Olivia Sullivan

Project Manager Degree Apprentice

During school and sixth form, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that the traditional university route didn’t appeal to me. My A-Level choices of Economics, Business and Sociology taught me the basics of the business world and the wider economic climate, and this is where I realised that the consulting world was an industry that really appealed to me. I really enjoyed the topics surrounding business organisation, and the effects that a business can have on its stakeholders. Project management in particular excited me, due to my love for organisation, communication, creating relationships and completing projects that make a real difference to peoples lives. This is how I got into a project management degree apprenticeship.

I work for Arup, who are a multinational professional services company providing design, engineering, architecture, planning, and advisory services across every aspect of the built environment. Therefore, the majority of my projects are construction based projects.

A standard week for me involves lots of client meetings, involving understanding exactly what the client wants out of a particular project, and generating solutions to achieve them. Some meetings I attend are risk reviews, programme reviews, commercial reviews, project board meetings with the senior governance board, progress update meetings, technical design meetings, and stakeholder interface meetings with 3rd parties.

I am passionate about building relationships with clients and stakeholders as this is what I believe can make a real difference to the success of a project. Therefore, a portion of my time is spent liaising with stakeholders to ensure everyone’s views are being listened to, and ensuring the project is aligned across multiple interfaces. In addition, working on construction projects means the team I work with is very varied. It is often made up of project managers, cost consultants, planners and a team of specialist engineers and designers. This means that day to day I interact with a variety of people about different issues, which is beneficial as it means no 2 days are ever the same!

As part of my role as an apprentice project manager, I also attend site visits. This could be to meet the client on site to get a progress update on the construction of the project, meeting contractors to review any issues, or general site walkovers to understand the status of the project. Having the opportunity to attend the sites of the projects I work on has been a great development opportunity, as it really helps to understand and visualise the project in much more detail.

One of the main things I enjoy about my job is seeing the real difference that a project can make on peoples lives. Whether that is the lives of the local community, through improved safety of infrastructure or generating additional jobs as a result of new developments, or the wider population through creating sustainable projects that will create a more sustainable future. I also love how I get the opportunity to give back to the community through social value outreach opportunities. I have been involved in volunteering in local community centres, and speaking in schools in disadvantaged areas to promote the value of apprenticeships, and demonstrating how they are making the consulting sector much more accessible and inclusive to all.

I would say to someone considering a career in consulting that it is an excellent sector to work in. It offers many development opportunities due to it being so vast and covering so many industries. This means that as your career develops, you can specialise in particular areas you feel you can add the most value. The consulting sector is one that is rapidly growing, and whilst technological advancements are shaping the way we work, the human side of consulting will never be replaced. This is therefore something to consider as being a consultant requires strong communication and leadership skills, in order to work with a team to deliver a project to the highest standard.