Richard Knight Project Manager / Sinclair Brook  / 
Start From scratch

story / Interview / March 19, 2018

My brother worked in a job for ten years that he hated and I was at Uni at the time, so I was like, ‘Right, I’m going to chose a job that I love.’ So every morning, and every day is not a chore. Some people go into professions, they think they like and just moan about how terrible it is. Well, change? If you want to move, it’s never too late.

I started as a quantity surveyor maybe ten years ago now. I was twenty-three at the time. I wanted to be a lawyer, but then I tried law for about five minutes and it didn’t ignite any fire in me. Then I worked on a construction site and thought, yep, I wanted to do something in construction. So I got a job as a trainee quantity surveyor in Manchester, for a quantity surveying firm.

The UK was going through the GFC, everyone was just getting sacked left right and centre, so I just said to my boss, I’m going to move to Australia and take a punt. I rang WT Partnership, at 1:00am from the UK and said ‘Can you give me a job?’ and they said yes. So I got in on a plane with a suitcase. Arrived, with nowhere to stay. I had to start from scratch.  That was seven years ago now.

I worked at WT for five years and loved every minute of it. But I just didn’t want to be a QS anymore. I’ve always wanted to be a project manager. Being a QS you don’t really get to show your personality sometimes. Sometimes, you are sitting in the corner of a room, but you really want to jump in and drive the project. That’s basically why I moved over to Sinclair Brook.

You need resilience and the ability to work very, very hard. I couldn’t believe what we had to do for Australia 108. I’ve never worked as hard in my life to get the contract signed. It was so worth it in the end. You have to have organisation and a personality that is able to influence people and get people on board.

I asked of my Director, when I interviewed with Sinclair Brook, ‘What personalities do you want in the people here?’ He said he wanted everyone to be different and work in a different way. Because if everyone is the same they will see everything in the same way.  I’ve seen people hire in their mirror image. But I think that’s a bit unfair because all people have things they can bring to a project.

It’s about relationships with people in the construction industry. If you have the ability to build relationships with people, then it just come down to working hard at the end of the day. It’s not about bashing your hand on the table. Sometimes it’s just as important to be quiet, reliable and good at your job. You can’t have the same archetypal construction characters all the time.

I’ve seen it before where female colleagues have gone on maternity leave, come back and haven’t been treated the same afterwards. It’s very frustrating to watch because it doesn’t mean that just because they have had children, they are worse at their job. All of the female colleagues I have worked with do more in four days than I do in five and knock it out of the park! I actually feel guilty sometimes, like I really need to lift my game! I could probably learn some time management. It’s  all about efficiency and organisation.

It’s not just those typical things, but it’s also a different perspective that diversity brings. Women look at things, slightly differently. I don’t want to use cliched words, but sometimes, rather from a ‘I’ve got to win’ standpoint, a female’s approach can be more subtle in order to get a proper resolution. I think women just need to be given the best possible chance to excel.

The construction industry has a real problem with innovation. Change scares the hell out of people. Immediately you get the response ‘It doesn’t work.’ It’s not like the technology industry where people are designed to be innovative. It’s always, keep doing what you have been doing for ages, just do it quicker, quicker, quicker.

My style is fairly laid back, although that doesn’t work with everyone. I always think, at the end of the day, we are doing construction, it’s been done before, it’ll happen, you just need to calm down. You feel sorry for people who have a role in medical science where you have to find the cure for diseases where you start with no reference point and you don’t know where the endpoint is. For Construction, you have a programme, you have concrete, reo, windows and you just have to get there. For someone who is told to create something out of nothing…I just wouldn’t be able to compute that. Where do I start!?

My mother is a lovely, lovely woman, although she has quite an acid tongue. She’s from Liverpool. She actually saw the The Beatles play when they were in Liverpool and maintains they were rubbish! My dad was the archetypal 1950s type, women-do-everything-at-home bloke, but he has always really respectful of my mum. He has always maintained that my Mum had a role in our family and that she went well above and beyond. I had the best childhood I could have asked for. My mum has always said ‘I live in a house with three men, but I’m better than all of you. All you do is watch football all day. That’s all you care about. I’d rather speak to the dog then speak to you!’ And she was right.

 

Richard is quite the character. We thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him and getting his perspective on the industry. Laid back, introspective and down to earth, he has a sense of quiet ambition about him. None-the-less, tempered with a will to see the industry move forward and things done better.

Like many of the men we have interviewed, he was nervous to talk to us about diversity in the industry, but not because he hadn’t thought much about it, but because he has thought much about it and he didn’t want to seem irreverent or entitled to an opinion he had no entitlement to have. However, at Gazella we have seen how important it is, that the industry understands and discusses diversity and other issues such as flexibility and well-being, across the board. The discourse on such matters does so much more to create movement and real action than almost any other policy, workshop, conference or guideline does.

We thank Richard for his courage, honesty and willingness to engage. Best of luck with mega build Australia 108 and for the future! J & D. 

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