A Day in the Life of… A Senior Project Manager

Noel Brown was an Officer in the Royal Engineers, training at Sandhurst in 2004/05. He experienced a variety of roles during his time in the Royal Engineers, including operational tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He left in 2013 at the end of his short service commission.

Noel spoke to the OA about his journey to becoming a Senior Project Manager for Atkins Global, working in the energy sector.

“Having decided I wanted to enter the engineering or finance sectors, the first step I took was to speak to friends of mine who had already made the transition and were in new civilian jobs.

One friend had recently started working for an engineering firm called Atkins a couple of months previously. He highly recommended them as a company to work for and, having put me in touch with the right person to talk to, I managed to secure myself an interview.

Alongside this, another contact I knew was at JP Morgan since leaving the army and told me about their ex-forces transition programme. He put me in contact with a Senior Director there who was also ex-army – he was very helpful and encouraged me to go through the transition recruitment programme with them too.

As it transpired, I had a choice between progressing the two opportunities, as my interview with Atkins resulted in a job offer quite quickly. I opted to go for Atkins as I really liked their corporate culture, the work-life balance the role offered and its location in Bristol was also more convenient for me than London.

I started at Atkins during my termination leave from the Army. As a consultancy we work for lots of different clients so I had a fairly varied first couple of years, including a secondment to EDF Energy. I found that my project management, leadership, planning and communication skills came in particularly useful, as did the broad engineering knowledge I had acquired during my time as a Royal Engineer.

I am now a Project Manager in the energy sector, working with various clients to help deliver their most challenging projects to time, cost and quality, but most importantly, safely. It is a particular growth area in the South West due to new power stations being developed and it’s exciting to be part of this booming industry.

Whilst there are many ways you can look for a new position when you leave the forces, speaking to people you already know is by far one of the best tools you can use. Word of mouth recommendations and introductions can really speed up the process and make sure you are targeting your job seeking efforts to the right people.”

Whilst every day is different, this is what a typical Day in the Life can look like for someone working in his role.

06:00 Out of bed to start the day. Leave the house an hour later to cycle to work, leaving enough time to get showered and ready for the day ahead at the office.

07:45 Once at the office it’s time to find a desk for the day. We operate a flexible ‘hot-desk’ policy so getting in a little earlier gives me the chance to pick my favourite spot!

08:00 A brief check of my emails followed by a chance to catch up with my team on a number of bids we are currently submitting for potential new projects. I am a Bid Director on several opportunities so I have a chat with the bid managers and technical leads to check progress and give guidance and direction.

09:00 Once the bid work has been completed, it’s time to get them through commercial and technical approval before submitting them to the client. I then get on the phone to speak with a few clients to get a grasp on how previous bids have been received and if they have any problems I can help to resolve.

10:00 I also work as a Project Director on a number of schemes so I will meet on a weekly basis with the project managers and technical leads on those jobs to monitor progress and give guidance and direction as required. We will then review and potentially sign off our monthly financial reports as well as monitor our risks and change logs to identify any issues.

11:00 I am project managing the design of a new facility one of our clients is building. This requires me to meet internally with the multi-disciplinary team assigned to the project to assess progress before relaying the latest information and any issues to our client over a Skype call.

12:30 Pop down to the in-house café to grab a sandwich, which I usually end up eating at my desk.

13:00 Head out to a power station for the afternoon to visit clients in the engineering department and discuss project progress. I quite often take my laptop with me so that I can work remotely after site meetings and maximise my time away from the office.

17:00 Back to the office to reply and action emails that may have come in during my afternoon out of the office before leaving for the day.

17:30 Cycle home and then off to a CrossFit session – you could say I’m addicted but I guess that’s the Army in me! I love keeping active and it really de-stresses me. I’m also still in the Army Reserves so, if it’s a Wednesday, I’ll head straight to my unit’s Army Reserve Centre.