Q&A with Sarah Hey

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Full Name: Sarah Hey

Job Title: Project Manager (Programme Delivery)

Company: Hydrock

I have 8 years’ experience in ground engineering, specialising in site investigations and contaminated land. I was based in the Midlands for 5 of those years as a geo-environmental consultant before moving to Manchester in 2018 as a senior geo-environmental consultant. During this time, I gained my chartered geologist and scientist status with The Geological Society. As of January 2021, I side stepped into a project manager role within Hydrock’s programme delivery team. I now manage multi-disciplinary projects and have since gained the APM project fundamentals qualification in project management.

What is your background and how did you end up working within the geotechnical industry?

I graduated from the University of Leicester in 2013 with a master’s degree in geology before embarking on my journey as a geo-environmental consultant. Prior to graduation I never considered working within the construction industry as I didn’t really know much about it. However, a friend on my degree course recommended me for an internship with a firm in Burton-upon-Trent, which I started immediately after graduating. During the early stages of my internship, I primarily carried out gas and groundwater monitoring and gradually progressed to a role as a geologist undertaking ground investigations and report writing.

What does a typical day entail?

Being a Project Manager, my job varies greatly day to day and no two days are the same. I manage multiple projects simultaneously, which are all at various stages within the project life cycle, although a lot of my current projects are at the outline/detailed planning application stage. I help coordinate and facilitate our technical teams and will often be attending virtual meetings to discuss progress on a project or to run through the project requirements. I also frequently write and collate fee proposals when tendering for opportunities, as well as coordinating any due diligence work to aid our clients with the purchasing of land for a development.

My role also involves a lot of business development, as I am the main point of contact for our clients, it is important that I build a relationship with existing and new clients either through virtual or face to face meetings, which often involve catching up over a drink or heading out for something to eat.

Within your career to date, what is your greatest achievement?

There have been quite a few, I was over the moon when I got my chartered geologist status but I would say winning the Best Young Brownfield Professional in 2020 has been my greatest achievement to date.

What is your favourite part of your job?

The socialisation and networking both internally and externally. Especially with virtual meetings through the likes of Microsoft Teams, I would say team members are more accessible. Even though I am based at the Manchester office I work on projects across the UK and as a result I engage with the various disciplines and Hydrock offices so it is great getting to know my colleagues. I am also developing and growing my client relationships, which is a new experience for me.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

It’s probably not surprising that I’d say, dealing with problems that I have never dealt with before is the most challenging aspect of my job. However, I enjoy problem solving, where you are faced with an issue which makes you sit back and think about it for a while before deciding on the best course of action. However, as I am relatively new to project management, it does mean I am facing new challenges which I have never encountered before. I am also the point of contact between the client and the Hydrock teams so it’s my job to have those difficult conversations when they come up!

If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same career path for yourself? And if not, what would you change?

I would definitely choose the same career path as I love the variety this role provides; I have worked in some amazing places within the UK and have made some friends for life. It’s a small world within this industry so you’re regularly crossing paths with former colleagues and acquaintances. The only thing I would change differently, if I was to do it again, would be to explore international work in the early stages of my career. I have always been intrigued as to what it’s like working abroad both from a fieldwork perspective, especially to examine the geology in other countries, but also working on international projects where the standards are different.

What AGS Working Group(s) are you a member of and what are your current focuses?

I am part of the Business Practice Working Group and the first early career committee member, which I was fortunate to be asked to join after winning the Best Young Brownfield Professional award that was kindly sponsored by the AGS. Our current focuses are to really promote AGS by enhancing our methods of marketing to attract the wider population, so watch this space for some exciting content.

Why do you feel the AGS is important to the industry?

One of the best attributes of the AGS is the user-friendly guidance’s that are readily available online as part of being an AGS member. For early careers in particular I think these are a great starting point to ensure an understanding of the different elements such as how safely and correctly to conduct a ground investigation from the excavation of a trial pit to sampling of soils for geotechnical testing.

Lastly any advice or words of wisdom that would you give someone who is either considering this type of job or who are progressing towards chartership?

The advice I always give to anyone starting in this industry is to log your CPD from the word go. This is pivotal if you are applying for chartership with an organisation such as The Geological Society. It’s much harder to backtrack what you’ve learnt and remember that practically everything counts as CPD when you first start out. The Geological Society have an excellent mind map which demonstrates all the activities that count as CPD and I think this is a good starting point.