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Interview with Richard Grayer - Design Manager for Balfour Beatty


sample imageRecently as part of the BSF project Katy Linkens, Georgia Tuitt Avison and Alice Cakebread had the opportunity to interview Richard Grayar, the Design Manager involved in rebuilding our school.

Even at the early age of 8 Richard was drawn to big buildings, tapestry and design. He spends a lot of his time admiring Art wherever he goes (even when he goes to the theatre he can’t help but wonder at some of the amazing scenery). Richard feels a lot more at home communicating pictorially, as we found out when he couldn’t help drawing out pictures and mind maps to illustrate his points throughout the interview. His love of Architecture and Art led to his wanting to be an Architect and therefore taking this as a degree. However, he went on to tell us that he would only recommend this route if you are completely certain of your career choice as the course was anything but easy!

At 30 he left his job as an Architect and joined a building contractor for 10/15 years, however he always felt he was more of an ideas man. He wasn’t attracted by the amount of detail such as measurements, and preferred deciding plans, meeting people and being more involved in the design process, which led him onto Design Management.

As Design Manager Richard describes himself as the middle man, interfacing and interlinking different groups until you become in a sense the hub of the project. A Design Manager has to coordinate all the different sub units (eg. the designers, engineers, suppliers, the school staff, accountants), making sure they’re all on the same page. Even through the construction period he has to keep everyone in mind, constantly feeding back information to everyone involved in the project – including us! On top of this he has to synchronise all the separate jobs, time lining the project to allow everything to run smoothly and meet deadlines. This involves checking that everyone’s on time, meeting deadlines and if not ensuring that they can swiftly change their action to meet these deadlines. At the end of the day if anyone has any questions they go through him and he has to know where to ask the right questions and get the right information.

As Design Manager you’re involved in many different projects mostly lasting 1-2 years, these can be anywhere, with all kinds of different people but you’re always at the centre. There are never days where you’re sitting around bored, you’ll always be challenged by different tasks.

We could definitely see throughout the interview that Richard loves his job, he told us he especially loves interacting with different people and the variety of the job. There are a wide range of jobs Richard has worked on, these include: sports centres, leisure centres, housing, retail, and now he works on schools such as ours and Notre Dame. Being a Design Manager certainly isn’t a routine job, you never know what job you’ll get after your current project. He went on to say that at the end of each project he feels like he’s achieved something really special, each will last for years and every time he drives past there’s a sense of pride and triumph in what he’s done. On top of this there are very few nights away allowing time for family and you receive a company car!

However there are some drawbacks, as with any career. The job is quite rigorous with timing; you have to be there on time to meetings, if the Design Manager isn’t there then the meeting can be quite pointless. Also Design Managers can’t work from home; he then goes on to talk enviously of the Architects flexible hours, and their ability to work from home. In addition it can become quite stressful, when you have loads of different people constantly asking questions.

To get into Design Management Richard told us that it’s advisable to do a degree in Design Management, and it’s best if you have some design background. To be a Design Manager you should be people friendly, patient, be able to understand the building, be good at managing tense situations, and be able to have dialogue with all the groups to ensure there are no misunderstandings. But most importantly you should feed your passion. If you are going to be a design manager it’s vital you have an active interest in the project going on, meaning you should understand the architecture going on around you. He went on to say that if you are considering being a Design Manager that it’s important to examine buildings all around you and even take day trips out to visit buildings.

Overall he definitely sees his job as ‘arty and not mathsy’, he finds himself constantly challenged and always involved with people, in fact; ‘it can feel like a non-stop party!’

In conclusion Richard told us that the most important thing at our stage is to find out who you are and where you want to work.

Thank you Richard, we are really looking forward to moving in to our fantastic new building!