Gary Dockrell: I started at HCP only a year ago. Previously I was an IT Manager in a secondary school for some time. During that time, I was exposed to PFI because the Local Authority was going through a reorganisation and I was asked to be on a working group to progress the PFI as it took shape before financial close. So that was my first understanding of what PFI was all about. I then worked with the leadership team throughout the build, supported the logistics and interfaced between school operations and construction activities that were going on on-site. Because of that work I was promoted to School Business Manager. My responsibility there was to manage the PFI on behalf of the school and the Local Authority for that site. That led me onto an opportunity to work with Sodexo as an FM delivering TFM services to the Merton Schools Project. I did that for less than a year then was promoted within Sodexo to Contract Manager to look after three sites: two secondary schools and a primary school. I did that for a couple of years until the opportunity came up to work for HCP as an Assistant General Manager.
That’s quite a different start isn’t it, an interest that led to a career?
It was unexpected. I assumed that my career was going to be in IT forever and the way that it panned out was completely different to what I expected so I’m here by accident I suppose!
What does your role at HCP involve on a day to day basis?
As AGM I look after the day-to-day operations on two projects: West Middlesex and Central Middlesex Hospitals. West Middlesex is a Hard FM and Soft FM project which is very busy currently. We’ve got a soft services market test in progress, some major variations going on and we’ve just been through a retendering of the retail which is just being mobilised. I’m overseeing that as well. It’s been great because I’ve had some excellent exposure and opportunities to get involved in projects that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Working with Kate’s support has allowed me to get involved in some of the more strategic elements of the project and to look after it with her as the escalation point.
What are your career goals?
I’m aiming towards working as a GM within HCP. The work that I’ve done on this project so far has set me up in good stead for the GM role. I’ve had exposure to Project Co Boards and working with legal, consultants and HCP’s Commercial Team on variations so I’ve got a really broad overview of what it’s like to be a GM and it’s definitely something I’d like to do.
You’ve been here around 12 months. Do you have any career advice for people interested in working for HCP or new starters?
HCP is an exciting, evolving, growing business and it’s great for people who have a got a solid background in FM that can bring that operational experience into asset management. And my advice for a new starter is to get to know your contract inside out, what should be delivered and how. Building good relationships, not only with colleagues and people around you that can offer support, but also relationships with the Trust or Authority and Board because those relationships are worth their weight in gold.
Kate, over to you. You’ve had quite the route to get here by all accounts, could tell me about your career path?
Kate Greener: I was a trained teacher. When I came to England I got my first Masters degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)from Newcastle University. I taught in secondary school back in Taiwan and here but didn’t feel that my passion was in teaching. By chance I got employed by Carillion as a Project Coordinator in the North of England, later becoming Office Manager for the Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh offices of the Carillion Building Surveying Department.
The very first PFI Hospital project I worked on was Newcastle RVI & Freeman Hospital, so that’s how I started my career in PFI sector. When was working for Newcastle PFI Hospitals (employed by Equion, the SPV), I was headhunted by the Project TA of EC Harris, asking if I would like to become a Technical Advisor. This role meant I would work on several PFI Projects, in different sectors and understand how the contracts work, how the FM works and how the paymech works.
I decided to move down to London from Newcastle 15 years ago and was a Technical Advisor for 12 years, working for a variety of industry companies, all the big players. When I moved down, I also completed my second Masters degree in Facilities and Environment Management at UCL.
I really enjoyed my role as TA until I was approached by the MD of MAMG for a SPV General Manager role back in 2012. And I thought it was great as I wanted more practical experience. A lot of the time its theory as a TA, and you’ve got to look at the risks but you don’t know what’s going on in detail and the challenges you face every day. I took the job and have really enjoyed it ever since as General Manager.
As GM on this project and others you work on, could you give an overview of what that involves?
As a GM, I believe our key roles is to monitor contractor performance, advise on project risks, manage relationships with various stakeholders and mentor our peers. Operationally, there is always something happening every day. University projects tend to have fire safety and cleaning issues, such as kitchen fire incidents and messy student rooms. For hospital projects, I found portering, security, cleaning and NEPT services could present greater risks operationally. As GM, my role is to ensure FM Contractors are fully comply with project compliances and their performance meets the contract obligations and standards.
I work closely with my colleagues and peers. Seeing their strengths, guide them and develop their roles throughout project exposure. When I joined HCP back in autumn 2015, I worked on Ashford Social Housing and Ellenbrook which is University of Hertfordshire Student Accommodation from top to bottom. I managed these two projects on my own with support of my Finance Manager, Rebecca O’Neill, who is a great asset to the project.
