Tim Ford’s career has taken him through all aspects of Civil Engineering. We caught up with him on the most rewarding, and most challenging, aspects of his job over the years.
Tim was 23 when he started his studies at Manukau Institute of Technology, then moved to Unitec in 1985 to complete his Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Civil) degree. During this time he began working at Kaipara Excavators while studying part time.
“I describe it as the ‘apprenticeship’ phase of my career – I did everything from labouring and driving trucks to supervising staff and progress claims, the full gambit! I learnt how to build things, but more importantly how to manage people – which, while I didn’t realise it at the time, really set me up for the later stages of my career.”
Tim worked on the development of Pine Harbour, Gulf Harbour and the Steel Mill at Glenbrook. He then spent four years at Ross Reid Contractors before taking a role at Fulton Hogan, based in their Hamilton office.
“I gained invaluable experience in the full end-to-end role of a manager – hiring and firing staff, tendering for work, delivering projects and understanding job costing analysis. It’s very much the Fulton Hogan style. They don’t train you as a specialist manager but more as a general manager, so you cover all disciplines. It means they end up with well-rounded managers who understand the big picture.”
This role eventually led to a bigger role in Hamilton a year later, and Tim and his family relocated back to the Waikato for six years.
“We had a lot of fun building the business, taking on new projects – we were 10 feet tall and bullet proof! Over six years we managed to increase our revenue from 8 million to 20 million dollars.”
In 1999 Tim took the role of Auckland Regional Manager at Fulton Hogan: a big change and an even bigger challenge.
“I’d spent six years growing a business in Hamilton and was now having to manage a major restructure, making a lot of people redundant. It was tough, but I had to park the emotions to the side. Easy to say but hard to do!”
Over the next five years, they turned the Auckland business from a very poor performer to one of the highest performing businesses in the country. He then became GM of the Northern Zone and moved onto the company’s executive team, where he remained for 15 years. He is now Chief Executive of Stevenson Aggregates Limited, a subsidiary of Fulton Hogan.
Tim says he’s taken a fairly practical approach to his career over the years – something that was installed in him back in his Unitec days.
“Unitec gave me a good grounding in both academia and practical, and taught me about life too. I was able to interrelate my work with my studies – so I really understood how to put my learnings into practice.
“My advice for students is to work hard and take every opportunity that comes your way. Set goals and timeframes – both personal and work. You need to find that balance between your career and your personal life, otherwise you may look back and wish you’d done things differently.
“For me, the best part of my career has always been the people. My role began with ‘building stuff’, taking pride in seeing projects come to life. But this transformed into the building of teams, of people. I find it so rewarding to have been part of the development of many of my staff and colleagues.”