Léan Doody leads Arup’s work on smart cities in Europe, advising them on how to become resilient and adapt to fast-changing technology as the world around us becomes hyper-connected.
Digital underpins everything we do daily from transport, to energy, water, waste, urban design and building engineering. Part of Léan’s role is to zoom out and take a view about how digital will shape the cities we live in.
“When I first joined Arup in 2003, my job did not even exist! Let me give you some background: although I work at Arup, I’m not an engineer – I studied Mathematics at Trinity College Dublin. I started my career working in software companies and moved to London in 2001 to do a master’s degree in City Design and Social Science at the London School of Economics. I wanted to bring together my knowledge of digital and cities, so my job naturally developed as a way to examine how technology can help us to run cities better. I worked in London until last year, when I moved back home to Dublin to lead our Digital Property and Smart Cities business in Europe. I’m continuing to work on Europe-wide projects so there was no loss of career momentum after moving home.”
“After I’ve got the kids out to school, I get the train to the office on Ringsend Road, and my journey offers beautiful views of the sea. Since moving back to Ireland, I’ve come to deeply appreciate how wonderful it is to live near the sea and never be far from the countryside.”
“Once in the office, every day is a little different. With all the time zones in Europe, I tend to schedule my video calls early in the morning, as it’s the best time to get as many people as possible on the call.”
“My workday is really varied; some days I have a lot of meetings in the office, while others I’ll be out with clients or at events such as the Smart Docklands advisory group. I’m really excited about the Smart Docklands initiative. There is a great understanding about the potential of technology in Dublin, with many tech giants locating here and a sizeable pool of tech talent. Digital skills are in high demand and there is huge recognition that these skills can be used to make cities more enjoyable for citizens.”
From Arup’s office in the heart of the docklands, Léan spends her lunchtimes in the Silicon Docks area. “As I walk down to Grand Canal Dock at lunchtime each day, there is fantastic life in this thriving part of Dublin and it’s great seeing so many Arup projects on my walk.”
“There’s so much going on in Dublin, it’s brilliant to have been able to relocate from our London office to base myself here. It’s also very well connected to Europe and, working in technology, mobility is very important. Dublin Airport is much easier to navigate than Heathrow!”
After lunch, Léan can often be found doing research into helping cities to tackle their challenges. She is currently advising Cambridge University on a new research programme on smart cities. “It’s important that we don’t just implement technology for the sake of it, but rather to consider the best options for these cities and come up with strategic solutions. Because we are independent and employee-owned, we are not bound to any one particular technology and can be impartial about technology choices, or even advise against technology if it’s not appropriate. We also have leeway to look more broadly at ethical impacts such as those on privacy, trust and transparency.”
“Our trust ownership structure gives us the freedom to invest in research. By 2050, 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities, so we are really interested in cities not only being smarter, but also giving people chances to live and work in green and sustainable cities. One of my favourite projects was a project in Helsinki called Low2No. We explored digital strategies to help the city district to transition from low carbon to no carbon.”
Léan usually finishes the day by working on reports and catching up on emails. “Some days, I finish work early in order to collect my kids from school. On those evenings, I sometimes log on later. I really appreciate that I have the flexibility to do this.”
Arup believes that offering flexible working options is essential to attracting and retaining the best people, helping to create a work environment where staff’s needs are valued and which provides the freedom to balance work and personal commitments.
Arup is the creative force at the heart of many of the world’s most prominent projects in the built environment and across industry. With 89 offices across 34 countries, Arup has more than 14,000 designers, engineers, consultants, project managers and technical specialists delivering innovative projects across the world with creativity and passion.
Léan’s advice for people considering moving home
Give yourself plenty of time to settle in – I’d say it takes two years to transition into living in any country so accept that you might feel a bit displaced for the first few months or so.
For more, see arup.com/careers