Head2Head with Peter Cummings

James Dobbin recently spoke with one of the company’s Directors, Peter Cummings, to understand more about the organisation’s culture and why it is a great place to work.

You can read, listen to or watch their conversation below.

I have been with Turner and Townsend for 20 years. 

I started as a Quantity Surveyor, I did a degree in quantity surveying, and the role that I am in now is very different. 

I started off working in construction, and I have worked in a number of different sectors, with Turner and Townsend I have been lucky to work across pretty much all the sectors that we operate in, and at one point I ran our business generation in the UK for two and a half years so variety is the spice of life and I have had plenty of that at Turner and Townsend!

The role I am in now is exciting for me and a real challenge as I now lead one of our large defence commissions. 

It is exciting as it involves not just Turner and Townsend but we have built up a team and a big supply chain with some trusted partners so that is a little bit different to what I have done historically, but is very exciting. 

The job entails focusing on the client and understanding their needs and responding to them. 

Working with our delivery teams and back into Turner and Townsend to make sure we are responding appropriately. It is all about customer experience and makings sure that our customers are happy and our people are happy, that is really my key role.

What is it like working at Turner and Townsend and why have you been there for so long?

Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and goodness me 20 years have flown by! 

I’m not a five-year plan person, I just take it as it comes. 

But like most people try your hardest, do your best and you’ll progress. 

Turner and Townsend, it is just full of variety, challenge and opportunity and most importantly for us, it is full of great people. 

When you think about what gets you out of bed to go to work, it is the quality of the work and the quality of the people you work with. 

Those two things are in abundance at Turner and Townsend. It is a nice balance.

For people who might be looking at joining the fold at Turner and Townsend, what sort of projects might they be working on?

The great thing about Turner and Townsend is the opportunities that present themselves, one day you could be working on an extension to a primary school, right through to transforming the industry by supporting some industry guidance. 

Physical projects you could be working on iconic projects all around the world. 

I worked for a long time on our commercial occupier team and which works for a lot of global corporates, I was lucky enough to get a phone call from a client in Australia who had seen a project we had done in the UK and wanted it replicated in Australia. 

That client has been with us now for more than ten years, the variety is there as are the opportunities to work on different things and work abroad. 

If you wrote a checklist of things you wanted from a job you would be hard-pressed not to find it at Turner and Townsend.

What sort of backgrounds are you seeing people with to be successful with you?

The breadth of work that we do means the background of people has changed. 

Now we have opened up way beyond cost and commercial business management to all sorts. 

What we are seeing now is an investment, we are in the next phase of growth and opportunity and work in things like net-zero carbon, which is such a big topic and we see a lot of drive into that space. 

Turning over a new leaf, and making the world a better place, we are committed to being at zero carbon by 2030 and we are well on our way. 

We have also got the advent of digital technology which has bounded along quicker than anyone ever anticipated.

Although we continue and will always supplement our teams and continue to grow in core commercial and a core management and core advisory, what we do need is specialist skill sets as well in carbon and sustainability, being good corporate citizens and technology and digital and all that has to offer. 

There are opportunities for a variety of skill sets. 

One of our graduate intakes was a rocket scientist – I kid you not!

For the benefit of procurement and supply chain professionals could you tell us what kind of opportunities you have for that calibre of a candidate?

That sector at the moment is very busy of course, we have been very lucky and picked up a number of transformation projects around the UK and beyond. 

We are constantly on the lookout for good commercial people. 

People who have sourcing skills, strategic procurement, understanding of the supply chain, stakeholder management, contract management and engagement, understanding the supply chain all the way through real good commercial acumen. 

We would certainly have a discussion with anyone with that sort of skill set who wants to have a discussion with us.

What does a typical day look like for you?

The highest priority has to be engaging your customer, is what you’re doing making a difference, is it making the client happy? 

Lots of client engagement depending on where you are in the business of course. 

It is all tailored to making sure we are doing what the clients have asked for and going above and beyond. 

So a typical day would be engaging internally with the team and engaging externally with the client to test and make sure we are aligned. 

We are always testing and challenging ourselves, looking at the benefit of changing how we do things. 

There are lots of opportunities to do the right thing and do things differently, the norm is not always right so don’t be afraid to have a challenge and a discussion with the client.

