Mega Project. Multinational teams. Graduate Alex shares how it’s done

Added: Over a year ago by Atkins

More exciting work from our Graduates… This time we feature Alex Burnell, a Project Manager in Transportation, who manages teams across the UK and at our Global Design Centre (GDC) in Bangalore. His recent projects include a major rail electrification project.

Tell us about your phase of the Electrification Project…

I was staggered to be working on a project of this size. It was a £15 million, multidisciplinary design to provide 17 miles of new overhead line equipment, including station upgrades, between two up and coming UK urban centres. I was Design Manager and led the delivery of civils and geotechnical designs on a ‘live’ Design and Build contract.

I personally managed the delivery of a £4 million package of works, leading project and design teams of about 100 people to the successful completion of over 80 Approved For Construction (AFC) designs. That meant facilitating regular progress meetings, and dealing with or escalating issues where necessary. Huge responsibility and sometimes big learning curves – but that’s part of the challenge and I love these big, complex projects. As a result, my knowledge has significantly increased and my confidence has really grown.

You’re noted for your integrity and transparency, aren’t you?

I like to make sure that the information I share internally and with clients is factual so that the best outcomes can be achieved, even in difficult or demanding situations. For example when I had to report a delay on a critical deliverable, it was a difficult situation. It wasn’t good news as it ultimately meant holding up construction. But it was important to tell the truth. In doing so, we were able to work with our client to release key parts of the design earlier. So we reduced the impact and resolved the issue quickly. When a client sees that you’re honest and actively working to make right, it builds trust.

How else do you build trust with clients?

Collaboration is key! I work at the client’s office whenever possible, which builds strong working relationships. We also have frequent face to face meetings and clear communication channels. All this goes to ensure that the client feels supported by us. Daily progress updates help by keeping the client updated on key deliverables and any issues that need to be resolved immediately.

And with colleagues?

As a team leader I take full responsibility when things don’t go to plan. I make sure I analyse what went wrong and feed that information back to my teams to make us better and more competitive. I try to treat people with respect and give my design teams ‘ownership’ of their work, to ensure that the client receives a high standard of service.

You’ve become a champion for proper team support, mental health, and diversity….

Working in strong, happy teams is everything. Looking after wellbeing and mental health, following safety procedures and promoting an inclusive culture are key aspects of my personal Health, Safety, Security and Environment (HSSE) plan. I’m passionate about these issues because my team works on high pressure, high-intensity projects. I have regular one-to-ones with co-workers, paying particular attention to how team members are ‘really’ doing. And I offer support when it’s needed. We can only help each other if we have good working relationships, so I’ve made getting to know my team members a priority.