Head2Head with Stephen Ainsworth

For Procurement Heads‘ latest Head2Head, he spoke to James Dobbin about his career and what makes Turner & Townsend a great place to work.

Could you explain to us what your role entails?

The Principal Consultant role in CommDP consists of supporting the MoD across all commercial activities, so we support the MoD across the Army, Navy, air, and strategic command. 

It is a head office really exciting role, and that can be cradle to grave so supporting them from requirements through to supplier management through to logistics right the way through. 

What led you to Turner & Townsend?

I came mainly for the challenge and opportunity for growth.

I have worked across manufacturing, the NHS, and automotive, I then got into defence where I worked on surface ships and submarines. 

It was all really exciting, I got to the point in my career where I thought I would like to expand again. 

I came across Turner and Townsend and they were offering the opportunity to work within the MoD and provide them with that commercial procurement and supply chain support, which gave me the ability to use my skillsets and provide some change which is something that has always been very important and something I have always wanted to do within the MoD. 

Not only that but we are very keen on applying what we have learnt in different sectors, so now we apply it in the MoD, but we would like to apply it in different sectors as well. 

I have been able to apply this access to the Ministry of Justice, and the Department for Education, and also the opportunity to go into more commercial markets.

To anybody reading this who has typically worked in in-house roles how does it differ from working for a Management Consultancy firm?

The benefits give you the ability to grow and expand what you are doing and apply some change. 

I have worked in many roles within the industry within defence and automotive and sometimes I have felt quite constrained. 

Here we are very much about the people and the opportunity. 

Previously in roles, you may be placed in quite a constrained role description and you are forced just to do a day job, whereas here it is about going out and helping that customer or client, but also what we want you to do is to come to us with ideas and apply more opportunities to yourself and for us. 

That is what makes it different. 

In other roles, when I have had a good opportunity or idea, I haven’t been able to apply that and this is what we are doing here at Turner & Townsend. 

Can you tell us about some of the exciting projects you have worked on?

I’ve been here since May 2022, and one of the key things I am working on at the moment is down at the naval command in Portsmouth. 

I work within the navy X programme, it is a fantastic opportunity down there to work with some really interesting products from drones to commercial satellites doing amazing things I can’t necessarily talk about, so it is really interesting. 

One of the key things to talk about is the support you are giving to the stakeholders, there are some key people in there so military personnel, civil servants, [project managers, engineers, and commercial individuals who are looking for opportunities where you can help them make their projects come to life. 

That is what we help them do. 

Anywhere from requirements development, supporting business cases, help with financing, and also it is exciting, I have gone down to see these projects to see what is going on. 

That is just my commission work, I also have the opportunity to support Turner & Townsend in what they are doing and that includes running the CommDP team, and getting involved in some of that strategic work along with a couple of my senior leadership team colleagues. 

For me, that is what I was looking for and I couldn’t have gotten in previous roles. 

Our team has grown from two individuals last year, we are currently at 20 and looking to expand to 35 and more.

Again, as I said, that is because the opportunity in the market for a varied resource is unbelievable and it is a very exciting time. 

How would you describe the culture at Turner & Townsend?

The culture is fantastic. 

It is very different and I would say I come from organisations I would call quite archaic. 

I have been managed by great leaders but there was always a ceiling, you were always blocked from your progression. 

Here they operate in a very different way where if you are performing well, you are not blocking your progression. 

We manage each other in more of a pastoral way. 

From a cultural point of view in terms of social, we always catch up, we always go out, and we go for team meetings, team drinks and events. 

Quite often in other companies as soon as there is any type of financial crisis that is cut off. 

The big thing about Turner & Townsend is no it is about that social aspect and for us as a team we are such a varied team we have people from public sector backgrounds, defence backgrounds, automotive, and everywhere. 

We always make sure we talk to each other, and although people may be off on a commission, we make sure we communicate and share ideas. That is a really good thing. 

It seems you can unlock your career progression and earning potential – would you agree?

Yes totally, that is exactly what we are about, for instance, in our team at the moment, we have got to the point where we have become a reasonable size team and we have the opportunity to set our destiny. We are now able to set our strategy, our performance targets our training targets so we have said to the team it is down to you to help support that. 

We know what the business is looking for so we are going to pull that down and how we can apply that. 

