Head of Planning
Fuelled by the mentoring he was given as a school leaver starting his career in construction, Mace’s Head of Planning for Consultancy, Jonathan Beckwith, has always placed the development of talent as a priority alongside the ‘day job’. With a remit that covers Mace’s global consultancy portfolio, Jonathan is putting that passion into practice as he grows his team of industry leading planners.
- How did you get into what you do?
My journey into construction began in the late 80s, when the UK was in a boom and sites were being demolished with wrecking balls to make way for new buildings. My father was a technical person and wanted me to go into manufacturing, but I persuaded him construction was just that and had equally as vast, varied and exciting options.
When I left school, I secured a place on a five-year training programme with John Laing in its planning department. It was outstanding and, after completing that, I spent years progressing through the organisation, working on iconic schemes in the construction, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors. In 2015, with an appetite to continuing my learning, I made the move to Mace.
- What made you join Mace?
- I joined Mace as the lead planner for our commercial offices team, having heard great things about the business from former colleagues who had already made the move. From the very outset, I felt empowered to take a lead in driving improvements and making our planning offer even better. I have to credit my senior colleagues at the time for creating a culture of ‘we’re going to get better together’ and giving me the mandate to make a difference.
- How has your career progressed since joining Mace?
I learned a lot during my time in the commercial offices team, drawing on the guidance and advice of some great mentors who were committed to creating opportunity for their people. It meant I had the fortune of working in a central role, but also having the chance to go on secondments to deliver major projects for other parts of the business. A particular highlight was working on the Birmingham Commonwealth games to advise the client on the delivery of the Athlete’s Village, Aquatics Centre and Alexander Stadium. I was really pleased when the success of the planning work led to further business with the client.
I’m now the Head of Planning for Consultancy. It’s a role that allows me to take all of the learning from my time in the construction business and apply it among a new team of talented people.
- What do you enjoy most about your current role at Mace?
- The sectors, services and geographies we operate in are extensive, and the opportunity for me and my whole team to expand our offering across the world to help our colleagues deliver complex projects and programmes is significant.
- What has been your proudest achievement at Mace
It has to be the work I’ve done on top of the day job to help others with their career development, especially those who haven’t been sure about which path to take.
Working with other senior planners in the business, we set up an informal development group for our assistant planning managers, setting them tasks and presentations, and providing them with advice sessions, over a two-year period. The measure of success is that this particular group naturally came to an end when everyone in it got promoted!
- What advice would you give to someone looking to get into what you do?
Seek out diversity and opportunity. In doing so, you will challenge yourself and develop as a person, building knowledge and relationships along the way. There is no substitute for experience, so you need to put yourself out there and get involved with a range of projects, for a blend of clients, across a broad geography.
I remember when I finished on the hugely successful Barnsley Schools Programme, I thought I’d cracked it. I thought I’d found an approach that I could translate onto any scheme. Needless to say, I was wrong. I joined the Manchester Metrolink project next and was completely taken out of my comfort zone, quickly realising how naïve I’d been. There is always something new to learn, you just need to open your mind and acknowledge it.
- What do you hope you will be doing in the next 5-10 years?
- For me, it’s quite simple. I want to continue to develop our planning offer and further strengthen our position in the marketplace. This will involve really getting under the skin of our service offering and ensuring it aligns with the changing and developing needs of our clients. In practice, this will mean finding new angles and skills, growing the team through upskilling and recruitment of new talent and expanding our portfolio across all of our hubs.
- What are you passionate about outside of work?
I love to read because I love to learn. My reading list is eclectic, ranging from books outlining the value of superforecasting, to inspirational autobiographies, to books on how to understand introverts.
If I’m not reading or with my family, you can usually find me out and about on a long-distance run. I relish the challenge.
“The opportunity for me and my whole team to expand our offering across the world to help our colleagues deliver complex projects and programmes is significant.”