20 years ago, a big opportunity from a local newspaper advert led Americas CEO Joe Cusick to the United States. Join us in this incredible journey where he reflects on his exceptional experience in Life Sciences and major projects in the US.
Tell us about your career journey to date
From a young age, I’ve always dreamed big. I did an apprenticeship in quantity surveying (QS), which took me about five years because I split my week between college and work. It was tough, but it really set the stage for what was about to come. After I graduated, I worked in Edinburgh for a couple of years, but ultimately, I knew I wanted to work abroad. I was just waiting for the right opportunity.
Fast forward to the late ’90s, I found myself working on semiconductors with companies like NEC and Shin-Etsu. I did this for around 2-3 years before I saw my local newspaper advertising for QS jobs in the United States for people with semiconductor experience.
In general, quantity surveying exists in the UK commonwealth countries, so I would look for QS job adverts in Canada or Australia, but I never thought of the US. I borrowed £200 from my dad and arrived in Albuquerque with Currie & Brown.
I started working in Data Centers (DC) 23 years ago while doing a DC program with Intel, which took me to work in different states across the US.
Then I moved on to my first major project in the pharma sector, which was with Novartis in NJ – this was a large newly built mixed-use facility that included office space, several lab buildings, a vivarium and an amenities building. This was the first of many projects I was involved with on this campus over the next 7 years.
After some time California called, and I answered. I moved there and began supporting the team at Amgen, where I got involved with an amazing team doing their benchmarking. After my LA stint, I went to Lancaster Pennsylvania to help with another pharma job developing a flu vaccine.
I then moved back to New Jersey with Currie & Brown where I was the Regional Director for the East Coast. This allowed me to work with all the big pharma companies: AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Novartis (again) and others. After almost 14 years with Currie & Brown, I moved to Chicago to join Faithful+Gould. I worked there for over 4 years supporting some major pharmaceutical clients (including Roche and Eli Lilly) before joining Linesight in 2017. I helped Linesight grow their footprint in the US and worked with some great clients in the mission critical and pharmaceutical sectors over the next 4 years.
This led me to where I am today at Soben. Scott called me and I joined the team in April 2021. Funnily enough, whilst Scott and I had never actually met, we worked for the same company back in Scotland over 25 years ago. Over the last couple of years we have grown the Soben business across the Americas region, it’s been exciting and I’m looking forward to what the future brings.
You’ve worked on many projects over the years – which stands out for you the most?
The Novartis Research Center in East Hanover, New Jersey.
This project was part of the Novartis Campus and whilst it was quite challenging, it allowed me to learn a lot. In the U.S., quantity surveying doesn’t really exist. There’s no requirement for a QS to be part of a project which meant we were constantly working to prove our value to the team.
Our team joined the project after it had begun and was facing challenges with schedule and cost – we were able to demonstrate value, address some of the issues and support the client team from a project controls perspective to successfully deliver the project. This was a great learning experience for me and proved how project controls can help any project. This initial project led to our team being on site continuously over the next several years as the campus was expanded and renovated.
What has been your favourite project you’ve worked on, and why?
Amgen in Los Angeles was my favourite because we were involved in every project within the global pipeline. Our role with this client was as part of the project controls group supporting the benchmarking process. This was a new approach to me but I really enjoyed establishing standard metrics used to evaluate whether projects were ready to move through the funding stage gate. Our team set target ranges for project budgets and the se would be compared with the project team estimates. This caused some tension in the teams but did provide a robust system to challenge, interrogate and validate projects as the went through design development. I really enjoyed this role and working with a great team made this a great experience. Living by the beach in Santa Monica was very nice too!
What has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on, and why?
I would likely say a project we did with a pharmaceutical project in the Midwest. Everything you can think of going wrong, went wrong. We came into an already distressed environment and had to do our best to help finish the project. After some time, this was achieved even with all the disruptions but it was a very intense (and tense) environment to work in. Despite the challenges it was also a great learning experience.
What has been a defining moment of your career?
Getting the opportunity to come to the US and taking it. I read somewhere that everyone is given opportunities, and people who recognise them and take advantage of them can be successful. I took a gamble coming here, and I’m just very grateful and lucky, that it all paid off.
Did you ever envision yourself as a CEO of a construction company? If you weren’t a construction professional leading two continents, what would you be doing?
I think I would have been on a building site – not sure where but it would definitely be in construction.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
Be open to the opportunities that come your way. Embrace them without the fear of making mistakes. When I was younger, I often hesitated out of fear of screwing things up – if you see an opportunity, take advantage of it because you never know where it might lead you.
Joe will be a speaker at Soben’s LinkedIn Live audio event Beyond the Hard Hat: Finding Balance Between Life and a Career in Construction on September 7th. Save your seat here 👉 RSVP
To learn more about how Soben can help you develop your projects, contact Joe using the details below: