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Getting ready for take off

Names & Faces - Keeping in control of your own destiny has been the hallmark of new Owen Williams head Damian McHale's career to date, as Andrew Bolton finds out.

In some ways Damian McHale's career follows the blueprint of advice senior engineers give to aspiring young graduates. Starting out, McHale, the new head of consultant Owen Williams, showed a willingness to seize opportunities and take on new responsibilities.

On leaving Manchester University with an aeronautics degree, McHale spent his first five post -graduate years building on his degree and working on flight simulator projects.

Then, in his mid-20s, he was given the chance to move to Montreal to work for Canadian avionics rm CAE Electronics.

He thrived on the transition to North America. 'It was demanding, challenging and stimulating, ' he says. 'You were recognised for your capabilities, no matter your age.' Recognition of his skills led him to take on more responsibility via technical project management.

Then, at 30, McHale was headhunted by BAe Systems and put in charge of its ight simulation systems division.

'It was my rst introduction to prot-and-loss responsibility, ' he recalls.

Within a few years he decided to return to the UK with his wife and young family, and joined Serco. There he was put in charge of highways software integration and the installation of variable message signing and CCTV systems for highways across Britain.

He also got involved with Serco's transportation business worldwide, working on light and heavy rail systems in the US, the Middle East and Asia.

The decision to move back paid off. He grew his division of Serco from one with 90 software engineers to one with 280 by the time the offer to move to Owen Williams and its parent Amey came up.

As well as heading up Owen Williams, McHale is a director of Amey Infrastructure Services.

It is his job to continue the integration of the consultant with its parent, which began when Amey took the rm over earlier this year (NCE 9 February).

It is hoped that this will enable Amey to offer clients a one-stop infrastructure management and transportation consultancy business. This will eliminate the need for either rm to work in joint venture with other businesses on major projects.

He is, not surprisingly, bullish about the challenge presented by his new job and the opportunity to grow Amey and Owen Williams at a time when the infrastructure market is heading for boom times. 'The growth is there in the market, ' he says.

Q&A

Damian McHale

Career highlight: Being able to build and grow exciting businesses gives me an awful lot of personal satisfaction.

Career lowlight: None really. I've been quite lucky.

What would you grab first if your house was on fire? The wife, kids and dogs.

Unusual fact: I occasionally play the church organ and the piano.

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