Simon Webber worked as part of the BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial and Kier (Team BFK) joint venture on the Crossrail project. Here, he talks about his career experiences from working in Zambia building a new mine, to the most recent stage of his journey at Kier, working on the handover of Farringdon station.
“My uncle was an engineer at Rolls Royce, he also worked on the Beagle 2 and he got me into engineering at a young age, I remember hearing about the things he did and thought it was really cool.
Rather than going down the same route as my uncle, my career has gone down the construction route. I became obsessed with the idea of leaving a legacy and meaningful impact on communities. I believe construction has given me that opportunity, as many of the large infrastructure projects will last a few lifetimes.
Knowing that I wanted to go into engineering, I tailored my school life to it and eventually decided to go to Imperial College to do a four-year master’s course in civil engineering. I graduated in 2010 and this was a particularly difficult time for the built environment as the financial crisis was still having an impact on the industry.
I found it difficult to find a job and ended up working in a sandwich shop for a year after graduating – becoming the quickest baguette maker in London! After a year of job hunting, I was lucky enough to get a job in Zambia and I was working on a brand-new mine that was being built in the middle of the jungle.
It was a great job. We were building the mine from scratch and we were based 300km from the nearest town. We slept in tents and we were also building houses, hospitals, schools and even a golf course. It was a very tough job – we worked for seven days a week for 10 weeks before getting a three-week break. Due to this, I knew it wouldn’t be a job for life, but it was great while it lasted and I learnt so much doing it.
When I got back, I joined Kier working with Kier Professional Services (KPS) as a junior engineer. KPS is the engineering consultancy division of Kier, working on Kier projects across the Group. I did this role for two years and worked on lots of projects, gaining heaps of experience and understanding of the different types of projects we delivered.
At the time, KPS did a lot of secondments to the Crossrail projects to allow us to get industrial experience. I did this and joined a tunnelling contract in 2014 as they wanted a materials engineer and I had some experience in that…I initially went for a three-month secondment and here I am seven years later!
From a materials engineer, I went on to work as an agent for the architectural and MEP fit out for the tunnels, I then worked as a quality manager and last year I made it to the most exciting stage of my career journey, when appointed as Kier’s project manager.
It’s been a great journey for me and when I think that I have gone from slumping concrete to being part of the station handover it feels quite surreal.
Since being at Kier, I’ve also bought my first house, got married, had two children and become a chartered engineer. I have also done my level 5 and 7 diplomas in leadership and management and I’m currently doing an MSc with Cranfield University for management and leadership. This has been funded through Kier, there’s always been great stuff happening on site but Kier has put a lot of investment into my personal development. In engineering, companies will invest time and money into you if you put in some effort and show enthusiasm for what you’re doing.
Civil engineering doesn’t sound like a particularly glamourous career in many ways, but you have the opportunity to impact people’s lives on a daily basis if you want to. For me, I am looking forward to the next part of my career and after Crossrail I hope to be able to manage a project from start to finish and really make it my own. I’m really fortunate that Kier has provided me with the breadth of experience from all different aspects of a project to allow me to go on and do that.”