31st May 2019

Nick Russell (pod)casts light on his engineering success

Thomasons director Nick Russell recently joined Jaemie Hutton for a conversation on his podcast, ‘Engineering Success’. From Nick’s unexpected journey into engineering to his views on professional success, the conversation touched on a wide range of issues affecting the industry and the young people who might one day join it. Here are some of the highlights:

Nick describes his path into engineering as a strange story; it’s not something he dreamed of as a child. He explains, “I was outside a lot as a child, so by the time I was 12, I wanted to be a farmer. I was also influenced by my maternal grandfather who had three careers, one of which was making aeroplane engines. He inspired me hugely, but I still had this love of the country side.”

It wasn’t until secondary school that he found a way of combining his two interests: “The careers master at my school asked, ‘Why don’t you do civil engineering?’ I graduated from the University of Greenwich with first class honours before getting my first job at Travers Morgan (now Capita). The work they were doing was inspiring – the A55 route around North Wales, by-passes, bus garages. I had gone to Travers Morgan thinking it would be civil engineering, but I ended up a structural engineer first and foremost. By complete accident I got into it.”

In 1985, Nick joined Thomasons, becoming a director seven years later. The challenges he faces change day-to-day, which he enjoys. “The joy of being an engineer is that it’s not like other jobs that can be pretty much the same every day. The challenges I face each day and each week are different. The projects that come into the office vary. We can anticipate some of the challenges, but some of them are unexpected or unique.

For people thinking about starting a career in engineering, he emphasises researching the field beforehand: “It’s important to do some homework first. Don’t do what I did, starting a civil engineering degree without really knowing what it was about. Look around you at the built environment. Just about everything you’re seeing is underpinned by civil engineering and construction involvement.”

He continues, “At 18, when people make their minds up about what degree they want to follow, they need to remember that they’ve got their whole lives in front of them. They might change. So equally, don’t avoid engineering because you think you’ll have to do it for the rest of your working life.”

Whether pursuing a career in engineering or otherwise, professional success seems to have changed since Nick began his engineering journey. He offers this advice to anyone reflecting on the choices they’ve made and the paths they’ve pursued: “If you go back 30 years, people would graduate, become a registered professional, maybe then an associate and possibly a director or partner and that was success. Increasingly now, we’re seeing people from all sorts of professionals wanting to do their work and be paid fairly for doing a fantastic job. So I think professional success has changed to meaning being good at and enjoying what you’re doing.

“I think everyone should look at what they’ve achieved and ask if that’s success to them or not. If not, look at achieving something else. But if you’re happy with that, then you’re in the right place.”

To find out more about careers at Thomasons, click here.