Working as the Head of a Project Management Office (PMO) was not what I expected to spend my adult life doing. At 14 I wanted to be a lawyer – I loved watching LA Law on TV – but by 16 I had decided I wanted to join the army or the police, an ambition which my dad talked me out of. I hoped to go to university but when I turned 18 my parents’ marriage broke up and it left my mum without enough money, so I went out to get a job instead. I worked in retail for a while but hated it, so a friend got me a job alongside him as a fibre optics engineer apprentice, work I did for five years and really enjoyed. The experience actually taught me a lot about project management simply because I had to work with project managers all the time.
My break came when a Project Co-ordinator called in sick one day and I was asked to step in. The Head of Projects overheard the calls I made to clients and was impressed with the way I was dealing with all their issues and decided to give me my own project to handle. Even I was surprised to find I was actually pretty good at project management and had all the skills I needed: organisational skills, presentation and communication skills, as well as being able to manage clients, budgets and escalation, if it came to that. And I was hooked, moving upwards through the PMO, taking on different jobs, multiple projects and more responsibility as the years went by.
Joining Nominet 11 months ago was such a great decision – it’s been exactly what I needed after spending 12 years with my previous company: new challenges and the chance to be pushed out of my comfort zone. Technology is an exciting industry to be in, even as a PMO, because it’s constantly evolving and changing, with something new to learn every day and I absolutely need that. Nominet is particularly brilliant because they have hired people who are absolute experts in their field; I love working alongside them and being able to learn from them. Plus gaining more knowledge of the Domain Name System and what it means to be a registry has just blown my mind – I had no idea what domain names even were or just how critical Nominet was to our country before I joined.
Many companies claim to be flexible and ‘cool’, challenging and fun in equal measure, but Nominet actually is, and there’s so much about working here that I love. The Oxford office is in a gorgeous location, the space inside is comfortable and we have all these amazing perks like a yoga studio and tea and coffee machines, plus a big kitchen and an outdoor area for BBQs. The leadership team genuinely cares about us all and they really make you feel valued, not least by taking our wellbeing seriously, putting emphasis on things like staff engagement surveys to track how we all feel about work. All that counts for a lot when you spend so many hours of your day at work.
There is a project manager mentality that I notice across the team of 11 that I manage: everyone is detail orientated, loyal, hard-working, incredibly good at planning and organisation, and always thinking about the ‘what ifs’ so they are ready for anything. Also, PMOs tend to be the kind of people who thrive under pressure. For me, I need a challenge and the intensity of the job, and I love using my skills to get things done and delivering something that seems impossible. It’s a really rewarding job to do, although I do find that I am never completely fulfilled and always want to do more and achieve more – that’s just my nature and is probably what makes me good at my job. Even outside of work in the sports I play, I am never satisfied; if I’m lifting weights, I will always want to go heavier, harder and faster.
I have no regrets over my career decisions; if anything, I marvel at how life has turned out for me. The only career I still wonder about is the police or the army, but I feel I have dipped my toes in that by having trained and then worked part-time as a special constable for Thames Valley Police. Evenings and weekends were spent on the beat for about 16 years alongside my full time PMO duties, and people used to ask me why I did it. The answer? It was my golf; when I changed into my police uniform on a Friday evening, the working week was forgotten. Now as a father of three children there isn’t time for policing anymore, which is a shame, but sports give me the same release from work and satisfies some of my competitive streak.
Technology wasn’t a source of fascination for me when I was growing up and I fell into this industry by accident really, when my lack of enthusiasm about retail sent me into fibre optics. Finding that PMO was a great fit was also a stroke of luck, and I continue to be grateful that the career that followed has been within the same industry because it means there will always be new and interesting projects to get stuck into, especially at Nominet. The business has evolved so much in the short time I have been here, so who knows what I might be working on next?