Mace People

Matthew O'Hara

Associate Director - Project Management

Consultancy, UK

Since joining Mace’s graduate scheme in 2016, Matthew O’Hara has helped drive forward a number of healthcare programmes in the north of England. Now as an Associate Director based in the Manchester office, Matt’s work focuses on pursuing a sustainable future for the city and advising on the best solutions in forward-thinking healthcare delivery.

How did you get into what you do?

From a young age, I always had a passion for buildings and architecture, and I then studied Mechanical Engineering at university. Towards the end of my degree, I became interested in processes and lifecycle assessment, focusing on the lifetime of assets and their impact on the environment. I was also keen to tailor my career towards project management and in trying to pull together all of the respective things I was interested in, I found Mace. I applied for Mace’s graduate scheme, initially looking at a role within the sustainability team, before the Pharmaceutical and Technology team reached out to me about joining their team instead. I moved down to London from Manchester and joined Mace in 2016.

How has your career progressed since joining Mace?

After working in and out of London for a few years, I wanted to put down some roots near my family and I was given the opportunity to move back to Manchester in 2018 to join the healthcare team. I started working on the Royal Liverpool Hospital project and then began working with Manchester Foundation Trust in the role that I’ve been in for the nearly five years. I progressed up to Associate Director and now line manage five people in the healthcare team and act as the account lead for the Manchester Foundation Trust secondment where we are supporting the Trust on over £160m of capital projects.

The development offered through the graduate scheme is really varied, with a many different paths and opportunities to be involved in interesting projects. I haven’t just been a project manager; I’ve had experience working in a PMO and as a construction manager too. The knowledge gained from these experiences has all been relevant in moving me forward to where I am now. Mace has great opportunities for existing employees to move internally, and for me, having the option to move back to Manchester was a major plus. It’s brilliant to work for a company who can prioritise colleagues’ personal circumstances in this way.

What do you enjoy most about your current role at Mace?

I really enjoy supporting those in my team with their professional growth. There are two apprentices in my team and two graduates, so it is great to see how they have progressed over the past few years as well as receiving fantastic feedback about them from our client. I’m also proud of how diverse our team is in Manchester, we have a strong team ethos and work well together.

It was so rewarding to make a tangible difference within healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. An essential part of what I believe makes Mace unique is how we enable healthcare organisations to actively help people and improve lives.

I also enjoy the technical aspects which healthcare projects bring, which probably stems from my engineering studies at university. Everything from understanding Health Technical Memoranda (HTMs), to thinking about how systems are designed with extra resilience, to how facilities are commissioned successfully is interesting - and keeps me on my toes!

What skills do you need to be good at your job?
From a client service perspective, it’s about being a good communicator, understanding stakeholders and how to approach them. In the healthcare sector you work with a variety of stakeholders who all have different levels of understanding when it comes to construction; therefore, it is important skill to be able to adapt your approach and tailor it to different stakeholders. But it’s also about the technical elements, like procurement, design and engineering. I’d also say that some important qualities from a management perspective are being accountable, a good listener, being fair, and supporting others’ journeys and ambitions. 
What advice would you give someone looking to get into what you do?

Given the current employment market and competition at graduate level, apprenticeships are incredibly valuable and can be a real fast track into on-the-job learning and a successful career in the built environment. It’s something I would definitely have considered, especially having seen the opportunities available here at Mace.

To get into project management in construction, I would advise people to be passionate about the built environment - if you come across a building that interests you, research it and learn about it. The industry is calling out for fresh ideas on how we can become more sustainable and productive, especially in this era of digital transformation. From a personal development perspective, build resilience and be accountable to yourself in achieving your goals, set high standards and consistently endeavour to meet and exceed them.

What do you hope you'll be doing in the next 5-10 years?
One of the most important things for me is to lead on a project which directly shapes and adds value to the community where I live in Manchester. Whether that’s a healthcare project, or a building in Manchester that means a lot to the community, I would love to be able to walk through Manchester when I’m retired and be proud of the projects which I have been involved in, ones which have helped define our city.

I’m also keen to have a role in changing how we become more responsible for the environment and our planet. There’s been a step change in the past year and I aim to openly challenge and discuss it with my clients and colleagues. This is such an important thing that we all need to play our part in.
If you hadn’t got into this line of work what do you think you might be doing?

I think I might have pursued architecture, or I would’ve been in the built environment regardless. I like being involved in something tangible and seeing projects come to life. Having said that, I enjoy doing triathlons and cycling so maybe I could have tried to succeed as a professional cyclist or pursue a more athletic path… until eventually falling into the built environment!

What do you see in the future for Mace in the Manchester region?

Mace has been in Manchester for 25 years and the business has been involved in creating some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Our talent within the team sets us apart from our competitors. Our team is enthusiastic and dynamic, I would hope the future brings further opportunities for Mace to be involved in more city-defining projects. In the healthcare space, it would be fantastic to see Mace working in some capacity on the government’s New Hospitals programme in Manchester, supporting in delivering new net zero carbon hospitals for the future.


“It was so rewarding to make a tangible difference within healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. An essential part of what I believe makes Mace unique is how we enable healthcare organisations to actively help people and improve lives.”