Jakub Smigielski – Career Spotlight – Associate Director, Infrastructure

24th April 2024

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Soben Associate Director, Jakub Smigielski, has an enviable role: he’s currently helping to develop Scotland’s largest energy project. Learn more about how his impressive background in infrastructure led him to where he is today.


Tell us about you and your career journey to date.

Construction wasn’t something I considered when I was a kid. My parents were business owners, but I always knew I wanted to do something different. So, I went to university and studied Politics and International Relations at the University of Aberdeen.

After graduating, I stayed at the university for several years and helped them secure funding for a major research project from the European Commission, which was an incredible experience. By getting involved, I realised I actually enjoyed the major project environment  more than the research itself.  I explored the alternatives and found three options; Project Management, Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying (QS) – I chose the latter. Whilst they all piqued my interest, I decided that being a QS would be the most interesting choice for me. So, I did a year-long conversion degree which was accredited by RICS. That helped me land my first job in construction – and the rest is history!

I’ve been lucky enough to work across different sectors in infrastructure – I started with gas, then moved to water, highways, rail, airports and now power. The only sector I haven’t worked in is nuclear, yet! It’s a great career in general and you get exposed to many different professionals. The skills are transferable, so you’ll find a lot of people from different disciplines, and all walks of life. I have even come across lawyers who have transitioned to work as part of the commercial team, often focusing on specialist legal matters such as contract drafting, which showcases just how broad the commercial discipline is.

When people think of construction, they think tools, materials, and machinery. But in reality, it’s all about the people – that’s what makes the projects great. When you’ve assembled a great team, anything is possible. With technology advancing so fast, it’s also important to have people that have technical skills.

I was approached by Soben, and asked if I would consider  being embedded on a mega project as part of their client’s project team. I had a call with the SSE hiring manager and was intrigued by working on a project that aimed to help the UK reach its net-zero ambitions. Soben struck me as an excellent place to work as the values align very well with mine. That’s why I was more than happy to join the business.


You’ve worked on many projects over the years – which stand out for you? 

I would say the projects I’m working on currently: Eastern Green Link programme delivered in JV between SSE Transmission and Nation Grid. I’ve been a part of this programme since January 2023 and have since contributed two projects. These are huge undertakings – the largest projects in Scotland and the top 5 in the UK. Each project requires development of a coherent procurement and contracting strategy, securing a budget from the regulator (Ofgem), and procuring and managing services of leading HVDC, cable, and civils suppliers, to deliver  converter stations connected by over 500km of subsea cable, between Scotland and England.

I enjoy working on projects where I am constantly learning and evolving. The excitement of these new major power programmes is what continues to stand out for me.


What has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on, and why?   

There have been different types of challenges, but I would say the A66 major project in North England would definitely make the top of the list. The scheme was delivered between Amey and ARUP and was huge! It involved upgrading the existing single carriageway sections of road to dual carriageway standard and making improvements to the junctions along the route. As part of the process, we took the project through an accelerated DCO (Development Consent Order) application and submission – in short, a highly complex process. It was extremely challenging because of the available timescales, sheer number of stakeholders involved, and significant cost pressures.
At the time, it was the biggest project I’d ever worked on, and I felt an immense sense of pressure. The evidence is in my hairline!


What have been some defining moments of your career? 

I would say getting my RICS chartership and when I got made an Associate Director, looking after the whole of the EMEA region for infrastructure at Soben. I’ve completed Commercial Management in Infrastructure programme with RICS, which surprisingly I found more difficult than becoming chartered! . I’m very proud of this achievement as it wasn’t easy – you need to have a vast knowledge on a pre- and post-contract commercial management.


If you weren’t an Associate Director, what would you be doing?   

100% a skipper on a catamaran somewhere in the Caribbean. Each time I’m there, I’m super jealous of the people living in paradise!


What career advice would you give your younger self? 

Like many Quantity Surveyors, I’m a numbers person by default which means I am very numbers driven. However, after working on many projects I now know that soft skills are as important for doing your job well, and ultimately achieving project’s objectives. So, my advice to young Jakub would be to work on his soft skills earlier, investing in this has been a real game changer for me.


To find out more about Soben’s services, you can contact Jakub on the details below: 

Jakub Smigielski   

Associate Director – Infrastructure  

[email protected]

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