During his career at Mace, Aron Ventress has sought out opportunities from across the entire business, working in the rail, highways, water, utilities and nuclear sectors. He’s now come full circle, focusing on London’s transport network as Mace’s account lead for TfL.
- How did you get into what you do?
- I got a taste for project management very early in my career while completing a student engineering apprenticeship. It was a great introduction to the working world with secondments across the entire business. Without a doubt, I most enjoyed my time in the project management team. From that point, it was all about finding the right permanent opportunity and when a role with London Underground came up, I jumped at it.
- What did your time at London Underground teach you?
- It gave me a genuine appreciation for what’s involved in successfully delivering projects in a live operational environment. It also highlighted how important it is to effectively manage the interfaces between lots of different aspects of a multifaceted project. London Underground provided me with an environment to properly cut my teeth as a project manager and establish a career path in that discipline.
- How has your career progressed since joining Mace?
When I joined Mace as a project manager, I was placed on a succession of three Thameslink station redevelopments (Kings Cross, Blackfriars and Farringdon). I then moved into a role with more responsibility, working on projects for my old employer, London Underground. I managed Mace’s engineering team for the station improvement works at Brixton, Wanstead and Uxbridge and was then fortunate to work as part of our Principal Contractor delivery team at London Bridge Place.
Following the successful delivery of those projects, I was promoted to associate director and took on responsibility for programme managing the civil team’s delivery of bridge demolitions, replacements and modifications to enable the electrification of the Great Western Railway from Maidenhead to Swindon.
- What do you enjoy most about working at Mace?
One of the things I value most is the potential for variety. I spend time working with talented people across both the consultancy and construction parts of the Mace business and get to apply my skills across a range of sectors, including rail, water, nuclear and highways. The opportunity to learn is huge, and I pride myself on being able to share ideas and best practice from one sector with another.
I’ve also started to get more involved in business development and recently became Mace’s account lead for Transport for London. It’s very different to the work I’ve previously done project side, but I’m enjoying the challenge and it’s really rewarding to help the business grow, particularly in a sector I know so well.
- What has been your proudest achievement at Mace?
It has to be completing, bringing into use and handing over the new and altered areas of London Underground’s London Bridge Station, while also delivering London Bridge Place (now News International UK’s headquarters).
Mace, as principal contractor, constructed this 18-storey office development above and around the existing underground station and bus station infrastructure. It was a complex and challenging programme of works that needed close coordination across so many different interfaces. What we achieved on that project is a testament to the quality of the team; the ethos, knowledge sharing and commitment shown by all was genuinely inspiring.
- What skills do you need to be good at your job?
First and foremost, you have to be an effective communicator. If you can achieve this, then you’ll have the best foundation possible for informing and influencing other people, irrespective of their level. An important part of this is always keeping an eye on the bigger picture, while still being able to drill down into the detail and effectively interpret it when necessary.
Communication is also essential to being a good leader. I’m a firm believer of leading by example and being able to effectively share your thoughts and plans is crucial to this. More importantly, though, is being able to listen. Communication is two-way and the best leaders I’ve worked with have always taken the time to listen to their teams and take ideas and feedback on board.
- What advice would you give to someone looking to get into what you do?
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for something to come to you, seek it out and give it a try. I’ve always tried to follow this rule, by exploring opportunities and viewpoints, building my own understanding and then planning the approach to achieve my goal. It’s always worth remembering, though, that you don’t have to do this alone. Don’t ever be afraid of asking for help and guidance when taking on a new challenge.
- What do you hope you will be doing in the next 5-10 years?
- Although I really enjoy the breadth of exposure I get at Mace, rail is my current career focus. I’m looking forward to working with Mace’s senior leadership to expand our rail service offering, particularly in London, and hopefully playing a leading role on Crossrail 2, which I think is essential for London’s future growth.
- What do you enjoy outside of work?
- With a young family it’s great to switch straight into family life as soon as I walk in the door. As anyone with a young family will attest, free time is a rarity, but I still enjoy playing squash and football socially and, if I get the chance, mountain biking through trails in the woods.
“The opportunity to learn [at Mace] is huge, and I pride myself on being able to share ideas and best practice from one sector with another. ”