Derek, Gemma & Adam
L-R, Derek, Gemma, Adam

Skills for the future

  • People with diverse backgrounds and experiences can success in the construction industry
  • Games designers, architects and a former international rugby player all work at Laing O’Rourke
  • The construction industry relies on diverse skillsets to grow and be innovative

What do a computer game designer, an architect working for a world-famous UK practice and an international level rugby player all have in common? They are all now working full-time in the construction industry at Laing O’Rourke, using the valuable skills they gained in their former roles to help us achieve success.

The traditional routes of going to university to study an engineering or construction-related degree, or gaining skills through practical onsite experience, are not the only ways to pursue a rewarding career in construction. 

A convergence of different industries is becoming evident, with skills being learned in one and then used in another. At Laing O’Rourke, we have a diverse range of roles where different but highly complementary skills can bring added value.

Gaming inspiration 

Take Derek Lam. He is an experienced game designer and programmer, having worked for several studios in Hong Kong, creating award-winning free-to-play games and marketing apps for major international companies.

Derek left Asia to become a Unity Developer – or 3D modeller – with our digital engineering team in Dartford. “I was interested in various ‘immersive technologies’ that enable people to inhabit virtual environments and was developing augmented reality apps – where real live images are combined with computer-generated ones on a screen,” he says.

“I heard Laing O’Rourke was looking for people to turn conventional 3D computer-animated design (CAD) models into augmented reality. Although I knew nothing about construction, it offered an exciting opportunity to apply my skills on a bigger scale.”

Impeccable skills

Similarly, Gemma Murphy chose to apply her impeccable architectural design skills in a very different way as a Project Architect on the high-profile Northern Line Extension (NLE) in London. 

Gemma was appointed as Design Manager for the NLE project in 2015, moving from a background in design with leading consultancies including Foster + Partners and Terry Farrell and Partners. Gemma has drawn designs for projects ranging from Grade 1 listed building restorations in Mayfair to the second tallest building in the world, India Tower (currently on hold), and Apple’s Campus 2 in California.

“I moved to Laing O’Rourke initially to work on the Francis Crick Institute because it offered lots of interesting architectural and engineering challenges, and because the company is always looking at finding better ways of doing things. If there’s a more intelligent design solution they’ll follow it,” she says.

“It’s great, though,” she adds. “I’m as proud of this project as I am of any of the projects I’ve designed myself. It’ll be a great legacy.”

Tackling change

Adam Matthews also had to ‘run with the ball’ when he began working as Quantity Surveyor with Laing O’Rourke, having left a sparkling career as a Welsh international rugby player behind him.

Adam played for the Wales Under 19s and Under 21s teams in two Rugby World Cups and in the Six Nations, but reluctantly gave up being a professional player after suffering an injury aged 23.

In March 2017, Adam joined the 18-month Young Guns fast-track development programme. “It’s made me appreciate exactly how I bring sporting qualities into my work to do a better job in a way I had not thought about before,” he says.

“A professional sportsman requires self‑discipline and is a role model – sometimes missing out on fun to perform your best in your job. So I’m in a good position to help younger employees to understand that sometimes you make sacrifices to progress your career.

“Based on my experience, anyone thinking of moving into construction from a completely different career can make a go of it,” he concludes.


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