s broader push into new innovations and products enabling us to stay at the cutting edge of our industry.

We always use Greg’s amazing career progression as a shining example to all newcomers to WKC as to what can be accomplished through hard work, entrepreneurial flare, loyalty to your colleagues and clients.

Tristan Coleman, WKC Co-founder and Greg’s former ‘mentor’.

Previous 10-Year Special Stories:

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