It’s funny, no matter how educated you are, you can sometimes stumble onto something that you think was glaringly obvious and ask yourself some searching questions why you haven’t done it sooner.
Over the past twelve months that’s happened to me…
My background as many followers may know is working in IT within the construction and nuclear industries.
Indeed I spent the earlier part of my career working with my employer on what was mostly internal IT work, but it gave me a wealth of experience working on health and safety conscious major construction sites. On many occasions, I even had to go and tidy up work on clients’ sites that ropey electricians and cabling contractors had left for us to commission – adding my technical skills to that of the project delivery arm of our company.
Looking back, I had a great employer who allowed me to push the technology we had too – we were the opposite of much of the industry, moving to the newest versions of equipment regularly with a constant push to get the IT bringing back better and more current management information. I personally think you’ll never achieve that goal, but the ambition should be to always be striving towards IT becoming cost neutral in the way in which it finds savings within a business.
Funny then that it’s taken me so long to actually start having conversations as we’ve commercialised what I do, grown the company, added staff etc that I haven’t really tackled the market to deliver IT work on construction and major industrial sites. Let’s face it, we are talking “the internet of things” smarter civil infrastructure, building monitoring, CCTV, fire, SCADA and other systems are all internet enabled – and construction firms need someone they can call on to sort this out for them.
It’s been a fairly humbling experience to find, we are those people that our friends in engineering and construction can call upon.
I was out in Fulham last night for a one night change from my adopted home of Didsbury (and I thought the Met was expensive!) – after a few days of meetings down in the smoke, and someone commented on the last time they saw me, which actually made me think.
They had actually met me at a party where the theme was “what you wanted to be when you grew up,” okay, to be fair, if I honestly had to do the exercise, I’d have been James Bond, an airline pilot, a structural engineer, an architect or a doctor. Quite how I’ve ended up in IT is a constant source of mystery (or perhaps misery!). The sad thing is, I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, or whether I’ve actually grown up! However at the party, I turned up in my PPE, hard-hat and high-visibility vest etc – which is something I regularly do anyway (albeit, not to parties)!
As a bit if an aside, I sometimes wonder if my chosen career aspirations are indicative of how I feel about IT. Quite often when we’re sharing frustrations with IT Managers, Directors and CIO’s – I point out that the guy or girl in charge of IT within an organisation has to be the best and brightest in the company. The depth and breadth of what a senior IT person has to do is beyond that elsewhere in the business, the best IT people are good operations directors, good facilities managers, good business analysts, they understand accounts, the P&L, the commercial aspects of the business, new and upcoming technologies and are the best project managers around.
In a lot of companies I see IT doesn’t often get the respect it deserves due to the fact that it’s misunderstood and seen as an on-cost. A good IT leader should know more about how a business is put together than a CEO or MD. There are also the best IT people and a lot of substandard. Ultimately, we work with the best IT people to turn them into the greatest. Of course, the best companies are led by CEO’s appreciative of IT’s power to save money, create efficiencies and empower workers – working in partnership with a great CIO.
Anyway, last night my friend commented on the leak that occurred in a street in London this week turning it into a river. He joked when he found out I’d been down for meetings at Thames Water’s site at Beckton with their supply-chain that they’d obviously brought in the big guns to sort it out! I did point out that whilst we could probably sort out their IT and communications problems, I knew a host of other people better qualified to drive a JCB than myself. However it did make me think that my love of infrastructure whether it’s civil or IT is possibly what people see in me and I’ve not even noticed it myself.
I’ve spent many years claiming to be the Fred Dibnah of Sellafield, wasting much time, reading, watching documentaries and understanding the history of the site and why it is the way it is. I have the same curiosity about other weird and wonderful things – I even worked out that of my local pubs could disappear to be a vent shaft of HS2! Yes I have looked at the plans. I should also say I’ve also read the National Grid’s plans to get better connections to new power plants in the Sellafield vicinity, I’ve also looked into the ‘plutonium burning’ reactor plans as well as the other designs going into the local area.
And whilst I never claim to be smarter than the average bear, I hang around with more PhD’s than you could shake a stick at and have far too many letters after my name that my business cards are the size of DL envelopes. However, this realisation that I haven’t taken advantage of my obvious passion for industry, building and civil infrastructure has made me feel incredibly dumb.
Feeling a little stupid that you’ve not taking advantage of something that was glaringly obvious, is never a bad thing, it certainly focusses the mind – and we are in the great position to already have a plethora of case studies for supporting civil infrastructure projects with IT and really beginning to motor-on with assisting more clients in this area.