HCP Staff Interview – Albert Roberts
Albert Roberts – I graduated as a building surveyor from Nottingham Trent and got on a management scheme at Mears working as an area supervisor. I arrived and it was a call centre, with 20 graduates. By the end of the day there were ten graduates left. I stayed for a while on an internal graduate scheme, bouncing around different departments and ended up as a site manager doing their planned works for Leeds City Council; doing roofs, kitchens and fabric works. From there they lost the contracts so unfortunately there were redundancies which hit us all and I moved onto Jackson, Jackson and Sons, on North York moors doing roofing replacements, possibly the hardest job I ever had; where scaffold wagons didn’t fit to the houses. The actual roofing was easy, but the logistics were a nightmare; big wagons, small country roads, snow and floods.
I bounced through several companies doing consultancy work as site manager; subcontracting, short term contracts and kitchens, bathrooms, roofing, external works. Then I met my lovely wife and got married. She told me I had to get a proper job, instead of not knowing when the next paycheck was coming from. I got a job at Great Places Housing as an Area Manager, looking after their surveyors and teams, then went to York Housing Association as a Compliance Manager. Unfortunately, there was a restructure. So, I got to Yorkshire Housing, working on the Swarcliffe PFI as a Lifecycle and Compliance Manager. Whilst there I met Dan Earnshaw from SAM and we had a meeting at the Leeds office with Alan Gravatt and Gary Best, where jokingly I asked if there were any jobs. They asked me to send my CV over, booked an interview and started. I think they were looking for an Assistant Asset Manager, but they found me.
You’re an Asset Manager, what are your responsibilities day to day?
The SAM Team look after the Lifecycle funds on projects, so personally I look after Bassetlaw and Rotherham schools’ projects alongside Dan as Service Lead. We review the applications, look at enhanced strategies, working on water heaters now. On Rotherham we have some issues with roofs that aren’t as watertight as they should be, so I’m putting together a strategy for roof replacements without bankrupting the project. They’re quite expensive, a lot of retained estate, slate roofs that cost a lot more than flat roofs to fix. And working with the FM Providers, Engie, who we have good relationships with.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I like the variety. Although my projects are both schools, with Rotherham there’s a lot of old buildings which I love doing and Bassetlaw is all new build, an impressive estate. A lot of thought has gone into the design, buildings and two leisure centres, run by BPL, Barnsley Premier Leisure. We’re working on a big scheme with them now as they’re doing a rebrand, modernising the facilities with a grand opening later in mid to late summer.
What are your main challenges day to day?
Up until this point I’ve been on the operations side, so it’s remembering to not be on the operations side! And not telling people what to do, even when it’s blindingly obvious. Stepping back. The other challenge is the variety and the workload SAM has now. I’m running a lot of surveys.
What support have you received in developing your career, have you had good mentors?
I’ve got Dan as a mentor, we work well together and we’re very similar, it’s a bit freaky. We got married within a week of each other and are six months apart in age. He’s very supportive, he was busy and me joining the team has helped with his workload and allowed him to move onto the innovation work, covering our carbon footprint and such like.
You’re also quite a new parent, How is your work balance?
I’ve got a 13-month-old, at nursery. It’s significantly easier at HCP with flexible and agile working and working from home. It makes life a lot easier. Amelia is in nursery three days a week when my wife is at work, she has her for the other two days. It’s good if she sleeps!
What advice would you have for people interested in coming into the Consultancy team?
There’s a lot of knowledge in the team and no one expects you to know everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We’re a friendly bunch. You’ve got to throw yourself in 100%.
Tell us a fact about you before we finish…
I don’t have any secrets. And I may be a six feet one ex-bouncer, but I don’t bite!
In 2008 I travelled out to Salvador in Brazil to work with a local charity on a construction project in the heart of the favelas. It was a very interesting experience in a wonderfully friendly place (once they got to know me) not speaking Portuguese was certainly a stumbling block but we all muddled through with very bad sign language and some overacting to explain things. The project was a long running centre to teach street children skills in music boxing and circus skills to try and help them get a career/off the streets. The building techniques learnt would be looked upon rather oddly in the UK specifically the scaffolding made from planks and barrels!
(Interview by Ellie Rowland-Callanan )