Experiences

Talented young people: Pablo Tardío, considered one of Spain's most influential engineers under 35

We spoke with our colleague, Pablo Tardío, who was recently selected one of the 35 most influential engineers under the age of 35 in Spain, according to the "35 Under 35" list drawn up by Madrid World Capital of Engineering, Construction, and Architecture (MWCC) and Global Shapers España.

He received his degree in Civil Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and then joined SENER's Youth Talent Program in 2020. Since then, he has been collaborating with the Innovation team in the Marine Infrastructure Department, while pursuing a Master's in Port Management and Planning and Intermodality.

 Pablo TardíoPablo, you are ranked 28th on the "35 under 35" list. What does this recognition of your work mean to you? What do you think the key to this achievement is?

It's very significant, since it recognizes years of effort and dedication. I had to dot all the i's and cross the t's on my application, since there is a lot of competition in these disciplines in our country, something that we really should be grateful for, because of the prestige it brings us.

I would say that the key is constancy, strength and, above all, a desire to do things as well as possible.

You are currently part of SENER's Youth Talent Program. What does being part of this program mean to you?

I think SENER offers us a great opportunity to grow every day and improve our skills. The company's policy also seeks to strike a balance between the work and personal life of each of its professionals. In this regard, I think that these types of principles are fundamental to how employees perform and to having them feel comfortable. Since the company is, in a way, our second home and we spend a lot of time there, what could be better than having a good working environment with your colleagues and feeling at home?

What challenges do you have in mind? What area or discipline would you like to focus on?

I'm passionate about marine engineering and everything having to do with ports, both in terms of infrastructure and of management, planning, logistics and freight transport, which is why I chose the master's degree that I am doing. And all marine work relies on the disciplines of geotechnics and structures, which I have always liked. I think I'll continue learning and training in marine engineering, although I'm not ruling out going into the world of port logistics. Truth be told, I'm open to anything in this field.

The digital transformation is one of the key points, although we mustn't forget that in order to achieve this goal, there must first be a cultural change that requires investment and commitment by our politicians in this field.Pablo Tardío

One the points evaluated by the "35 under 35" program was having "a strong vocation for improving the quality of life through infrastructure design" and realizing that "innovation is the key to the present and future of society." Let's talk about your vision of innovation and the future of cities:

I think the digital transformation is one of the key points, although we mustn't forget that in order to achieve this goal, there must first be a cultural change that requires investment and commitment by our politicians in this field. In addition to this cultural change, the necessary technology must be available and, by using it correctly, we must transform processes (which are the key to the digital transformation). This will make it possible to establish new business models that are more efficient, automated and, above all, environmentally friendly.

We also mustn't forget one very important aspect: it's people who make and create "things." Therefore, we must bear in mind our capabilities, the human value of creating with our hands.

It's important to note that Spain can lead the energy transition. We have sufficient capabilities and the people and materials needed to carry out this process. In my opinion, Spain, a country with so much sunshine, could consider leading the photovoltaic sector and, in general, in the production of renewable energy. Climate change is a fact and we can't wait for the situation to become irreversible, we can't wait to reach the point of no return. We have to take the initiative and we can set an example for Europe as a "green" country that is energy self-sufficient thanks to renewable energies. Our country is rich in many aspects, and we must learn to take advantage of the resources it offers. The sun, our climate in general, is one of them.

Spain can lead the energy transition. We have sufficient capabilities and the people and materials needed to carry out this process. (...) Climate change is a fact and we can't wait for the situation to become irreversible Pablo Tardío

As for the future of cities, it's obvious that we can't continue with the "cities designed around private vehicles" model. In my humble opinion, one of the keys is the bicycle. Our European neighbors have more or less accepted this. There are countries in Europe that give their workers a bonus for commuting to work on a bicycle. This implies that, as a starting point, there must be a cycling network that enables this. The solution is not a "cycling lane," which is what Madrid, for example, has been doing, but rather a coherent cycling network separate from motorized traffic, a model that has already been implemented in cities like Valencia, Barcelona and Seville. In the case of Spain, we still have work to do in this area. There is no other way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than by shifting away from private vehicles (for the good of everyone), controlling industrial emissions and applying the concept of "the polluter pays and repairs" (as required by the Environmental Responsibility Law of 2007), as well as by providing cities with a good public transportation network and a safe and accessible cycling network for everyone. I think that behind all these arguments there are three very important points: social awareness, caring for public spaces and respect. Let's cultivate each of them and we'll see an improvement in no time.

