Associate Director, Blackrock Expert Services
Tell us about your career and experience to date
I started my career in the engineering team of a civil engineering contractor, undertaking setting-out, as-built surveys and quality assurance roles for earthworks, drainage and reinforced concrete works. I also spent time in the operations team constructing formwork, steel-fixing, pouring concrete and laying drainage. I then went on to work for tier one building contractors in various engineering roles on large developments, gaining experience in project leadership.
How have you found the transition from working for major contractors to working as an independent expert witness?
I became interested in expert witness work while at business school. I liked the idea of using my practical experience to provide an independent opinion on contentious matters and helping legal teams and clients in resolving disputes. In addition to my work as an independent expert witness, I work with the Blackrock project advisory team. We provide independent advice on live projects, assisting clients in avoiding potential disputes through effective risk mitigation planning and implementation.
As much as I enjoyed the choreographed chaos of a construction project or the need for urgent decision-making in the middle of a large concrete pour, I have found the transition to independent expert witness and advisory to be very rewarding. I enjoy getting to grips with the complexity of major projects and the precision of forensic examination.
How does your construction experience help your approach to analysis in independent expert witness work?
My experience with several tier one contractors in the UK has given me a solid foundation in understanding the processes required for the successful completion of building and infrastructure projects. I have led a number of large design and build developments across the UK and my experience in planning, design, construction and commissioning is particularly useful when providing expert opinion on the rationality of scheduling, activity durations and sequencing, proposed mitigation measures and the like. As part of Blackrock’s project advisory team, I assist clients with current projects (whether in dispute or not), by sharing the learnings from my own first-hand experience with similar matters. I sometimes raise those and spark a debate amongst the project team thus enabling them to identify potential issues and the appropriate action to be taken to avoid a future dispute.
What types of issues do you typically tend to see as a construction management expert? And in general, what steps do you think construction managers/ contracting firms could take to overcome these challenges?
The majority of issues I have come across fall into two categories: performance and communication. Overcoming the former is relatively straightforward: read, understand and plan for what you are required to do under the contract. In particular, ensure the record keeping is thorough and the reporting obligations are clearly assigned and understood. Managing communications is an equally important component of effective construction management. How well this is done in practice often depends on the experience of the leadership team. An experienced project team should be able to identify warning signs, develop risk mitigation strategies and clearly communicate them to the team so they can be properly implemented. If project teams are less experienced, they will need a higher level of support and oversight during the project.
What has been a career highlight for you to date?
I was lucky enough to work on a major healthcare project early on in my career. I started on this project as soon as the team broke ground and worked on it for over three years, until it was taken into operation by the clinical teams. During this project I held several roles, encompassing a wide range of construction processes including procurement and implementation of various work packages. We managed to deliver the project early due to the fantastic leadership team and great organisational culture of mutual trust and collaborative decision-making between all stakeholders – client, design, management and contractors. Since then, I have been lucky enough to work with some of those individuals again on other projects and we have developed a synergistic sense of trust and teamwork. It is the same collaborative decision-making culture in the best interest of the project that attracted me to the Blackrock project advisory team.