Belfast-based contractor Lagan Construction spent five years looking for the right person for the job before recruiting Simon Jukes.
'Lagan is big in Ireland but has not established itself in the UK. I'll be setting up the business here from scratch, ' says 42-year-old Jukes, who is about to open an office near Heathrow Airport.
Jukes' brief as south east regional manager is to win civils contracts on the London 2012 Olympic site and framework contracts on the expansion of regional airports as well as roads, water, power and utilities work.
A tough brief but one that Jukes welcomes. 'My management style is to try and engage with every person on the site. Whether a labourer or site agent, everyone has an important role to play, ' he says. 'Everyone needs to feel part of the team wanting to go to work to perform and look forward to coming back the next day. I really enjoy all the excitement and the craic of construction sites.' It has been quite a journey for a man who started his working life on site after leaving school as a chain man, which is the junior assistant to the engineer on site.
He worked his way up after taking an HNC and gaining Associate membership of the ICE.
'I like to encourage young technicians to work their way up.
That's the way I went, ' he says.
Before joining Lagan, Jukes had spent 22 years at Amec working on award-winning schemes such as Pier 4 stands at Gatwick Airport.
Life at Amec gave him a very broad background in civil engineering, taking in rail, roads, structures and airports.
He ended up as operations director (southern) for Amec Logistics and Support Services, managing seven regional offices as well as being responsible for framework agreements with BAA.
Jukes left Amec before the expected sale of its civil engineering business and is relishing his new challenge.
'I want to look back in five years knowing I've delivered a successful team and produced high quality civil engineering.'
Q And A Simon Jukes
Career Highlight? The Gatwick Airport Pier 4 stands. But really, the next challenge I take on is my career highlight.
What's most important to you on site? Making sure people go home from work having enjoyed their day and wanting to come back.
Hobbies? I played rugby for a veterans team at inside centre until I broke three ribs. These days I play golf to 13.
Why did you become a civil engineer? From the age of seven, I visited construction sites with my dad and I loved the craic. I love being outside and I love building things.