It's a very interesting issue.  I recommend this video by Fernando Valladares, a research professor at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

A country's growth is based on some fundamental pillars: culture, health, education and public infrastructure. If these pillars fail, we can't advance as a society.Pablo Tardío

What challenges do you think cities face to ensure the quality of life of all their residents?

The challenges of the energy transition, digital transformation and cultural change. It's obvious that we are in the middle of a large-scale globalization, and we have to realize that this situation has consequences, good and bad, for everyone. From my point of view, a country's growth is based on three fundamental pillars, with a closely related fourth: culture, health, education and public infrastructure. If these pillars fail, we can't advance as a society.

Are the challenges in cities in developed countries similar to those in cities in developing countries?

The reality is that we are at different stages. While developed countries are starting to consider how to mitigate climate change and pave the way for an energy transition, developing countries are struggling to get ahead as best they can through the widespread notion of "the higher the production, the greater the benefits or economic development." These countries are implementing the production models that have so far been used to a large extent by developed countries, which act as their growth benchmarks, without taking into account the consequences resulting from these dynamics. Because of this, "we have to lead by example." It's hard to say that so assertively, but when you lack the basics, your hierarchy of needs changes and, as a result, climate change doesn't have the same priority.

However, in this same dynamic, if ecological or sustainable production is implemented and it creates benefits, the developing countries will most likely take that as an example; it's important to realize that the cultural factor is one of the most important, as is the image we convey as a country, and as Europeans as well.

How would you define sustainable infrastructure?

As infrastructure that has been developed and built using only the strictly necessary human and material resources, maximizing safety, with reusable or recycled materials, which is energy self-sufficient and which has the lowest impact possible on the environment and landscape during its construction and throughout its useful life.

What are the keys to shifting towards a sustainable urban model?

Basically, those laid out in the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development. It contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals that range from access to public resources and services for all the planet's inhabitants, to peace, social justice and climate action.

 

What's important is that there be a mix of personalities in teams, since this is what really makes us strong as a group.Pablo Tardío

In engineering, one of the key issues is precisely that ability to "look beyond," to have critical, transformative thinking. Do you think that skill, that ability to be creative, to innovate, can be developed?

Absolutely. Critical thinking is important, since it's what makes you rack your brain and try to do things in the best way possible. Based on personal experience, the key lies in balance: excessive self-criticism leads to an undesirable state of anxiety, so it's best not to be too hard on yourself. My senior-year project contains a quote I came up with that answers the question well: "Because there is no better ally to intelligence than sensitivity." As for transformative thinking, in a way it goes hand in hand with nonconformity, meaning we don't have to settle for just anything; everything can be improved and we can all do our part. As for creativity, this involves a personality trait that, in my opinion, is more developed in some people than others. But, as the wise adage goes, I will say that comparisons are odious. What's important is that there be a mix of personalities in teams, since this is what really makes us strong as a group. In my opinion, the key is respect. Everybody is different, and each individual has personality traits that make them unique.

 

A civil engineering degree is not easy, but it grows on you.Pablo Tardío

What advice would you give to students who are finishing their bachelor's or master's studies in engineering or architecture and who want to stand out from the crowd and get a foothold in this sector?

I would tell them that a civil engineering degree is not easy, but it grows on you. That life takes many twists and turns and that we all experience tough times and hardships that shape our life and that make us grow as people, but that despite this, there are incredible, extremely happy moments, and this is what we need to focus on and pay more attention to. To rely on trustworthy people, on family, and not be afraid to express their emotions. Combining rationality and emotions is essential. I would tell them to set their objectives with peace of mind and respect for themselves and those around them, and to pursue them with constancy, desire and all the enthusiasm they can muster. To try to learn everything they can and remember that society is each and every one of us. A phrase that my family has reminded me of in many conversations.

 

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