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Q&A: Talking Equality with Jacobs’ Ellie Hurley-Simister

Jacobs’ undergraduate civil engineer Ellie Hurley-Simister talks equality, #OurJacobs culture and Courageous Conversations.

At Jacobs, we put people at the heart of our business. We have an unparalleled focus on inclusion, with a diverse team of visionaries, thinkers and doers.

We embrace all perspectives, collaborating to make a positive impact. Jacobs is living its values by speaking up and speaking out against injustice. We're committed to driving and achieving real change – creating a tomorrow we can all be proud of, standing together as one.

Our Jacobs Harambee Employee Network, which means “working together” in Swahili, is one of eight active, passionate employee networks representing more than 23,000 employees at Jacobs. Each of these groups has a senior executive sponsor to provide advocacy, guidance and support. Harambee’s mission is positively impacting the black employee experience through recruitment, development and retention of black talent at Jacobs and beyond.

In honor of International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), we’re connecting virtually with our team of thinkers, dreamers and doers around the world to showcase the work we do every day to #ShapeTheWorld – and for this feature, we talked with Jacobs’ undergraduate civil engineer and international Harambee ambassador Ellie Hurley-Simister about equality, #OurJacobs culture and Courageous Conversations.

What’s your favorite part of your role?

What I like best about my role is the fact that it’s so broad and, working at Jacobs, my role is not limited by my grade in any way, which is actually a really good thing when you’re junior in a global organization. I have always had amazing mentors and I really enjoy doing detailed drainage design on HS2. There are very technical parts of my job and I also get to input on strategies: future vision workshops, planning the way we use technologies and inclusion and diversity as well.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

If I could afford not to work, I’d probably still be doing a lot of the things I already enjoy doing, like the work we do with our employee networks and being able to promote their missions. That’s something that I really love, so the fact that I do a job that makes this possible is actually really great. For example, being part of Harambee and being able to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement, why it’s important and why it affects everyone is something I’d like to be doing anyway. As our networks and the company pull together, it’s a good representation of society in general and as the events of this year have demonstrated, including the Coronavirus pandemic where we have all been affected by something we have no control over, we’re all fighting the same fight to some extent.

We’re publishing this article in honor of International Women in Engineering Day and this year’s #INWED theme is #ShapeTheWorld. Current events have put a much-overdue spotlight on inclusion, equality and diversity globally. Tell us a bit about how Jacobs’ is living its values to shape a brighter, more equal tomorrow for all.

Shaping the world sounds like a really massive task, but Jacobs is a huge community and as a collective, there’s actually a lot that we can do. Suffering in silence and accepting racism and injustice is no longer the 'professional' thing to do and Jacobs’ positive actions and support of the Black Lives Matter movement has been fantastic. People across the company have shown so much support for this and many have started taking accountability for their awareness, learning, understanding and their part in making change happen.

One of the positive actions for equality Jacobs has is the Courageous Conversations led by our Harambee Employee Network, of which you’re an International Ambassador. Can you share a bit about these conversations?

Our Harambee Employee Network has hosted several Courageous Conversations sessions allowing employees to candidly convey how they are feeling in a safe space, listen and grow and most importantly, to support one another. These conversations are giving people an opportunity to share their experiences on a platform where they know they’re not going to be judged and it has been just as great an opportunity for people who just want to listen, understand more and go on to have these conversations one-on-one. Following on from conversations, there have been positive actions taken from the top-down and these are now impacting our projects. I’ve had people reach out in the last week to ask how they can integrate Harambee’s focus and diversity & inclusion on their projects. That’s extremely positive and shows just how much of an impact these actions have.

What’s something you learned in the last week?

In preparation for Jacobs’ 15-hour Digital Pride coming up, I did lots of research into the gay rights movement and how it draws parallels to the civil rights movement. It really made me realize that it’s everyone’s responsibility to go out and educate themselves on the things they want to know about. [Author’s Note: More on Jacobs’ Digital Pride coming to jacobs.com soon.]

People would be surprised to know that I….

Have always wanted to be an emergency foster parent. I also was applying to be a magistrate but haven’t finished the paperwork!

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?

Knowing that in a sense, Jacobs is a microcosm of the whole world and we have people from everywhere and from all backgrounds as part of our company. It’s really reassuring to know that no matter what it is I want to do, there are probably other people already doing it somewhere – I just may not have met them yet.

About Jacobs

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable. We’re powered by more than 55,000 people across the globe who deliver innovative scientific, technical, professional and program-management solutions for public and private clients around the world.

At Jacobs, we’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.

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