Ashford Housing project later moved on to the other GM and I then took over West Middlesex Hospital in June 2017. We appointed Gary Dockrell, as Assistant GM, who works on the project 2.5 days a week, however he is fully in charge on the project’s daily operations.
I’m very lucky, I do have a good team and team work across projects. On Ellenbrook project, I now have an Operations Manager, Charlotte Fordham, who used to be RBM officer on Ellenbrook when she joined the company not long after I did. When there was an Operations Manager role available, my Regional Manager asked if I wanted to recommend someone, so I recommended her. She’s keen, she has the knowledge and she’s grown a lot. She has drive and that’s very important. It’s the same message with Gary as well, I know his title’s AGM but I see him as GM, he is able to grow into that role and from day one he’s been involved with the lender liaison and board meetings. He does what he needs to do and is very good at it. I don’t need to hold all the glory just because my title is GM. My team all do very well, they are a credit to themselves and the projects.
There’s a lot of development already.
Exactly. I want one day for them to taken on my project and I can move on to the next one.
What is your biggest career achievement?
In terms of career achievement, the biggest thing is transitioning from my skill set. To move from a teacher into something much more technical. In terms of all the projects I manage, there are two I’m most proud of:
One is with my previous company, Sussex Police Project with six detainee centres, a very different sector. It was a very difficult project with a lot of contractual disputes, the market testing services and benchmarking was running over three years period and the relationship between the police authority and the SPV and FM Provider was strained as well. I managed to turn the performance standards around, settled for a minimal compensation to Authority, and now they are working very well, saving money and innovating.
The second one would be Ellenbrook, 100% owned by DIF. During the interview, Colin Carey, Regional Director, and Michael Woodhead, CEO, made it very clear to me that it is important that I need to do a good job to obtain further business opportunities with DIF. When I took on the project I didn’t realise how difficult it was. The contract hadn’t been managed properly by the previous SPV, Carillion. Carillion was also the FM Provider on the project, not responding and performing badly. It reached a point that the relationship between the University and the SPV was deteriorated along with the FM Provider. I worked very closely with the board and we jointly decided to terminate the contract with Carillion. It was not an easy decision but after giving them numerous chances to improve, we knew we had to do something about it. We completed a comprehensive snagging list of the defects, compliance, lifecycle and FM as a starting point and we had those as evidence to support our case to negotiate. It was a very stressful period, but we managed to reach an agreement with Carillion back in Dec 2016 and went on our separate ways. I must admit that is one of the toughest projects I’ve worked on in my career life.
We had a really challenging client (University side) at the time who has now left the project. I was grateful to Michael Woodhead and Colin Carey for being so supportive and other HCP team support from Commercial (Ged Robinson), SAM (Babajide Ogunniyi) and Projects. My board is also very supportive and decisive.
To date, we have completed all building defect and compliance issues, and are fixing the swimming pool at Ellenbrook. The next twelve-month programme is ongoing to fix the firestopping. Once that’s all done, the project should be in a really good position and hopefully by then I can just step back and not travel quite so much!
Have you got any career advice for new people coming into HCP or thinking about it?
It depends on which role you start with.
If you come in as a Project Administrator, I would suggest developing the role to go into more technical operations. RBM could be a good starting point. It can be a bit repetitive but it’s a role where you can gain a lot of technical and operational knowledge and understanding around the compliances. Statutory compliance is key, you need to keep the board out of jail, and if you don’t know what you’re inspecting or monitoring, you won’t be able to do so. From that position you can move on with the right career training and exposure to the project. Like Charlotte Fordham has done, move onto commercial or project teams.
If you come in more senior role, at say, AGM level, you need to communicate with your line manager to make sure you are given some exposure and a chance to deal with lenders, commercial, liaison. If you look on the job description, the differences between GM and AGM is funder liaison and commercial management. That’s something you can’t get all the time so you must gain exposure to it. I would recommend AGMs to shadow GMs on commercial discussions, attend board or liaison meetings, get to understand variation processes and how the consent process works for a Deed. Go for any opportunities that don’t come by easily.
On West Middlesex Hospital project, Gary asked to take the lead on the retail matters. This kind of opportunity doesn’t come every year. Keeping going like Gary is doing, people notice, your manager notices.
As for GMs, that’s a different story, the structure is quite flat. If you work hard on a project, you enjoy it, and then become your own boss on your own project, that’s the goal I think. If possible, seek out more business opportunities and continue to mentor peers, that’s one of the most enjoyable tasks in our role.