Operations Director, Defence – Space
Since joining Mace in 2020, Nick Foulkes’ career has headed to the stratosphere – and in more ways than one. Combining an in-depth knowledge of the defence sector with 18 years of military service, Nick leads our defence space business as we explore the vast potential of the final frontier and thrilling opportunities it presents for the built environment.
- How did you get into what you do?
My career began in the Royal Air Force, and I later transitioned into the commercial sector, working for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Babcock International Group with a focus on bidding and procurement. I then moved to Mace in 2020.
My military service built a strong foundation for my career, and I split time between operational duties and procurement tasks. As part of my procurement role, I additionally undertook a degree in Logistics, Materials and Supply Chain Management, as well as later studying a master’s degree in Defence Acquisition. My combination of military procurement experience and academic-based knowledge was a great fit for a client-facing role, which has been both fast-paced and challenging, encouraging me to push myself and keep learning. When the opportunity came up to be involved in Mace’s space offering, I was really keen to get involved. My interest in space has the same origins as many people’s - I grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars, and think it’s inspiring to work on buying satellites and play my part in developing the UK’s space programme in the built environment.
- What do you enjoy most about your current role at Mace?
I love the diversity of what I am doing, which can be anything from negotiating a complex defence deal, jumping on a plane to visit international clients to discuss opportunities and representing Mace in significant bids. I also really enjoy helping my team members develop in their own careers. My role is broad and often changes quickly, which keeps me on my toes and has sharpened my problem-solving skills. I think it’s fun and exciting.
- How do you redefine the boundaries of ambition?
To quote from one of my favourite films, to me, redefining the boundaries of ambition means “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”–Captain James T. Kirk.
Working in the space sector pushes the boundaries by its very nature. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of the team at Mace and consider how our work can contribute to positive change and leave a lasting legacy for our society.
- What's been your proudest achievement at Mace so far?
There are a few tangible markers, such as winning business for Mace, helping advance the careers of those whom I manage, and being shortlisted in the Ex-Forces in Business awards. But on a personal level, transitioning from a military career and moving into the commercial sector has been a real thrill. Making things happen for myself by networking and being a self-starter is the thing that has made me proud - and is something I try and pass onto those in my teams.
- What motivates you every day?
My sense of humour and other people; life can be challenging and in my military life I have seen some dark things, but there is always a positive and always a solution. The journey, in my experience, is easier with others and with some fun thrown into the mix.
- Why Mace?
The purpose-driven nature of Mace is what attracted me. From the start, the people I met were positive and engaging. The culture shines through, and there are a lot of opportunities for passionate individuals to excel.
- What are you passionate about outside of work?
Community is important to me, and in my local town I’m involved in organising the Carnival and Christmas Fayre. Behind the scenes, these take a huge amount of work in securing licensing and funding, for which the skills acquired from my job are very helpful. I also love to ski, hike and watch rugby. For me though, nothing beats an evening exploring the independent restaurants in Bristol and Bath.
- What advice would you give to someone looking to get into what you do?
Definitely to go for it! Our defence business is growing rapidly and presents a huge opportunity for personal growth. In my area, space, there’s a lot happening which is tremendously exciting. If you’re comfortable operating in a new sector and learning new process and procedures, I would say that’s a great start. Personality is also important, regardless of sector. Those who are able to persuade and influence as we grow our space capability will do well too.
- If you hadn't got into this line of work, what do you think you might be doing?
I loved being in the RAF and saw it as a long-term path. Initially I wanted to be a pilot but my time in the military led me to explore the procurement side as a different route. Of course, now that I’m focused on the space industry, the answer is simple! I think I would’ve made a fantastic astronaut.
“Working in the space sector pushes the boundaries by its very nature. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of the team at Mace and consider how our work can contribute to positive change and leave a lasting legacy for our society.”