George Parsons is all about the challenge. After graduating from Reading University and working as a project manager in Gleeds’ London office for two years, he wanted to take it to the next level. He wanted to see more of the world.
Coincidentally, last November, he stumbled across an opportunity on Gleeds’ internal website to join a team of roughly 200 from across multiple UK consultancies to support an ambitious infrastructure delivery programme in Peru - Autoridad para Reconstrucción con Cambios (ARCC). It was a chance to work on one of several hugely significant initiatives to undo the damage of 2017’s devastating El Nino flooding. But it was also an opportunity to learn in a culturally different working environment. After all, George had never been to Peru before. It was an instant no-brainer to sign up.
Besides, George needed an excuse to get another language under his belt. When asked how his Spanish is doing after five months, however, he freely admits it’s still a work-in-progress.
What kind of projects are you supporting in Peru?
I’m providing cost and contract management support to a huge programme of infrastructure works spanning just under 200 projects across Peru. Part of it involves reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed by the flooding caused by El Nino, but it’s also about futureproofing the country with defences to avoid suffering through that damage again.
There’s about £2bn being poured into it, covering health centres, schools, and a lot of integrated solutions and supporting infrastructure like river defences, gullies, and bridges.
How is the programme progressing?
Progress is good! At times, it’s been challenging. Sometimes there are language barriers (although there is a really good translation tool we’ve had access to), which does make integration tricky.
Because the programme falls under a government-to-government agreement with the UK, we’re teaching the local workforce to use cost management contracts they wouldn’t have before like the NEC, which is quite a technical contract. It can be hard to teach someone to use a new contract straight away; it takes time to learn and embed in what you do.
But that’s why part of our job is to guide them through any difficulties they have. There are training courses, a knowledge transfer department, community practice page, forums, and audits – all of which are helping aid their knowledge. They’re moving along quite quickly and we’re working towards a stage where the local teams can become more self-reliant in carrying out the projects. So far, the projects are progressing very smoothly.
What’s your favourite part about the work?
The sheer scale has definitely been the highlight – it’s just amazing, to be honest. I’ve learned things I never thought I would about reporting and data management. And there’s no better way to learn than on a programme with so many moving parts. In some ways, the challenges that come from the huge scope help you learn even quicker.
What will be the outcome of this infrastructure programme?
In the short term, it will reduce the damage done to Peru’s infrastructure. In the long-term, the knowledge we’re passing along will help the teams in Peru better integrate systems and contracts to meet higher standards of quality.
In just the time I’ve been here, people have really taken the learning onboard. In a year’s time, I expect we’ll get to see even more of the benefits.
What’s next for you?
I’m keen to stay out here in Peru – I love working here. If I go back to London, I’m eager to take all the lessons I’ve learned here and apply it to projects back at home. I look forward to seeing everyone at the office again too. It’s a very fun and energetic place to be, everyone’s talking, and there are lots of social events. I look forward to more of that post-lockdown.
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