James Tucker is the Director – Infrastructure Consultancy, UK & Europe at Soben. He has a strong interest in utilities, commercial and contractual services. Here is his impressive career journey.
1.Tell us about your career journey to date
My background is utilities, I started off as an apprentice in the construction industry and worked with a small building company at ground level. I was assisting with small domestic contracts that offered robust and valuable technical grounding. I then trained as a Quantity Surveyor, where I got to work on a wealth of projects but with a focus (initially) in utilities, moving up from a Quantity Surveyor, through to Associate Director and finally as Director of Transport & Infrastructure at Soben.
2. You’ve worked on many projects over the years – which two stand out for you?
The first project I’d say would be the Treatment Works in Brighton. Not as glamorous as other projects I’ve worked on I’ll tell you that, but it’s one that really stands out for me. The project was 11km of new sewer tunnel (I know, I know), two pumping stations, a 2.5km long sea outfall and a £300 million wastewater treatment works, featuring Europe’s largest curved green roof. The entire project had a valuation of £370 million and took 10 years of planning, which shows the sheer scale of it. During this project I led the commercial team on behalf of the client which had a few ups and downs, but I would like to think more ups than downs, Great project, great team, great client.
The second project would be Gatwick Airport! Sadly, I wasn’t flying anywhere, but I did lead a team which flexed from 10 to 20 and included cost engineers, contract administrators field engineers, project managers and last but by no means least, schedulers or programmers. This was an interesting departure (no pun intended) from the usual projects that I was used to. Gatwick is very large, and you soon got used to the security implications of jumping from Land side to Airside and back again just to visit your project / site which could have been anywhere within the curtilage of the airport and could be anything from work on the runway to a new coffee offer in one of the terminals. This commission took me well a truly out of my comfort zone but was great fun, which was just as well as I was there for nearly 6 years. A very unique and exciting time, I would recommend working in the Air Sector if you haven’t already.
3.What has been your favourite project you’ve worked on, and why?
My favourite project was a few years back now (2004) for the Environment Agency, not one of the largest frameworks that I have worked on but at £35 million it was not to be sniffed at. That said the project that stood out for me was the Rye Harbour refurbishment and flood defence scheme. This involved the total overhaul of the harbour with its ongoing structural issues, ladders reaching the end of their design life, timber fenders in poor condition, insufficient number of mooring rings and so on. The projects aim was to provide safe access for boat users and improve docking at the quay which included localised flood defences through and around Rye.
This involved removing the installation of 16 new ladders, 80 fenders and 48 mooring rings. The concrete capping beam was surveyed for damage and repairs were carried out where damage had occurred. The encouraging thing about this is that the new structure will last for the next 20 years t least. The Environment Agency framework covered an area that ran all along the South East Coast of the UK, from Worthing in Sussex right through to Dymchurch. Rye Harbour was obviously part of this framework and extremely rewarding to not only be part of but to see your efforts enjoyed by the fishermen and the people of Rye.
4.What has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on, and why?
The most challenging project that I’ve worked on was the Thames Water Framework. This project had already begun when I was joined the commercial delivery team, which for various reasons saw me progress to the lead role which was a bit of a steep learning curve but looking back also very enjoyable. This also involved training / mentoring new individuals some of whom had little knowledge of the water sector, so it was a real ‘roll your sleeves up’ and take each day as it comes project. There were a few issues to work through but by working collaboratively and dynamically with all key stakeholders and the client, it led to a successful result.
5.What have been the defining moments of your career?
My professional qualifications, 100%. Outside of my Quantity Surveying qualifications, I have a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) post graduate diploma in Project Management and an MBA in Construction and Real Estate. I’m also very pound to have achieved Fellowship status of both the Royal institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Finally I was successful in my bid to become a Trustee of the Chartered Institute of Building. A career defining moment which really topped things off!
6.Did you always want to be a Quantity Surveyor? If you weren’t a Quantity Surveyor, what would you be doing?
I don’t think I’d be too far away from what I’m doing now to be honest with you. I’ve always loved construction; I was brought up with a screwdriver in my hand. My father was an architect who worked for the government, so construction is pretty much in my blood. When I left school, I wanted to have a military career but that didn’t work out. So, I joined a local building company who did small domestic projects, and it grew from there.
7.What career advice would you give your younger self?
Go for it.
Don’t get put off.
Nothing is ever out of reach.
Never think “I can’t do that”, because you can.
If you know what you want, work hard and be consistent because you will get it.
To find out more about Soben’s consultancy services in the UK and Europe you can contact James on the details below:
Director – Infrastructure Consultancy, UK & Europe