Andy Smith

Before you came to Brookes what did you study and where?

Having gained experience in industry, I had not studied for 20 years before I started MSc PMBE. My previous education stopped at a BTec National. This was at 6th form College. I wanted to consolidate the experience I had into an academic qualification which was relevant to my career. The chosen course answered all these needs.

What made you choose MSc PMBE?

I studied at Brookes for a number of reasons:

  • The course was accredited by the RICS
  • The distance learning option
  • The relevance of my course to my current job role
  • The location for the course meant I could go home to my young family during the study weeks

My overall aim was to gain RICS accreditation and therefore I needed a qualification with weight and an MSc delivered this. It was to consolidate 15 years of project management experience into a level of qualification which many of my peer group had achieved. The course was very relevant to my working life which has led to a broadening of perspectives towards problems, situations and solutions.

What did you think of the course while studying here?

The course was well structured and relevant to today’s construction industry. It gives the student the opportunity to look at areas of the industry which are part of their every day work load. For me it gave me the ability to consider things differently from which I made some strategic changes to the way I operate.

The course was perfect for what I do every day. The company I worked for is not in the construction industry so external development was the only way to gain formal personal growth. Real situations can be applied in an academic context which drives a different approach and consideration of alternative techniques.

Did you also work, as well as study? If so, where? Any interesting projects you are working on/have worked on in the Built Environment Sector?

Yes I did work, study and have a young family to boot. I was and am employed by World Duty Free, in the Travel Retail Sector, running a specialist technical construction team as the end user client. Balance is an important requirement and both my employer and family support have been invaluable. Everything I do is in the built environment so the course has been very relevant.

The most interesting and current project has been the construction of a 20,000sqft duty free store at Birmingham Airport. Using this as a case study for my dissertation we have attempted to build a more energy efficient store analysing in detail the energy use of an old space and new. Working in partnership with the airport authority the delivery of building services has been challenged as well as the design and operation of the mechanical and electrical systems. We now have a store, based on initial feedback, which for the next 10 years will operate at around 40% better efficiency than its predecessor.

This is great news for the airport authority assisting it in delivery of its Carbon Reduction Commitment objectives as well as ensuring that operational costs for utilities going forward are kept to a minimum. This, in a substantial part, can be attributed to the MSc PMBE. It has challenged me to think differently.

What difference(s) do think you have made (or making) in your work place as a result of studying MSc PMBE?

All businesses want to realise potential cost savings and delivery enhancements as a result of investment in time and money. People development is no different in this sense. Following the course I believe the service provided to the business is far more effective and progressive as well as delivering cost savings through better procurement, project governance and technical design. This has translated into 6 figures in year 1!

What are the best bits of studying at Brookes?

There are several but the library is a fantastic resource for all sorts of information and I will really miss it.

I could not have done the course without the ability to study at a distance via the internet. Bringing work situations into an academic environment is of great use.

I really liked the flexibility of the study approach which allowed me to combine a fulltime job with the needs of the course.

The study weeks are great and working with a group of like-minded people is good fun. The discussions are relevant and the broad range of people brings many new perspectives.

What advice do you have for others?

Understand what you are taking on. It is a weighty qualification that needs time and focus to do well at. However the rewards from it are tangible and take your considerations to a new level.

Get on with it and get it done! If you have a desire to study then why wait? It's hard work and at times the workload is tough, especially when coupled with the day job. Even so the satisfaction of completing the course was fantastic.

After graduating from Brookes what were the next steps for your career and where are you working now?

One of the key reasons I took the course was to gain RICS Chartership which I have since achieved. This course was the key in delivering this ambition. My role in the work place has not changed, I enjoy what I do, but I am being given many additional responsibilities putting into practice the things I have learnt.

What achievements are you most proud of since graduating?

The case study I developed to test the academic theory in my dissertation was put forward for a number of awards. The work was recognised for an Environmental Best Practice Award from The Green Organisation. This was presented at the House of Commons winning best in category. As an additional accolade it won the overall event! Not only would I have not won the award but I doubt I would have developed the scheme had I not taken the course. I am now working with the BRE on testing a new BREEAM rating tool which will be a really exciting project to work on.

How has the course you studied at Oxford Brookes helped you in your career?

One of my colleagues told me I now think differently since starting the course. This helps me in getting bigger and wider projects to manage which are more strategic in nature.

Are you involved with Oxford Brookes currently? If so, how?

I am part of the Alumni and intend to keep in contact with the people I have met.

In what way is remaining connected to your alumni network important to you?

I have developed an affinity to Brookes and the Alumni helps to keep this going. I use it to keep in touch with the university and what is going on.