It still feels like the business I joined, and that’s great

Author: Alex Vaughan, MD Natural Resources

27 August 2015

I’ve been with Costain since 1990, when I did my industrial year at university, then graduated in 1992.

At the start of my career, the job that stands out for me was a highway major maintenance scheme on the M23 motorway. We had to replace 4km of motorway in eight weeks. That involved digging down around 1.3 metres and doing a full-depth reconstruction.

It was a lane rental contract with concrete barriers to protect the workforce and we had some exciting movements. One day the Royal Navy was carrying a helicopter through our works on a low-loader. The helicopter was too wide and it got stuck, which meant we had to close the M23 and lift the helicopter out.

I was the project QS. It was a fantastic logistics exercise to manage, to make sure we could continue to deliver the motorway works at night.

I just remember the sheer buzz of being on a contract that was 24/7; when you arrived in the morning the office was buzzing and it was still buzzing when you eventually left at the end of the day.

The feeling of teamwork and high level of momentum and activity was just one of those things that stands out in my memory. It was a great job – great team!

For me, the most challenging and rewarding project I was ever on was in Tanzania, where the National Insurance Corporation of Tanzania was developing a shopping plaza. At the base was a three-floor podium with a shopping centre and on top there were two, 13-floor towers – one a 173 room hotel and the other an office.

I went to Tanzania when I was 27 and I was the only Costain person there. It was a three-way joint venture with Skanska and Kharafi. We built the shopping centre and the thing I really enjoyed about it was that we had to buy everything to deliver the project. We bought cranes from Sweden, a concrete batch plant from the UK and cutting and bending yard for the steel reinforcement from Italy etc.

For me, as an experience, it was a tremendous lesson on how you deliver a project in a developing country when there were no local resources available. I learned a huge amount about logistic management; I’d never before had to do import declaration forms and manage security, to make sure that when all your goods arrived in port at Dar-es-Salaam they didn’t get stolen.

I’ve seen a huge positive change in the Company during my time here. When I joined, Costain was a conglomerate with a housing business and a mining business. It was very internationally-focused.

Now we’re an industry leading business with a very customer-focused strategy that’s focused on meeting national needs. I’ve had fantastic jobs during my career. The thing I really like about Costain is that the teamwork ‘feel’ is still there. It still feels like the business I joined a long time ago, and that’s great.