Like most engineers, from the earliest days at school I played around with making things, ' says Mott MacDonald's new director of water utilities 42-year- old Mark Enzer. 'From building dams in the garden to making a go-kart. And equally, ' he adds with a residue of schoolboy relish, 'I enjoyed destroying them again.' He also admits to teenage experiments with fireworks and other chemicals which must have created enough smoke and noise to keep the neighbours in Hampshire awake for much of the night.
All of which conspired to make his first degree, an MA in engineering science at Oxford in the early 1980s, a relatively miserable experience. 'I can't say I enjoyed it, it was just far too theoretical, ' he says.
Luckily Enzer was saved by an astute tutor who recognised his practical streak as a strength and suggested time out. He spent a year at the Water Research Centre in Swindon.
'I was able to get my hands wet. It was enormous fun playing with water all the time, ' he jokes.
The year helped Enzer find his vocation - water engineering - and also taught him about the industry; the difference between clients, consultants and contractors and which were the good ones. He applied to several, taking a job eventually with Mott MacDonald. 'I liked the atmosphere in their office, ' he says. 'And actually I still think that is a good basis for choosing where to go.' His rst assignment in Scotland filled in gaps, he says, 'learning about timber and concrete, and British Standards.' Other early experiences included a water treatment plant in Oman, and projects in China, Thailand and Latvia.
But further experience in the UK proved to be invaluable - 'I had a choice between Manchester and Mauritius, ' he says. And incredibly he chose Manchester, which turned out to be a wise decision as here he learned all about nitrification processes at one of the largest treatment plants in Europe.
He followed that up with a second degree course in 1989.
'I was beginning to get the hang of university, ' he says. This time it was an MSc in process engineering at Leeds followed by more practical training - a year of secondment to Birse in a completely different sector - to complete the experience needed for his civils qualifications.
A wide range of project involvement built up experience over the next few years, mainly working from the Mott Cambridge offices, and then he was assigned to Yorkshire 'finally doing projects of my own'. By this time he was thinking a lot about the process of engineering and ways to streamline the output of small projects 'to create a sausage machine as it were', to turn them out economically. Mott's link with contracting partner Bentley on the projects was highly successful, consistently giving savings of 20% and winning clients' plaudits.
Recently he has returned to study, completing an MBA at Cambridge in 2004 and in fact walked off with the highest marks in his year and the John Bolton prize, although in typical engineer style he is reluctant to 'bang on' about it. 'It is not necessarily the best thing in a team environment, ' he remarks.
But these newly acquired management skills will be useful, especially as the team tackles tight targets in the new fourth round Asset Management Programme, where Enzer will be a lead figure in Motts' alliance with Anglian Water. But it should prove exciting for him - after all, it is a very practical problem.