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Rodrigo Betanzo

Rodrigo Betanzo

principal consultant, WSP in the Middle East

Expertise

Project Management, Geotechnical, Digital

Location

UAE
My highlights

Studied master's degree in the US as part of the Fulbright Scholarship Program

Led the development of the seismic design of a 4000-ton steel building for a power plant project in Chile

Leading teams delivering infrastructure projects in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar

A day in my life

I consider myself a very intense person.

At work, I try to give my best out of my knowledge, capabilities, time, and motivation.

Outside work, I enjoy sports, travelling and reading.

My day usually starts with reading or listening to a podcast of the Bible or Christian literature, or listening to podcasts about management, economics, and artificial intelligence.

After work, I love playing tennis or basketball.

My wife and I also go rock climbing and ballroom dancing, which is how we get to spend time together.

Civil engineers understand our built environment like not many, and we have an immense responsibility in leading our communities through the challenges of climate change...

Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?

I was attracted to civil engineering more than any other engineering degree because of the excitement of knowing what the science and the process was behind constructing the infrastructure you see all around you.

We asked Rodrigo…

I would recommend a career in civil engineering because...

It creates a huge positive impact in our society.

When I was deciding what to study, one of the things I liked about civil engineering is that our work eventually translates into something very tangible that everyone can see and use every day.

Civil engineers understand our built environment like not many others, and we have an immense responsibility in leading our communities through the challenges of climate change and towards more sustainable and resilient infrastructure for the present and the future.

What’s the biggest/most complex thing you’ve made out of Lego? How long did it take you?

You know, I was born in the early 80s, and Lego wasn’t a big thing yet, but I do remember that my parents got me a set of plastic-coloured blocks that you could join and build stuff.

I have vivid memories when I was 4-5 years old spending hours by myself trying to build trains and bridges made from these blocks.

Complete this phrase: I’m a civil engineer, but I’m also...

A drummer. I love playing drums. I am far from a pro, but I can play some stuff.

What about being a civil engineer gets you out of bed each morning?

Figuring things out and solving problems. I love when projects are in remote areas or different countries, so there's a bit of travelling.

What’s one great thing that you love about civil engineering that you didn’t know until you started working in the industry?

Again, the traveling part. Especially when office work becomes tedious sometimes.

Which civil engineering project (past or present) do you wish you’d worked on?

I often think what it would've been like having the knowledge of modern civil engineering but living in ancient times.

Like being teleported to the era of the Roman Empire, for example.

A few months ago, I visited the ruins of Pompei and the Colosseum in Rome, and I was in awe at the sophisticated infrastructure these people were able to build.

I was very impressed at the fact that ancient 'engineers' (if I can call them that, because their knowledge was much broader in the scientific sense) ventured to design and construct infrastructure using sound knowledge and empiricism, not far from what engineering is today.

As King Solomon concluded during his grandiose reign: “there is nothing new under the sun”.

I'm convinced there is still so much to be discovered, but perhaps, the answers we look for as human beings and scientists have been there all along.

Name one civil engineering myth you’d like to bust.

That managing and delivering an infrastructure project is essentially about return on investment (ROI) and a financial endeavour.

Many times, people with little familiarity and understanding of design, procurement, and construction make early decisions or neglect key actions that have a negative impact on the final cost and timeline of the project.

As we walk through climate change challenges, those inefficiencies are to be addressed if we truly aspire to deliver more sustainable projects in less time.

It may sound obvious, but the owner must own the project. There's no value engineering without anticipation to design and construction roadblocks.

There will be no cost and time savings without careful planning, understanding of construction methods, and a sound procurement strategy.

There will be no design optimization if the engineering principles involved are not understood.

It will be more difficult to achieve sustainability goals if key project decisions are left to third parties (master planners, consultants, contractors, suppliers) without meaningful input from the owner.

Lastly, there will be no infrastructure resiliency without the definition of clear performance targets, both technical and operational (KPIs).

Has civil engineering helped you overcome any personal hurdles/difficulties?

Absolutely. Communication skills are key to our profession. I believe I have been sharpening those skills on the go.

Anything else?

We need to form the new generations on digitisation and artificial intelligence, and how those are integrated in the design process of new infrastructure.

Modern infrastructure is based on the scientific developments of the last 100 years.

We need to be able to compile that experience and make it easily available for ourselves and for the benefit of our clients.

Another field that civil engineers should explore is gaining training, education, and experience in environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters and investments.

Rodrigo's career path

I've had the incredible opportunity of exercising this exhilarating profession in South America, North America, and the Middle East.

I started my career as a structural engineer, but I've gathered most of my experience as a geotechnical engineer.

I left my home country to study a master’s degree in civil engineering in the United States through the Fulbright Scholarship Program.

Later, I joined WSP inthe Middle East, where I work as a principal consultant leading a team of professionals responsible for delivering infrastructure projects in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Major projects

One of the largest projects I've delivered is Etihad Rail, which is the first railway project in the United Arab Emirates.

My team and I delivered approximately 100km of new rail alignment, earthworks, and more than 50 different structures from bridges, underpasses, and culverts.

I managed all the aspects of the geotechnical design and its approval. At the busiest period my team was spread out between the UK, UAE, and India.

Most of the delivery of this project was doneduring the COVID-19 pandemic. The total contract value of this project was approximately $1.2billion USD.