An interview with John Harvey, Associate Director

How long have you worked for Summers-Inman?

I have been with Summers-Inman for the last two years but actually this is the second time I have worked for them! I had a spell of some seven years prior to this before I took up a position back in my hometown of Edinburgh, and then re-joined the team in 2019.

How did you get into your current role?

I started my career as an Architectural Technician.  As I progressed through various architectural positions left my native Scotland to come to Newcastle taking a position as a Contract Administrator in a major North East architectural practice -focusing on the contract design and project delivery side of architecture. I didn’t have any formal Project Management qualifications when I first started but I have since qualified as a NEC3 Project Manager, which is considered the gold standard in accreditation and I am an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Building. But more importantly I have 40 years of practical experience under my belt that haven’t gone amiss!

You have just been promoted to Associate Director, can you tell us a bit more about your role?

I am part of the team of Associate Directors who essentially assist in managing a team of people. The business operates in four particular areas; Quantity Surveying, Project Management, Building Surveys and Principal Designer Services and I work for the Project Management team. We look after a team of Project Managers based out of Newcastle, covering the North East Cumbria and Yorkshire.

What type of projects do you work on?

We work in pretty much every sector. But I would say that our particular specialisms are healthcare and hospitals, private developments, retail, utilities and universities. We have just announced an incredible Net Carbon Zero facility at Teesside University, which will spearhead the government’s Green Industrial Revolution to help companies to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030. We are also seeing a big rise in co-living developments in and around the Sheffield area. These are essentially like serviced apartment buildings, with studio living for professionals which are supported by great on-site shared facilities.

What would you say is the most important aspect of your role?  

We very much work collaboratively with all clients and stakeholders to ensure that different build stages go ahead as planned. Communication is key in what we do; we keep all the parts of the build moving and ensure that everyone has enough information to progress through the project.

From your own experience, what would you say are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?

Well, clearly Net Carbon Zero is going to be huge. It’s going to be a challenging time in construction but as Quantity Surveyors and Project Managers it’s our job to ensure that our clients have access to the latest and most effective methods to achieve government targets, so I also think we will see some incredible innovations in the industry.

The greatest thing for us is the new generation of talent who are getting into the industry. They are being taught about more sustainable materials and new technology which they then apply practically here at Summers-Inman. We are really feeling the benefit of their learning and as seasoned professionals it is essential that we work with our younger team members and learn from them.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into the industry?

Start early. We like to take on suitable staff and train them throughout their career up to Chartered status. We can then teach them the Summers- Inman way. We take people at all levels but our ideal is to take them from age 17 and teach them on the job. Practical experience is always better than theory.

What’s it like working for Summers-Inman?

I left to return to Scotland and then came back, so I think that speaks volumes. I am not alone in doing that. People are encouraged to gather new experiences and ways of working. We have excellent communication throughout the office network, we operate a flat structure and whilst the younger generation can teach us a lot, we ensure that they are looked after in terms of career progression and training, so it is a win-win. It’s an environment of shared responsibility and support- that’s what sets us apart.

And finally, what would career plan B have been?

Well, I did have an opportunity to become an assistant golf pro but my Dad talked me out of it at the time. I do sometimes think about being on a golf course somewhere hot when I have to be on site early in the morning! But I’ve been doing this for 40 years now, so I think I made the right choice. And besides, I still get to play golf when I want so I get the best of both worlds.

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