We already have people from the junior to the senior grades who are getting in there proactively and choosing to do tasks for the company and push forward and gain additional skills. 

There is opportunity in other parts of the business, we have real estate and infrastructure and the idea is that now and again you may get an email asking if someone can support a bid that is nothing to do with defence but we very much as a team say if you would like experience in that and if you can support and manage your time you are absolutely good for that because it just brings additional support for our team as we grow and move forward. 

What does 2023 look like for your team, Stephen?

So, 2023 brings substantial growth for us.

We are a team of hopefully 35 by May we are planning to push that defence market as we go out and push our stakeholders there. 

We would like to get to know them even better and improve how they work and how they operate. 

We are continually looking to recruit, I would like to focus on those junior roles, not just for the customer but for Turner & Townsend as well. 

I think when you look at a consulting role there is an assumption that you have to have X years of experience and you’ll be giving a presentation or report. 

Our roles are very different, it is all about advising a customer and a delivery. 

In 2023 we will be working for a customer but also delivering something quite rare for a consultancy.

What kind of personalities do you think will do well at Turner & Townsend?

We look for people who are willing to be open and engaged. 

Also, we look for a broad range of personalities, we like to mix the teams up a bit. 

No type of personality is discredited when we interview, we look at people’s behaviours and look at where they work and try and mix the team about. 

Quite often in previous roles at previous organisations people have discredited individuals as not being the right fit but we think you have to find people that can grow and develop, we have people who are particularly good at certain things and pair them with others who have different strengths. 

That is how we work the team here.

Some people have the legacy concept of working at a management consultancy of travelling all the time, how would you describe the office policy in terms of working from home, travelling, client site and being in the office?

I will give you my example, I have got a young family, two boys who keep me very busy.

I live in Chichester, on the south coast, I am about 1 hour 20mins from our London office. 

What we try and do is go there every Monday, we think that is important because it is about that engagement piece. 

We are relaxed about coming together, we travel off-peak as we know it helps people in terms of rail fare. 

Other than that my commission is down in Portsmouth, which is only 40 minutes on the train, so we like to say to people, count three days within an office but I may only spend one day in Portsmouth and one day in the office and the rest will be from home, other individuals will spend a few more days in London as they live there and want that engagement. 

We are flexible and it is all about that delivery piece and your agreement with the MoD customer, they are looking for delivery as well, that’s what it is all about. 

What is Turner & Townsend doing around sustainability?

We record our mileage and how we travel, even down to the point we place people commission-wise as close to their home environment. 

In regards to sustainability as a whole you’re working with an MoD and a government customer anyway and we are very much supporting what they do from a sustainability and social value point of view. 

We push and support them in what they are doing.

Can you talk us through some success stories and what a day in the life might look like for someone joining at say consultant level?

Success stories for such a new team to grow from two to 20 in less than 12 months is phenomenal and it is a testament to what we do because the customer is contacting us asking for me. 

At Turner & Townsend, they have said they would like to focus on the occupier team which is where the London-based team can provide support, a day in the life maybe I wake up on a Monday and travel up to London where I will have my MoD laptop, I will support and do meetings there but I will also have my Turner & Townsend work and that day for me is good because you are engaging and learning other people’s MoD roles you can ask questions and gain experience from different customers and clients. 

We have a team meeting and discuss what is going on within Turner & Townsend and what it can do to expand. 

Then we all go out for a drink and that is good as well to grow and develop. 

Then the next day I will go down to Portsmouth and the navy and commercial team are really friendly and engaging, which is like another different world as well. 

What is very important is the variety you get, within 12 months I could be put into a different part of the MoD and doing something different within that commercial procurement space, there are not many roles I know where you could just be moved into a different and have that brand new experience and opportunity. 

The benefit and success stories are just the growth of the team it is fantastic, the way the customer wants us to develop and grow. 

We have also had two promotions within the team from junior to consultant within nine months, which is fantastic and that has come through feedback from our MoD customer but also through some of the work they do for Turner & Townsend, so it just shows quite often you wait for promotions but not here, the opportunities were seen within those individuals so they were put forward for promotion which is fantastic. 

What do you do outside of work?

I have a mark 1 convertible Golf, which I am trying to restore, that is my hobby at the moment it is in bits in my garage! 

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