Director for Strategic Advisory
Stemming from a childhood fascination with design and construction, Paul Kelly has forged a career dedicated to creating places that support the people living and working in and around them. Now, as Mace’s Director for Strategic Advisory, he leads an enthusiastic team that provides expert early guidance on how to effectively shape cities and build sustainable communities.
- How did you get into what you do?
I’ve always been fascinated by buildings. It was this fascination, maybe combined with an ability to draw, that led me down the design and construction path. I actually had my first weekend job at age 14, working at a builder’s merchants.
After completing a degree in architecture, I joined my friends for a summer in London, but ended up staying and getting a job at a practice which mainly designed large commercial projects. I also completed a Masters in property development, which opened my eyes to the broader issues that drive successful investment projects.
I responded to tougher economic times in the early nineties, and left the design world to begin working in major projects management. Fast forward a couple of decades, and roles at a number of industry leading firms led me to where I am now.
- How has your career progressed since joining Mace?
I first joined Mace as a consultant, tasked with supporting our growth strategy in Ireland. The role gave me a chance to meet Mace’s brilliant people and I found myself drawn in by the positive buzz. So, when I had the opportunity to take a permanent role in the Strategic Advisory team, I jumped at it.
I could immediately see the potential of Strategic Advisory and I remember being excited to help shape and develop the offering. I’ve seen things go from strength to strength while I’ve been at Mace, and it was a real privilege to be appointed as the Director of Strategic Advisory in early 2019.
- What do you enjoy most about your current role at Mace?
Every day, I get to deliver interesting work and achieve tangible outcomes, particularly in the area I’m most passionate about – place development. Shaping cities and helping clients build sustainable communities is in Mace’s DNA, so it’s a great fit for for me. It’s a privilege to be able to advise clients on creating places that inspire and capture imaginations, and that are also iconic on the national and international stage.
Being able to do a job you love is one thing, but having the support of the Board, my team mates and the rest of the company is another. It creates an ‘anything is possible if you work hard enough’ environment, which is something I really connect with.
- What skills do you need to be good at your job?
It’s not a skill per se, but I think humility, irrespective of position, is vital in the workplace. Recognising that I’m part of a bigger picture and thinking about the business and my colleagues before myself has certainly served me well when setting up teams and encouraging a positive team spirit.
Communication also stands out for me. I think any good advisor should use their mouth and ears in proportion, because listening to and heeding what clients, colleagues and stakeholders actually want is often the most valuable thing you can do to build a relationship.
- What advice would you give to someone looking to get into what you do?
I would strongly advocate trying new things and getting stuck into challenges that take you out your comfort zone; I’ve found those are the occasions when I’ve learnt the most. Whether you want to be a specialist or a generalist, there’s always value in opening your eyes to other points of view.
- What do you hope you will be doing in the next 5-10 years?
- My ambition is to continue building Mace’s innovative Strategic Advisory service in a sustainable way, ensuring it stands alone as an offering, but also supports the wider business and its goals. As part of the growth plan, I have a real aspiration to do more work overseas, tapping into countries and communities where I know we can add significant value.
- What are you passionate about outside of work?
- My family is always my priority, though now my twin sons have flown the nest there’s certainly more time to do other things. I love working on my garden, as it gives me time to think and put the world to rights. If I’m not tending to spiky plants, I’m usually engaging my petrol head and fantasising about what car I’d like to buy next – an indulgence I’ve unintentionally passed on to my children.
- If you hadn’t got into this line of work what do you think you might be doing?
I love cinema; not just the finished product but the whole process involved. Some of my school mates went into that world, with one forging a career as a cameraman on big global movies. I’d maybe have fancied being a movie director or, who knows, even an actor. It’s never too late!
“I would strongly advocate trying new things and getting stuck into challenges that take you out of your comfort zone.”