This weeks interviewee is Alistair Gollop who has worked with traffic systems on highways for over 25 years. Alistair is the Technology Services Engineering Lead at Mott MacDonald. As an engineering consultant, Alistair works in an industry which is prone to using acronyms and abbreviations. In his spare time, he runs ITSNow to support practitioners in the industry.
1. Biggest mistake of your career & how you fixed it?
I took a job with a major company at which I was promised a number of things at the interview stage. Amongst these was a request from my prospective manager to try to make the effort to come into the office at least once a week to ensure that the whole team could meet up regularly and be aware of what was going on. The rest of the week, it was assumed that I would either be with clients or work from home.
However, it became apparent very quickly after taking up the role that my new manager had no intention for this in reality (he wanted me to be in the office every day because of his apparent insecurity and need to be overly controlling), despite the fact that I had been brought in to start up a new department using my existing industry contacts and that the company espoused it’s supposed flexible working credentials.
Although I challenged his stance, I was not successful in changing his requirements, but instead of just quitting, I ensured that I succeeded in my role to such an extent that I was able to land a great position with another company.
2. A lightbulb moment
Number 1 – I was sat in a fast food restaurant at 10 o’clock in the evening near Weston-Super-Mare, ‘enjoying’ my dinner and thinking about the further two-hour drive in torrential rain to get home, and wondered why I was there. I had started off that morning at about 7 am, and had to drive to a number of different meetings with clients and members of my team across the south-west of England. Very little had been achieved for a variety of reasons, but mostly to do with insufficient support from our company. I had a young family and hardly saw them, yet was ‘too senior’ to be paid overtime! It was at this point that I knew I had to make a change.
Number 2 – After working for a company for many years, the contract with our client came up for renewal, which we lost. As a result, I was TUPE’d (protection of workers’ rights) to work for the winning organisation. Overnight, my place of employment changed to a new site, over a hundred miles away, located in an old temporary building on the edge of Weston-Super-Mare. The defining moment happened after the roof of the building blew off in a storm and instead of fixing it properly, it was covered in what was essentially a tent!
Although both of these events occurred at Weston-Super-Mare, I really don’t hold it any ill will. The important fact is that in both instances, I didn’t feel valued by my employers, it was clear that I needed to look after my own interests because they had no intention of doing so.
3. Tip for tomorrow
In the spirit of NWB, play Buzzword Bingo, it’s great fun and makes a point to those who take part about the pointless use of BuzzWords in business! Many years ago, I worked for a director who, unknown to us at the time, was studying for a business MSc. Each week at our Monday management meeting, he would use a new buzzword, such as ‘crystallise’ and ‘green light’. In our version of the game, instead of passively waiting for others to use what they thought were ‘trendy’ terms, a couple of us junior staff would get together before the meeting to make up new buzzwords, and then slip our own in during the meeting. The winner was then the first person who’s new made-up buzzword was used by someone else. This happened week in, week out, and I don’t think anyone ever realised what was going on, and sadly our director seemed to take pride in our lively contributions to the meetings.
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