Filter by Category
Filter by Category

#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet James

James is a Senior Sustainability and Climate Change Engineer at Arup as well as a part-time lecturer and Indigenous Services Advisor at the University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) in Australia. His first role as an engineer allows him to take his traditional engineering skills and methods and apply them to the newer sustainable development industry. He enjoys solving the most challenging problems that his community faces, and it was this mindset that inspired him to break into the education sector and support the next generation of engineers at UniSC.

Read more about how James uses his STEAM skills to make an impact on his community and the environment. 


FIRST Staff: Can you share some information about your current role?  

James: I work in two very different roles. My first role is working as a Sustainability Engineer at Arup. This role allows me to solve the most challenging projects that our clients and community have by taking traditional methods for remediation and applying a whole new sustainable development lens to it (specifically around climate change adaptation). My second role entails educating and supporting the next generation of engineers, including specific one-on-one time with our First Nations students. My second role is more about giving back to the community, as I feel lucky to be given the opportunities I have had. 


FIRST Staff: What is your favorite part of your current role as Senior Sustainability and Climate Change Engineer at Arup and why are you passionate about it? 

James: Though I studied engineering, my role at Arup allows me to be super creative. I think I am wired in a way that wants to find fun and interesting ways to deliver something more impactful to our communities. My role allows me to travel all over the world, present at different events, and remain social. When teaching, I take this same approach and give our students the chance to see how engineering is not just calculations, but a way of life. 


FIRST Staff: How are you using your past experiences as an engineer in this role? 

James: The engineering profession is one of problem solving, and every single aspect of life involves solving a few problems. I feel having an engineering background allows me to be confident that there is a way to overcome challenges, we just need to slow down and think about the best way to approach it. Also, engineering is not always perfect and sometimes it takes an element of trial and error to get it right. 


FIRST Staff: What is the hardest part of your job?  

James: In my sustainability role, the biggest challenge is business maturity. Sometimes communities are not ready to solve their problems with nature and would prefer a concrete solution. However, I treat this as a challenge and try to find ways to create a message and narrative to support and walk with our clients. My role as an educator is hardest when I receive negative feedback. It has taught me that every student has different ways of learning and every now and again it is OK to get it wrong. 


FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills in your everyday work/life?  

James: STEAM fosters work-life balance for engineers by enabling versatile skill sets. Engineers leverage technology for efficient work, while creative arts nurture innovative thinking. Math and science principles aid problem-solving. With adaptable skills, engineers efficiently manage work demands. Moreover, STEAM-based innovations enhance outdoor experiences, fostering environmental sustainability and leisure pursuits. Collaborative projects encourage social interaction, nurturing a vibrant community. Overall, STEAM's interdisciplinary approach enriches both professional productivity and personal fulfillment, promoting a harmonious integration of work, outdoor activities, and social engagements. 


FIRST Staff: Can you share your thoughts on the impact of your personal/professional work in STEAM?  

James: My journey in STEAM has enabled me to be a catalyst for change, merging technological advancements with real-world applications. From spearheading sustainable infrastructure designs to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, my work has aimed to create a ripple effect of progress. By actively engaging with communities and advocating for STEAM education, I have inspired the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers. Ultimately, my endeavors in STEAM have not only transformed my approach to challenges but have also contributed to a larger narrative of positive change, shaping a future where innovation and societal betterment go hand-in-hand. 


FIRST Staff: What advice do you have for those who want to get involved with STEAM? 


  1. Cultivate curiosity: Ask questions, explore, and never stop learning. 
  2. Embrace challenges: Don't fear failure; it's a vital part of the learning process.
  3. Seek mentorship: Connect with professionals in your field of interest.
  4. Build a solid foundation: Focus on honing your core skills in science, tech, engineering, arts, and math.
  5. Collaborate: Join communities, share ideas, and engage in projects with like-minded individuals. Keep an open mind and be ready to learn from others' perspectives.


FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?  

James: This is such a tricky question, as I have so many ideas of people or things that inspire me. I am going to give you two:

  • Joyanne Manning: Joyanne has been a role model of mine at Arup for many years. She is a fierce and passionate woman in the world of STEAM. Through adversity she has become one of the world experts in circular economy, waste and energy. But it is her approach and ability to foster passion that really inspires me. 
  • I am inspired by nature. Nature has been keeping this world moving since the beginning of time, and we still do not quite understand it. Every day I see something in nature that excites me and makes me feel that everything is going to be OK. 


FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?  

James: Super cliché, but don’t take life too seriously. The best meals are usually slow-cooked, so take your time and things will fall into place. Life is not about a fast promotion, pay raise, or a nice car. It is about living and being present. 


FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today? 

James: Enjoy the journey, embrace adversity as an opportunity to be better, and support those that need something. Nature is so powerful and really untapped, so get out there and just feel its energy. 




Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at  


Related Posts
#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Avneet
#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Avneet
#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Sarah
#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Sarah
#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Priya
#PeopleofSTEAM: Meet Priya


Subscribe To Blog

Subscribe to Email Updates