Education and qualifications:
MSc Sustainability and Adaptability in the Built Environment, Centre for Alternative Technology and the University of East London.
City & Guilds Membership, MCGI - level 7 in Engineering Management
Level 6 Diploma in Leadership and Management
BEng (Hons) in Engineering
Foundation degree (FdSc) Construction Management.
Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Building Studies
Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor (QMSI) Construction, Senior Military Lecturer at the Royal School of Military Engineering
Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
My grandfather was an electrical engineer with Manchester City Council and he would take me on to site from time to time and show me his projects. I always loved to see how passionate he was about his work. His career and passion started in the military, which inspired me to enlist into the Royal Engineers on leaving school. Being in the Royal Engineers exposed me to a wide range of engineering projects including bridge construction, water supply and demolitions in places such as Canada, Kosovo and Macedonia. This wealth of experiences encouraged me to undertake an HNC in building studies as part of my trade training as an architectural technician. A key part of this training was traditional building design, an area that became of real interest to me, especially looking at a combination of historical and modern design techniques and how they could be utilised in modern military engineering projects.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am presently employed within the British Army’s Royal School of Military Engineering as a Military Instructor and Programme Manager, providing technical support and mentoring to military students, specialising in sustainable design and engineering techniques, but I have taken on many roles over my career. Prior to taking on this role I was the Principal Engineer for the UK Task Force in South Sudan. Working as part of the UN mission in the country, I managed a small team of Military Engineers to provide technical assistance and project assurance to the Military’s Construction and Engineering Works. I also oversaw the design of austere infrastructure works when on operations to support the UK government’s mission aims. This ability to work across the project lifecycle, seeing an idea go from concept to completion and how it changes people’s lives, is to me what engineering is all about.
Can you describe a typical working day?
When not away on operations with the military, a key part of my role is organising training projects to keep our engineers and technical tradespeople current and competent. This involves daily interaction with personnel across the organisation, identifying resources and areas of future development such as sustainability, modern methods of construction and areas of innovation. An essential part of this process is to review future technical requirements and liaise with unit stakeholders and industry partners to enable the best training for our personnel. I also provide direct mentoring and instructional support to military engineering students within the school to link operational realities to their studies.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
Due to the unique environment working in the military provides, you meet many challenges that may not be an issue in normal mainstream projects. Areas such as resourcing, tools, equipment, trade skills and even basic facilities can all be in short supply in many of the remote, isolated locations we work in. This requires you to return to basic engineering methodologies and principles to make sure your projects are not only achievable, but also suitable for their required use and environment. A prime example of this was shown on my recent deployment to South Sudan, where 90% of the country is not accessible by road and most resources are exported by either the river Nile or air. One of my projects was to install a pier on the Nile, which could be used for off-loading the UN’s food supply. The initial design from the UK required large driven piles (a form of building foundation that provides support for structures), which were not available in-country. I redesigned the project to use abandoned ISO shipping containers as base supports, filled with local materials and abandoned vehicles to provide a counterweight and a solid foundation for the pier’s construction.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I love the creativity and opportunities to change the environment you work within for the better. There are few jobs in the world where you can make small changes that create a life-changing impact for so many. My present passion is to create new sustainable resources, which can be deployed on aid and military missions, with the aim of showcasing best practice.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
Over my engineering career I have been lucky to work on a number of great projects. These have included reinstating the UK’s military bases in Afghanistan back to clean desert, helping to design and provide project assurance of the building for mountain-top accommodation units in the Falkland Islands, and more recently designing and building UN hospitals in South Sudan. But I must say the greatest personal reward has been from helping my fellow engineers develop their own qualifications and knowledge as a Trustee of the Institution of Royal Engineers (InstRE) and mentor with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). Getting involved in areas such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and mentoring not only allows you to recap on the basic engineering principles but also allows you to give something back to the industry and the next generations.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
I have always believed that professional development is an essential element of an engineering career as it shows your peers you have achieved a level of knowledge. Professional registration and membership of engineering institutions helped me gain access to further learning via articles and online training. Being registered has also enabled me to meet new people, explore new technical avenues and mark my career progression.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Professional registration is a great way to benchmark your career and quantify your professional development as well as your experience and/or qualifications. I have used Engineering Technician (EngTech) and Incorporated Engineer (IEng) as stepping stones to becoming a Chartered Engineer (CEng), showing my organisation my commitment to professionalism, and I have always looked to help others follow this route to show their currency and competence at each level.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
As a professional engineering organisation, the InstRE takes pride in the fact that its military engineers are professionally recognised. This shows other militaries and engineering organisations that we hold the skillsets to undertake projects at the required level, and gives assurance to the wider government agencies we work with, that we will get the job done.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Yes, definitely do it and take that step onto the professional recognition ladder, as it will open doors you may not have yet seen. Professional recognition shows your colleagues and business partners your standing in your profession. The best advice I can give you as you apply is to read the UK-SPEC and keep it with you as you fill in the application. It has great advice and guidance that is ideal for helping you get the right information to the assessors.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
My time in the military is coming to an end after a great 26 years in the Army. I am looking forward to the next big adventure, hopefully working in sustainable engineering and design projects to help the developing world and countries with world heritage sites to meet their growing challenges.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I have a passion for professional development and mentoring, which has led to my involvement in a number of different organisations. I am presently a trustee and mentor for the InstRE, I am an external verifier and mentor for the CIOB, and a Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) technical advisor, focused on the education of holistic engineering practices.
In my spare time I like to explore my love of historic structures and innovation, although it’s not often that I get the chance to combine the two. I have recently been looking at how photogrammetry (obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images and patterns of electromagnetic radiant imagery) can be used to capture and record key historically significant items and structures, while allowing easier access for education. I have been mentoring my students to combine these practices with virtual reality headsets and 3D printing to bring captured models to life. The more we can learn from the past and the present, the better we can look to the future.
Do you identify as disabled, or as a member of a minority or under-represented group? Would you like to comment on what impact or influence you feel this has had upon your career?
I am today classed as a middle-class white male, but this not my full story. I grew up in a single parent household on an aging council estate, where many had little prospects of reaching university education. I was lucky and found the opportunity to travel and learn new things with the military, but we need to assist children of all backgrounds to grow to their potential. As professionals this can be achieved by assisting schools show students wider opportunities and inspiring them to reach for the stars via STEM groups and school engagement programs.