Our whole team recently stepped away from project work for a day, as we gathered to discuss a range of company-related topics. We discussed what was important to us as a group and how this drives how we have delivered successful projects, and what we want from the coming years both in terms of project delivery but also professional development and job satisfaction.
Whilst there was a lot of focus on what we are moving towards, it was also a great time to reflect on what has been achieved in the past year and some of the milestones…..
Growth and change
Our first permanent office opened in 2017 and we have grown steadily since then to an experienced team of over 40 people. We now enjoy the benefits of our great new location, right next to West London’s Surbiton railway station and complete with side rooms, breakout spaces and even an acoustic pod for quiet calls.
To ensure that quality is maintained, and growth does not compromise our service levels, we have also adopted new processes to support, train and evaluate staff at all levels.
It was a great moment during the company day hearing how everyone has been able to bring our company values to reality in their work, and for newer starters to see these in action and have them more firmly embedded.
An open door culture at a company still small enough that everyone talks to everyone
One of our away day exercises was “Stop, Start, Continue”. We asked for feedback on what things we should be doing, or not, and what from current practice was most valued.
One area of focus for ‘continue’ was that staff appreciated the accessible and open nature of the company. In particular, it was good to hear that everyone feels free to seek guidance from the leadership team, including founder and Managing Director Asa Whitfield. Friendly and open is how we would characterise our culture, despite the challenging work we tackle every day, and we certainly got the message to maintain that.
Supporting our people through their career journey
Growth means a lot of hiring decisions. As we discussed in our recent growth article, our maxim is “hire people, not just engineers”. If a capable individual with the right values for us applies, we will bring them on board and support their ongoing learning, even if our hiring plans had initially centred on someone with greater experience than that candidate.
Our recent sit-down with some of our CAD and BIM team showcased the range of backgrounds seen on the team, from former architect Monzila Chowdhury to Patryk Cygan, who came to us with talent and general engineering education, but limited CAD experience. Their contributions have been invaluable and it feels a truth to us that you can teach skills but you can’t teach ethos.
At WCS, everyone at every experience level is expected to be expanding their skills at every available opportunity, and we support them in that. In our article on staying current in engineering, we talked to Principal Structural Engineer Natalja Petkune, who oversees CPD (continuing professional development). Natalja, whose commitment to ongoing education is such that she has a doctorate, certainly completes excellent project work too, but we regard her professional development remit for the team as vital.
Diversity brings strength
The experiences of staff who have come from diverse backgrounds add layers of strength. With backgrounds such as architecture or teaching – not just engineering – staff are able to learn skills from each other including presentation, leadership and listening. Quite aside from individual-by-individual recruiting principles, we feel it makes us stronger if each member of the team brings something unique to the table, the team then having a fantastic, consolidated skillset.
Diversity in national background brings similar benefits; professional training, for example, is handled differently in each country and so we find this encourages greater discussion around approaching novel solutions. Being flexible in terms of how people work, with some of the team joining remotely from around the UK and other countries, has opened up our possibilities in recruitment, again benefiting the outputs.
A values-driven organisation
We were thrilled recently to win the Environmental, Social and Governance Leader award at the first ever ceremony for New Civil Engineer Awards. The panel highlighted that we “illustrated strong leadership and technical understanding of ESG within a design consultancy. There were many great examples of positive behaviours and actions with a conscious decision to embed ESG to influence more sustainable outcomes. The judges felt this organisation embodied the gold standard of ESG within a small organisation”.
It was great to have this acknowledged by an outside entity, especially one as important to our sector as New Civil Engineer, as it is an area of real and actionable focus for us as an organisation. Sustainability is a very frequent theme on our blog, as seen in discussion of topics such as net zero as a benefit and rail electrification.
During the team day described above, our mission, vision and values were discussed in a staff-led exercise, and ideas were sought for ways to contribute to our ESG goals. A discussion on volunteering opportunities has led to the creation of a working group that is keen to support charities and other organisations that have biodiversity, environmental improvement and waste removal as a focus.
The context for these organisational characteristics
We hope this shift from covering some of the more technical topics of our job has shed light on the ethos behind our project delivery. However, be assured, we never forget that the bottom line is always to deliver engineering of the highest standard.
We are well placed to do that, as is demonstrated by our support of Tier 1 contractors in many sectors, and successes on world-leading projects such as the biggest offshore wind farm built. See our 2023 articles on cable pulling and blast loading to get a sense of our technical grounding and tools.
As we’ve discussed, our most experienced people are always there for projects as needed. Founder Asa is a fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, while Technical Director, Jeremy Barnes has written a number of industry papers and publications, and sits on Network Rail’s Safety by Design Working Group.
Whatever the nature of your project, you can entrust your civil engineering design to a team we hope you know a little better now. Please get in touch on 020 3581 7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.