"we have a lot of integrity and really strong values that are absolutely reflected in our people"
What do you consider to be the most valuable experiences you’ve had at Tony Gee for your personal career development?
I think what’s been of great value to me is having been given the responsibility to be able to influence decisions and help shape progress. If it’s been successful or not, they’re both very valuable experiences. I feel I’ve always had the freedom and opportunity to be involved in so many of those conversations. I think as a business we’re really supportive of people being involved where they would like to be involved, when that’s possible. So it’s given me exposure to aspects of the business that I didn’t really expect or anticipate that I would be, and in doing all of that it’s given me the confidence to really use my voice and feel that I’ll be listened to. To me, that is of the greatest value, so I’ve got lots of great project exposure and technical experience but it’s the holistic thing of being part of the decision making and shaping how things evolve.
We’ve always had such open conversations so if you’re willing to be involved, the opportunity is there.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I’m a very people focused person, so I’ve enjoyed all the technical stuff I’ve done, enjoyed learning a lot, and enjoy the fact that I can design bridges or help others design bridges, but the most rewarding thing for me is working with other people. I really enjoy working with good people in teams internally and externally and coming together to really help to deliver great things and face success and failures together. I enjoy project delivery but to me the most important aspect of that is team working, whether it’s internally or externally to deliver something, whatever that something might be. I think part of that also then is seeing younger professionals develop through their career, which comes as part of that project delivery and local delivery as well. I’ve always enjoyed passing on my knowledge and to help others through those teams take on new roles and responsibilities and to see them progress. It’s all about working with other people, is where I get my biggest reward.
The key thing, and it sounds very trite, but I think it’s true, is remembering that we’re humans. That means sometimes there’s a need for humour, sometimes there’s a need for seriousness and sometimes there’s a need for support, and every single time there’s a need for focus. We’re delivering projects at the end of the day, we have budgets, we have programmes, we have to deliver that so there has to be leadership. But it’s all about people, if you don’t get people working together, you won’t succeed. It’s that simple. It’s treating people as individuals and recognising that we all approach and think about things differently and bringing that together so that everyone feels like they have a contribution to make and not be fearful of a situation, that they can express themselves, put their hand up to make a comment. So it comes back to basic human skills.
What has made you stay?
I knew pretty quickly when I came to Tony Gee that I wasn’t going to move. I’ve moved around a couple of times in my career, and I’ve never been afraid to do that. I would say it’s the culture, the people, first and foremost, if I didn’t like the people I worked with, I wouldn’t stay, and it’s the opportunity. I genuinely believe that, and I’ve worked for 4 different employers, we are a different business, we have a lot of integrity and really strong values that are absolutely reflected in our people, and I don’t see a lot of evidence of that elsewhere.
I can probably count on a couple of fingers the number of times I have heard anyone swear or lose their temper in our offices. That to me is actually really important, because we set a tone in team environments. When people are talking across the office, I genuinely think we have a level of professionalism we don’t have to teach, we certainly don’t preach about it, but we kind of carry ourselves in a certain way, it’s about respect. I don’t know how we do it, but we do. We really do have that professionalism. Of course there’s banter but it’s the way we speak to each other. The respect we show for each other, even when there are disagreements, and there are plenty of disagreements, is really important. I think it comes from the top down, we don’t preach it, we expect that level of behaviour without having to ask for it.
Why should someone come and work at Tony Gee?
I think what we do really well at Tony Gee is the flat management, it is well understood across the business what graduates and apprentices need in their development. I think we’re able to give them a really good variety of work, a good exposure to responsibility whilst still having that support there. I think that is something we do quite well because of the nature of our work, we’re quite flexible and agile. We can expose our graduates and apprentices to things they wouldn’t get elsewhere, we don’t have a regimented programme, we throw things around and react to the work we’ve got, we react to their needs, we react to the team’s needs. The nature of that is variety and slightly unpredictability, which means our graduates learn so much more than how to design a bridge or a bit of drainage.
I think in more senior roles, there’s a certain expectation that senior people will be involved in creating and evolving into a role. To come back to the first point about shaping the business, we don’t have a list of all the roles we have for the next ten years and need people to fit into these boxes, that is not how we work. I’ve realised I have to be quite proactive in that, and not wait for a specific role, we have to be proactive in helping to shape that. Get into the mindset of “what do we need as a team, an office and a business?” and “how could I help to drive that forward?”. I’ve always felt supported to go in the right direction, if I was able to identify that direction.
If we have people in less experienced roles who have a particular skill set or a particular interest, and they say they’d really like to get involved, and it works for the business, then we’ll support them. So that opportunity to shape your role exists top to bottom.