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soben derek mcfarlane

Senior Team Spotlight – Derek McFarlane, EMEA Director of Consultancy, Buildings & Places

8th September 2021

What first attracted you to the construction industry?

My Dad worked as a Site Manager, I can remember from a very young age going to site with him and always being fascinated with how buildings were put together.  This interest in buildings and an analytical/maths brain meant training as a Quantity Surveyor was a simple decision for me.

What are your predictions for the construction industry over the next 12-18 months?

The industry is in a period of uncertainty with the impact of global events not really being understood yet.  In the short term, the uptake of commercial space is likely to be affected, in the longer term the appetite of employees and employers to continue working from home will have significant impact on the level of activity in this sector.

On the upside, I would anticipate that the incorporation of technologies in everyday life will continue to fuel investment in technology and data markets. The drive towards more sustainable working and living environments and minimising environmental impacts of industry will also present opportunity in both new build and repurposing markets.

Healthcare could also be an interesting space with the focus on recovery from the impacts of COVID and ensuring adequate facilities exist to cope with current and future pressures on health and wellbeing services.

What are your goals for Soben in that time?

I am joining Soben at a very exciting time, with the Group expanding our services in both the UK and new geographies.  My role is to develop the provision of consultancy services to clients both old and new and I very much relish the opportunity I have, to be an integral part of driving Soben to future successes.

What have been your defining career moments?

I don’t recognise any specific ‘moment’ that has shaped my career more a series of events and experiences that cumulatively have influenced my path.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work in private practice, for sub-contractors and also main contractors, with many talented and inspirational people.   I do take great satisfaction from being enabling the development of junior staff and watching them gain experience and ultimately fulfil their own ambitions.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

I can genuinely say that I have enjoyed my career in construction to date.  I would remind myself that asking questions is a positive habit.  I remember as a young QS my boss telling me that no question is a daft question.  He told of a time he had been attending a meeting and was unsure of terms being used.  He therefore asked for explanation, only for another two attendees to say they didn’t understand either…. So always have the courage to ask for explanation or help when it’s needed.

More generally – My son is currently in 6th year at school and is still deciding the precise path he wishes to take when he completes his time at school.  My advice to him is to follow a path that plays to your strengths and most importantly do something you enjoy.  We spend a large portion of our lives working, so it’s vital that you are doing something that continues to challenge and excite.

If you were not in construction, what path would your career have taken?

I was very close to starting a degree in Forensic Science, so if I hadn’t become a QS I would likely be analysing a crime scene or profiling a suspect!


Get in touch with Derek at [email protected]

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