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Tony - Project Manager

  Tony Cutner giving a lecture  Tony's engineering career has taken him all over the World. His early career sent him around to clients’ offices in Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, USA, France and Germany. He has also worked in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and Holland. Tony says that "being able to work in other countries and absorb their cultures, whilst contributing to each project is a great skill to have and not one that can be taught at University." His most recent role was as a Project Manager for AECOM in Canada. 

Read on to find out more about his role and how your students could follow in his footsteps...

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be an astronaut! I had strong influences when I was growing up as my father was a mechanical engineer specialising in spacecraft attitude control systems and a team from NASA came to visit my school in California. It was the race for the moon that truly inspired me.

Who or what inspired you to become a Project Manager?

The biggest inspiration was my own interest. I was always fascinated by emerging technologies and always enjoyed the sciences at school. I remember the Careers Advisor questioning me about what the difference was between electrics and and electronic engineering and I was able to answer him so knew this was the route for me. 

Tell us a little bit about your role. What does your typical day involve?

Working for AECOM my typical day was a rich combination of client, staff, finance, and helping others make decisions - and I liked that ratio. My technical background allows me to cross over different disciplines which allows the job to be diverse - always offering up new challenges.

What do you love about your job?

It is a form of creativity, all be it in engineering instead of a portrait hanging up in the National Gallery! At least my contribution is being used when I'm alive and you can't say the same for most artists!

What qualifications did you take at school/college?

I took O-Levels and A-levels, before going onto the Polytechnic. I chose to go to the Polytechnic as the course offered a much more hands on approach to learning which suited me as I'm not much of a book worm.

Did you go to university? Was a degree required for your role?

I went to Portsmouth Polytechnic where I gained a CNAA awarded degree. Having degree level knowledge has certainly helped my through my engineering career and opened a lot of doors for me, but equally important is being able to analyse complex problems and work as a team. These skills come from attending university of course, but also by getting involved in other activities – like IET Local networks.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

The combination of the above - being able to deal with people and technical issues; getting tasks concluded; and at the end of the day - making a profit for the company.

What’s the most unexpected thing about your job?

Despite writing a task list, there is often a few surprises the next day. No day is the same, but I would not like a job where I am doing something repetitive so this suits me very well. I've also had the pleasure of being able to work in different countries - that brings a real insight into technical, cultural, and perceptions. I jokingly say, V=IR around the world, yet we all interpret it differently.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young person who is considering becoming an engineer, what would it be?

My one piece of advice is do what interests you - that goes for whatever you do. With luck you'll get paid for it as well, and that just fuels your interest. It can be a technology in sporting activities, medical devices, secure communications, to dealing with municipal waste, and designing crematoriums – grim - but it all needs to be engineered. It all involves hard work, original thinking, and getting it finished.

What do your friends/family think about your job?

Well - they know who to call when their TV needs fixing! Engineering puts you in a good standing when things go wrong. I’m always amazed at the number of engineers I know who will just take their car to a garage if there is something wrong with it and not have a look at it themselves. I think this is probably a sign of the times as I couldn’t always afford to take my car to the garage, so I had to fix it.    

Do you have any hobbies that you like to do to relax?

Oh yes. A physiologist friend says I use distraction techniques to relax. I'm not one for sitting on the beach, catching sun rays. I’m always itching to do something new and pushing my experience boundaries. I enjoy scuba diving and water skiing, or most recently white water kayaking which really makes my mind concentrate away from work issues.

Would you say that you had a good work/life balance?

Work has always dominated in my life but I think this is because I have such a passion for it. If I won the lottery I wouldn't give up my work, but I would be able to pick and choose from the projects interest me.

What are the biggest implications your work will/could have in the future?

The work I've recently completed is handling, storm, potable and waste waters. That obviously maintains the healthy well-being of the nation, although in our first world attitude – it is a given. Visiting third world countries reminds me how rich and lucky we are.

What excites you most about engineering?

The range of subjects in which engineering is involved - yet not necessarily trumpeted about. Engineering really is everywhere!

What should no engineer leave home without?

Your brains, personality, interest in getting involved and a desire to contribute.