5 Mins with Q & A

17th January 2023


In our series of ‘5 minutes with…’ interviews, we meet the people behind the projects:

What does project management mean to you?

Project management is about stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. It’s all too easy to get embroiled in specific issues, so having an overseeing approach helps the design team and the client alike. Using that increased perspective allows the Project Manager to solve problems.

Which clients do you work with?

Currently I am working with Maven Capital Partners, Tristan, USS, Columbia Threadneedle, Value Retail, LGIM, and Blackrock.

Why did you choose to work in the commercial property sector?

The variety involved in the commercial sector means that no two days are alike. Project management requires a lot of understanding in order to unravel the general difficulties of delivering projects, particularly within a given time and budget. Problem solving is a key skill for building surveyors.

What has been your standout career moment so far?

I once won a BCO Award for an office Cat A & B fitout that I project managed and designed myself, that was a proud moment. And then later in my career, helping to develop the Venture Projects team from smaller instructions to frequently project managing instructions at values of more than £10 million, which is now very commonplace for us.

Tell us how you have put your project training / experience to its best use on a Workman project?

Having nearly 30 years’ experience as a Building Surveyor – over so many different sectors – allows valuable time to be spent on the bigger picture. The form of construction or kind of development becomes second nature, thus allowing time to concentrate on managing the design team, programme, budget and client needs.

What has been your biggest project management challenge, and how did you overcome it?

The Murieston Road project in Edinburgh was tremendously challenging. This was a site comprising two derelict buildings selected by Maven Capital Partners for development into student accommodation. Venture Projects was tasked with project managing the creation of 120 bed-spaces across a mix of high-end studios and apartments, incorporating internal and external recreational spaces for residents. Work began in March 2021, with a completion date set for 30 June 2022.

Sandwiched between a railway line, a main arterial road into Edinburgh and an adjoining tenement building, which was occupied for the duration of the project, this would be a tough development. Throw in a mains sewer pipe that needed to be diverted, and the challenge was on.

The Venture team steered the project through all the neighbouring site challenges, months of Covid uncertainty and materials supply shortages to deliver practical completion on the agreed deadline, and within budget. This also required close collaboration with the wider team including 56threeKJ Tait EngineersWoolgar Hunter EngineersGleeds and Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd.

What are your spare time pursuits and how do they contribute to your role at Workman?

I like cycling, and going to the gym, and I really enjoy walking the dogs. There’s nothing better to clear the mind than time outside walking through the forest, which I understand is medically proven to be very good for you. It’s all about getting away from modern life and the technology it brings, which is great for dealing with the stresses of life and work.

Doing sports and recreation outside work gives an opportunity to clear the mind for improved thinking and brain capacity, which really helps with the kind of problem-solving involved in project management. It’s like clearing the canvas for the week ahead.

What has been your most significant achievement outside work, and what did it teach you?

For four consecutive years I took part in a 50-mile cycling event from Glasgow to Edinburgh. My goal was to complete it in under two and a half hours, which I achieved three times. It required a lot of training and commitment. You’ve got to show an element of devotion to it and you’ve got to be committed. If you give up on the training, it’s going to make success a lot less likely. The experience taught me that commitment and consistency pay off, and the same goes for project management.

What’s your favourite building worldwide, and why?

It has to be The Empire State Building, an iconic fixture in the New York City skyline. To achieve such grandeur on such a large scale back in the 30’s is just amazing, with none of the design and architecture technology that we have nowadays. Even better, as this was considered a race to become the tallest building in the world.

It was built with sheer blood, sweat and tears – and health and safety was nowhere to be seen, if those iconic pictures of guys sitting on the girders eating their sandwiches are to be believed.