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Chris Thomas

Age: 50, Business Development Manager, Bachy Soletanche, UK

Route to the job
My first degree was in Engineering Geology and Geotechnics at Portsmouth Polytechnic. After a short stint for Mowlem Tunnelling in Kent I then moved to Boskalis Westminster and was involved in site investigations in the Middle East and Nigeria. I returned to the UK to complete a masters in Foundation Engineering at the Birmingham but was then off to the Middle East and South East Asia with Foundation Engineering, which was part of Costain. After four years I transferred back in the UK to work with "big rigs". In 1987 Costain's piling division was acquired by Bachy, which became Bachy Soletanche. Since then, I have managed operations for most techniques offered by Bachy, both in the UK and overseas and I'm currently business development manager.

Typical day
There's no such thing which is the great thing about our Industry. In my current role I am spending much of my time divorced from the daily business of the company attempting to create opportunities for our engineering and operations staff to display their skills and knowledge to provide solutions to our clients' problems. In order to create these chances I am able to draw upon my extensive experience which is essential in this type of job, but I need to be ever mindful that engineering clients don't like "smart mouths". Time is also spent raising the company's profile within the UK and north European markets.

Highs and lows
Highs include securing a contract that you know has come directly form an initial opportunity that you have had a hand in creating - "work getting" is a team effort here! I was also very happy to secure my ICE Fellowship. On the downside, I find that the subjective nature of the job means that there is no right or wrong answer, which is frustrating. And I'm not so keen on the "fluffy stuff" that goes with the job - pre qualification documentation, brochures, "media types"...

Ambitions
To ensure that the company has the best opportunities to gain interesting and profitable contracts and through my personal skills continue to motivate and encourage the development of our strongest asset - people!

Advice
Keep an open mind and be flexible in your approach to people and your career. Take opportunities whenever they present themselves.