What are you specifically looking for people to bring to the table when you are vetting prospective clients?

There is a real balance to be had. 

You get technical skills which are great then you get the personal side and whether that person would like working for us and delivering for our clients. 

There are introverts, extroverts and everyone in the middle and that is great as we need a balance, a balance of thinking and we need a challenge.

We need to be on the change is that is why it is exciting to recruit people from outside of the norm as they will bring in a different way of thinking. 

If you are right down at the basic level, the experience of having worked in the defence sector for example would be great, understanding the sector and how it works and the dos and don’ts. 

Behaviourally just being open and honest and having integrity, we like to think we live and breathe that. 

We can define our values simply, and they resonate with people – we love a challenge, we believe we are stronger together, and finally, we like to bring out the best in everyone. 

Those three values for us are the kind of things that keep us going. 

Get that right you create a happy team and happy clients.

Could you describe the culture?

Testament to it is that the business is 75 years old this year, I have been there 20 years and there are lots of people who have been there more than 20 years and some who have been there more than 30! 

The culture is one around that, most people are up for a challenge they don’t give up at the first setback. 

We operate as teams. 

We found remote working quite difficult as we actually enjoy each other’s company! 

We have Zoom and Teams and online quizzes and things and we built that culture and that is why your values are actually born out of the culture we have created.

Why would somebody want to join Turner & Townsend?

I think to be honest I am happy for anybody to give me a ring! 

There are opportunities no matter where you are in your career, we have a very successful apprentice development programme and a graduate development programme, very successful, run well and accredited to a number of organisations. 

We work with our teams so right at the embryonic part of your career there are many opportunities but anywhere in-between from Consultant to Director there are opportunities. 

We have a geographic footprint, we have 10 offices around the world, and we provide the same level of service in all of the offices as we do in our leading global office in London. 

So if somebody wants a challenge abroad, that opportunity exists.

If somebody has built a career around something very specific and fancy a change we have the breadth and diversity to do that. 

We work across three big segments for us, real estate, natural resources and infrastructure. 

So if somebody fancies a change or just wants a different environment and set of clients the opportunity certainly exists.

How would you describe your immediate team?

I’m lucky that I currently have a very diverse team all of whom report to a variety of different people and I just move things around left and right to make sure we are aligned with the client’s goal. 

My team is across the whole business, from brand new apprentices who are helping me out personally, right through to very senior people and everybody in between.

Sometimes there is pushback on the workload and travel when t comes to a consultancy role. 

What are your views on hybrid working and flexible working?

Interestingly for us historically our big focus was construction which is traditional by its very nature, you have to be on-site to actually build stuff.

Then the pandemic came along and changes a lot of things, we went overnight to remote working which was very successful for us. 

We have not had any issues there. 

What I would say though is that we are very collaborative, in order to bring out the best in everyone across the board, you need human interaction, you need social interaction, the support and quite often it is easier to do that face-to-face. 

Now as we start to move out of remote working a little bit, an equal priority I would suggest is client needs and personal wellbeing, which works well and it doesn’t work well for everybody. 

I am lucky as I have a decent home-working setup and that is not the case for everyone. 

We have remained open to allowing those who find it difficult to work from home to work in the office. 

You don’t have to be there or three, we work with the clients and manage their expectations.

As things start to open up more and more will be done around getting priorities aligned and working out when we need to be in the office and when we can work remotely. 

At some point, the norm will be slightly different to the norm now and probably different to how it was two years ago. 

We are flexible and pretty relaxed about it. 

We will wait and see what happens. 

Let’s say there is a big opportunity in Bristol, you don’t have to live in Bristol to work on that project.

What are your final parting points to anybody watching?

I hope you’re safe and well first and foremost!

If you’re interested in having a discussion about a potential change in career, I honestly believe that Turner and Townsend offer as much opportunity as anyone else does if not more. 

We have had a long hard look at what is important as we reached our 75th anniversary, what is important to our clients, the environment and our people. 

We are looking at building the business as we move forward, it really is green at the heart, inclusive and productive. 

Bearing that in mind I think there is so much opportunity to grow. 

It is a very exciting time as we move forward and release from the current pandemic. 

If you are interested get in touch with James, myself or any of the Procurement Heads team and we will have a discussion.

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