Case study

Managing director — Chris Farrow

Chris has a BEng in Civil Engineering from Loughborough University. After working his way up in the industry he is now the managing director of Farrow Walsh Consulting

How did you get your job?

After I left school, my first job was as an apprentice machinist with Foster Wheeler, later bought by Rolls Royce, where I worked on nuclear submarines. I soon progressed on to the design office as a draughtsman, attending day release and night classes to obtain my degree. These qualifications allowed me to work with national and international consultancies, building my expertise and network, before I embarked on starting my own business at the base of the recession.

Some might say that was a tricky time to set up on my own, but I saw it as an opportunity to become my own boss.

What's a typical day like as a director?

As a director at a civil and structural design consultancy with a team of more than 28 people, my day often consists of overseeing operations and communicating expectations with my colleagues and clients.

I usually have project meetings every day, meaning I'm often visiting different sites or conducting meetings in our office. This allows me to ensure that all of our projects are running smoothly and efficiently, while building a secure relationship with our clients.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love the diversity of working with a variety of different people and the range of projects we work on, be it large or small-scale work. We work on projects like large-scale residential developments, retail schemes and regenerations and are also experienced in the conservation of historic buildings and extensive remedial and refurbishment work - no day is the same.

Each project is different and I love the flexibility I have in being able to move from project to project. One day I might be overseeing a housing development, the next I'm overseeing the refurbishment of medieval weaponry.

What are the challenges?

Sometimes the bits I enjoy most about the job, like the diversity of clients and projects are also the most challenging aspects of the role. Having to navigate an array of clients' expectations on numerous projects and communicating with those involved can be challenging at times, but always worth it once we can see the finished product.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree has allowed me to pursue a variety of opportunities that might not have been made available to me otherwise. It has expanded my knowledge of the trade, which was a necessity for my journey in becoming my own boss.

Receiving the right training is crucial to work in our sector and unlocking the business' potential, therefore we're committed to contributing to our employees' education costs in order to support their own personal development and career progression.

How has your role developed?

As managing director my role is constantly evolving as the business expands and as I maintain an active role in overseeing projects. My main priority is to focus on development and training within my team and putting innovation at the forefront of everything we do.

My ambitions for the business are for it to continue its evolution and maintain strong relationships with our outstanding clients who have similar ambitions.

What advice would you give those who want to break into the sector?

My first piece of advice would be to seek out work experience with a civil engineering practice, to get a flavour of the job. You don't want to commit to a minimum of three years training and not want to pursue the career afterwards. Building up your CV with a wealth of experience will impress future employers and will help you to gain an insight in to the different areas of civil engineering.

Don't commit to a specific discipline too early in your career. Actively pursue a range of projects, the more variety you can experience, the more skills you will gain and the greater the chance of finding the area you enjoy the most.

Most importantly, at Farrow Walsh we look for individuals that demonstrate ability, capability and ambition. We want people that will fit in with our exceptional team who wish to share the same journey.

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