Meet the Asbestos Team:
A Day in the Life
of a Project Manager

Wed 18/12/2019 - 15:22

Joseph Thomas, project manager at SOCOTEC’s Bridgend site, is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day supervision of many of the organisation’s asbestos management and consultancy services. 

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Working on projects across a wide range of business sectors and types, Joseph explains more about the variety he comes across in his role, as well as why he enjoys working as part of SOCOTEC’s Asbestos division.

What does a typical day as a project manager look like?

In my role as project manager, every day can vary greatly. One day I could be attending client asbestos management meetings or be on site surveying, while on others I can be attending asbestos awareness training or producing and technically reviewing reports. I tend to receive a variety of enquiries for air monitoring, surveying and bulk sampling, but the majority are for asbestos surveys, all of which need scoping, planning and setting up. I regularly attend survey scoping visits with the client so that I can gain a full appreciation of what the clients’ expectations are, which in turn helps me to plan well and produce consistent quality surveys to all clients.

How did you become a project manager within the asbestos sector?

Before I started my career in the asbestos industry – which now spans 15 years – I trained in building design and construction. This provided me with a good foundation upon which to hone my craft, as the transferable skills I gained were instrumental in helping me to secure my current role.  

Starting out as a trainee analyst, I got involved in project management at an early stage. This would involve on-site project management meetings, carrying out contractor audits, chairing progress meetings, as well as undertaking the day-to-day air monitoring and inspection tasks. Another key area of my role that led me into project management was the scoping and setting up of remediation programmes for key clients, where I would be responsible for procuring the services of various contractors in order to meet the project requirements. This eventually led to my taking up the role of project manager at SOCOTEC, where I have been for the last five years.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?

From surveying to writing asbestos management plans, from delivering training or attending client planning meetings, I enjoy the diversity of work that my role as project manager brings. I also enjoy working with other colleagues of differing levels of experience and knowledge, learning from them or having the opportunity to train others. Above all, I would say the most rewarding part is building a long-lasting relationship with a client, where I have the privilege to lead them in achieving and maintaining compliance. Taking a client through the whole management process and having them commit to achieving the recommendation is worth all of the initial hard work.

What are some of the biggest challenges faced in your role?

One of the challenges that I face is providing a quality-focused, consistent service for all clients, especially when their needs are so different. Understanding and keeping up an active dialogue as to where expectations can be met is especially important in this process. With this in mind, one of the other challenges I come across in my role is maintaining good time management and making sure that time is spent productively. This is because a lot of my role involves the planning, setting up and managing large demolition surveys that incorporate multiple contractors and services, all of which take up a large proportion of my time.

What are some of the most interesting and/or high profile projects that you have participated in?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of high profile clients and projects over the years, including a demolition survey of a power station, a demolition survey of a leisure centre which had extensive asbestos contamination, as well as the management of numerous local authority contracts and a local housing contract of over 10,000 dwellings. As for the most interesting client, it would have to be a civil aviation authority registered airport, as there are so many other factors to consider outside of the usual planning process, particularly in terms of maintaining operational capabilities.

What do you enjoy the most about working as part of SOCOTEC’s Asbestos team and the wider business?

I find that the freedom and trust I am given to fulfil my role means that I can be creative when managing projects and clients, which in turn allows me to think outside the box to deliver a compliant, unique service. It also enables me to make improvements, draw from all experiences and apply it in a tangible, meaningful way. I feel that I have developed more in the five years I have been with SOCOTEC than I have throughout the rest of my career, and look forward to continuing to grow and develop with the business.

Do you have any advice for individuals considering a career in project management and surveying?

I’m a strong believer in doing your best in whatever area of the industry you work in. However menial you think the task is, try and do whatever it is brilliantly. Develop the skill of being a good listener, as that way, you can demonstrate a full understanding of what it is that you need to do. Finally, don’t settle – keep on stretching those comfort zones so that you sharpen your skills. The only way you’ll be good at something is by actually doing it, so keep on pushing yourself to improve and learn new things.

To discover more about SOCOTEC’s range of asbestos consultancy and management services, click here.

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