Last edited 21 Jul 2016

Interview with Stephen Trench - Project Manager

This is part of Student resources.

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Stephen Trench is a Senior Project Manager Consultant at Mace, an international consultancy and construction company that offers integrated services across the full property lifecycle. Stephen has worked for multinational commercial clients in the professional, petrochemical, finance, and computer software sector.

Stephen spoke to Designing Buildings Wiki about his career as Project Manager.


Designing Buildings Wiki (DBW): How would you describe the role of a project manager?

Stephen Trench (ST): To establish a client’s requirements through the parameters of time, cost, quality and the allocation of risk. A project manager then develops the concept through to the delivery of a tangible product through collaboration with appropriate resource. Whether managing the delivery of a construction or the deployment of new IT software, I believe these principles remain the same however the technical detail differs.


DBW: What is the project you are currently working on?

ST: I am currently seconded to a multinational financial services firm as the client side Programme Manager, overseeing the refurbishment of their 385,000 sq. ft headquarters in London Bridge whilst it remains in occupation. The programme requires 16 phases of construction and the migration of approximately 9,000 people through 24 phases of moves.


DBW: What is a typical day like as a project manager?

ST: I start by checking my voicemail and emails to scan for any urgent issues that need addressing. I find speaking directly to people tends to achieve quicker results. You can ignore an email. It’s harder to ignore a phone call. Once I am caught up with outstanding correspondence, I make a to-do list and prioritise the tasks. I will then try to catch up with team members face to face and then walk the site to check up on progress against programme.

Depending on what I find, I may host a meeting with the wider team. Next, I might put together a progress document for the client and then grab something for lunch.

The afternoons are often consumed by meetings on the technical details of the project. After that I may return to answer any emails and then a conference call to go through Project cost issues.

Lastly, I refer back to my to-do list to complete the rest of the tasks and then may head to a CPD lecture or for a couple of drinks with colleagues.


DBW: What sort of training/education did you have?

ST: After my A-Levels I took a year out to study towards a BTEC Diploma in Art. Upon completion I was accepted at The University of Newcastle to study Architecture at undergraduate level. I then secured a graduate position within JLL’s Project Management department.

Whilst at JLL I started a three year, part-time Master’s degree in Project Management. I am hoping to gain my CIOB and RICS accreditation next year.


DBW: How did your university course prepare you for your career in construction?

ST: Studying architecture helped me understand some of the granular detail of the design process and the importance of stakeholder engagement. Being able to think from a designer’s perspective helps to create a free-flowing dialogue. It also helps me to negotiate which areas can be amended without undermining the overall design.

The MSc in Project Management was hugely beneficial as it allowed me to put into practice the theory being discussed in the classroom, such as BIM and Development Appraisals, etc.


DBW: What is the one thing you wish you’d known before embarking on your current career?

ST: You can’t know it all! I wish I had better self-awareness of what my weaknesses are because by knowing that, you can better surround yourself with the right people at the appropriate stage to seek advice.


DBW: What skills or personal qualities are good to have as a project manager?

ST: As no two projects are the same, I think the mark of a good project manager is in understanding the nuances of the project and of the client. Also the ability to identify when and who to bring into a Project so skill-sets are efficiently used to ensure the end product exceeds the client’s expectations is key.


DBW: What do you enjoy most about being a project manager?

ST: I like collaborating with like-minded people on schemes that will benefit others.


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