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Parsons knows

Working lives - Parsons Brinckerhoff's Ashok Kothari brings long experience of building metro systems in the US to the upgrade of the East London Line.

When Ashok Kothari was a boy in India he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become a doctor. That was until he had to dissect a frog during his ninth grade. As he wielded his scalpel some blood squirted into his face. 'I said to myself, 'My God this is not for me', ' he recalls.

The realisation resulted in a sharp change in career orientation, and Kothari decided to take up a less gory, but equally exacting, career as a civil engineer.

Today he is a long serving Parsons Brinckerhoff engineer, and has recently taken on the role of head of programme management on phase one of the £900M East London Line upgrade. He is working as part of an integrated team which comprises client Transport for London and Parsons Brinckerhoff staff to deliver a project which is integral to improving London's transport system ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

Kothari graduated as a civil engineer in India during the early 1960s and in 1964 moved to the United States to take a masters degree at Michigan State University before returning home to get married.

His new wife had never travelled outside India or even been on an aeroplane so he decided to take her back to the US with him and show her something of the rest of the world.

Back in the States he found a job, initially as a highways engineer and then as a project engineer on the Washington Metro. It was there that he got a taste for programme management after being impressed by one of the senior project managers on the job.

He then moved to Atlanta to work on its metro system. The metro threw up a new project every two to three years, so Kothari ended up staying there for 15 years. He resisted opportunities to move onto other projects, largely because he felt the timing was not quite right, and the projects were not ready to go with funding in place.

When the Atlanta programme finally came to an end, Parsons Brinckerhoff moved him onto San Francisco's BART mass transit railway - as the extension to the airport was on the starting blocks. This led to a further extension project, although funding difficulties led to this being pulled last year.

As a result Kothari agreed to move to London, when Parsons Brinckerhoff won the East London Line Extension contract.

Until now, Kothari has been trying to split his time between San Francisco and London, although this will change in the next few weeks, when he moves to a permanent London location.

He starts just as the East London Line work is getting into full swing. Expressions of interest in the civils work were due in from contractors last Friday and a major civils based enabling works programme is already under way.

Kothari is in it for the long haul, as he does not like to leave projects before they are finished. This means he will be here until 2011, when the project is due for completion.

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