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The rewards and challenges of an industry switch from longtime contractor and client

Matthew Bowles our consultant managing the role
Published on 18 January 2022

Switching industry can seem daunting but if you have the transferrable skills and are up to the challenge it can be one the most rewarding changes you make!

Long time Quanta Contractor and Client, Colin Christian, took the time to speak to us about his switch from Life Sciences to Offshore Wind in 2009.

Q: Please describe your current role in the Offshore Wind industry

CC: My current role, and in fact all roles I have held in the Offshore Wind industry are managing the development, planning, pre-construction and construction phases, managing the project until it’s handed over to an operations phase management team. 

Q: Please describe your previous career and role in Life Sciences industry

CC: My roles typically included managing new build projects, refurbishments, and technology transfer in the manufacturing sector of Life Sciences. I worked in Validation roles, as a project engineer/project manager and further back more in HVAC and process engineer roles too.

Q: Why did you move to the Offshore Wind industry?

CC: Really, it was fortuitous timing. In 2009 the Offshore Wind industry was in a rapid stage of development and growth and the industry was facing challenges with a very limited resource pool. This drove developers to seek people from other heavily regulated industries with skills that they felt would be readily transferrable. When I was approached about moving, Offshore Wind in the UK had huge potential for growth ahead and I couldn’t really turn the opportunity down to join an industry with such opportunities.

Q: When and what was your first role in Offshore Wind?

CC: It was as an offshore interface engineer on the Rhyl Flats project. In that first role I had responsibility for providing structure and process to the management of key interfaces. Interface management was a readily transferable skills that I’d developed in the life sciences industry. Interface Management in Life Sciences is about managing interfaces to reduce risk to quality, and in Offshore Wind it’s about reducing exposure to commercial and programme risk, but the skills are the same.

Q: In your view, when you started in Offshore Wind what was the talent pool for skilled consultants like?

CC: The pool was very shallow but it was clear that the resources that were available were very experienced professionals coming from different industries, such as oil & gas.

Q: What transitional skills were you able to utilise from Life Sciences to Offshore Wind?

CC: Interface management, which I’ve mentioned. Engineering knowledge around HVAC, electrical, and mechanical systems – they’re core skillset and mainly come from qualification but experience as well. Change management is essential in Life Sciences, but back in 2009 change was not well managed in Offshore Wind.  Knowledge of developing user requirement specifications (a strong thread in Life sciences) serves you well in Offshore Wind. Softer skills like contract and commercial management – skills that might come from working in any project management role and from any industry.

Q: Why did you choose Quanta as your recruitment partner?

CC: I was introduced to Quanta in 2004. I had been working overseas and was seeking a contract back to the UK when I was approached by Quanta to join a project in Liverpool. I accepted that contract and I have had a really good experience working with David, Spencer and the rest of the team since then. At the time when I moved over to Offshore Wind, there were few recruitment companies that specialised in Offshore Wind. I saw the opportunity to introduce Quanta to the company I was working with at the time. This meant I could continue working with Quanta but also opened a door for them to work with this business and sector. I have had a continuous relationship since then, as a contractor or a client which has helped me to understand and appreciate both sides of recruitment company role.

Q: How have Quanta gone above and beyond in your time working with us?

CC: I think different people have different requirements from a recruitment partner. In a new relationship the important things are contracts, payment schedules, reliability, contact – hard touch points that need to work well. Quanta have always done the basics really well – always paid on time, clear concise contracts, good advice, transparent processes and lots of support.

Over time it becomes a more complex relationship, whether you are looking for continuity as a consultant or advice as a customer. The one thing that has been invaluable is consistency with a single point of contact that I know I can always call on if needed. One thing that sets Quanta apart is that you don’t seem to have the same rate of staff turnover as other companies.

Q: Since you moved industries, what other industries / professions have you seen a successfully transition to Offshore Wind?

CC: I’ve met people in offshore wind from oil and gas, onshore renewables, petrochemical and manufacturing. I believe that we’re now seeing the effect of an established Renewable energy sector with people now leaving education with the intention of working in renewable energy. There’s been a lot of work done to develop STEM in schools and there’s more of a renewable footprint in education.

Q: Would you return to the Life Sciences industry?

CC: Any role that offered a combination of the right location, right job and right package is always going to be appealing, but the offshore energy sector is moving so quickly, and offers so many interesting challenges that I find it hard to imagine what would bring me back to Life Sciences. What is now clear is that we can’t take our foot off the accelerator with renewables. I think there’s a lot of exciting opportunities in Offshore Wind. I expect that the transition back into Life sciences would be more challenging than the transition to offshore wind that I made 10 years ago! I’ve been out of the industry for 12 years, and I think it would be a very different landscape now.

Q: What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

CC: Exciting is different for different people. For me I like a project that stretches me and gives me challenging goals. The Galloper Wind Farm project was exciting – we had so much to do in very little time. Whilst that can seem daunting and stressful it drove absolutely clarity – there wasn’t ambiguity about anything. It enables people to succeed, by providing an environment where it’s purely focused on getting the job done. For me, that was really exciting.

Q: What’s the largest challenge in your career that you’ve overcome?

CC: Covid has been a massive challenge. I was 3 months into the last offshore wind project when the lockdown was announced. The pandemic had the potential to stop the project and if that had happened, I doubt it would have ever restarted. I have been so impressed with people’s resilience and professionalism. You really don’t know what you can achieve until that challenge is set down. I am very fortunate that working from home hasn’t been daunting. But for some it’s been torturous.

Q: What would be your advice to anyone considering changing industries wherever they are in the world?

CC: Don’t underestimate the challenge, but don’t be afraid of it. There are industries out there that want your skills will support your transition. Do your research and find a mentor. I had a mentor when I moved into offshore wind, it gave me a touchpoint for what I considered at the time to be “stupid” questions (LinkedIn is great for finding a mentor). Interview openly and challenge yourself to articulate where you can create value - don’t focus on what you don’t know, but on what do know, and what you can bring to a new company or industry.

Are you up for the challenge?

If you have core skills and want to make the move into the renewable energy industry, send your CV to our team or check out our vacancies in the energies industry.