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Sinclair Knight Merz

An open approach to global business creates a world of opportunity at SKM

Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) is an employee-owned consultancy with 6,500 staff in 47 offices around the world. The company started in Australia, but now has offices in New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia.

According to Peter MacKellar, Area Manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa, the Australian roots are still evident, in the form of a "can do" attitude that runs throughout the business. This, in part, accounts for the way the company is structured: SKM is not split geographically, but by global Business Units that operate across international boundaries. "We can mobilise people across boundaries on a best for project basis," explains MacKellar. "A geographical structure is just an inhibitor. When decision-making is done regionally, it encourages parochial behaviour."

The result for staff is that, wherever they are based, they are likely to be working alongside people from all over the world, on international projects. Many have the chance to work abroad if they choose to. "There is a lot of opportunity for people to move around, and we try to actively remove the barriers to transfer people if they want to relocate," says MacKellar. For example, of the 350 SKM staff currently working in the UK, more than 20 are expatriates. According to MacKellar, SKM managers are encouraged to take a "big picture view" of what is best for the Business Unit as a whole, rather than trying to hold on to staff who wish to travel.

In the UK, 50% of SKM’s work is in structures, and the company’s portfolio includes both civil and structural engineering design for the Eden Project in Cornwall. It has carved out a niche in the design of long span structures - particularly sports stadia, including those in Sydney, Athens and Milton Keynes, and Benfica’s ground in Lisbon. SKM is also very busy in the Middle East, where it is responsible for the security masterplanning for the world’s tallest building, the
Burj Dubai.

MacKellar believes employee-ownership makes the culture at SKM different from some of its competitors. "All shares are held by working employees, so we are in charge of our own destiny, rather than being subject to the needs of the stockmarket or short term demands of shareholders," he explains. "We can take a longer term view of investment decisions and client relations." At the same time, he says, the company has a very open culture
and a flat, non-hierarchical management structure that creates an inclusive environment for everyone working there. "It’s very much a meritocracy. If you’re good enough, there are plenty of opportunities. And if you want to take those opportunities we try not to put any barriers in the way, and actively develop our people to the best of their potential."

To find out more about working for SKM go to

Dubai Sports City
SKM is providing design services to Dubai Sports City, the world’s first integrated sports city. Set on 50 million sq ft (4.6 million sq m) of land within the Dubailand development, Dubai Sports City will feature four state-of-the-art venues: a 60,000 seat multi-purpose outdoor stadium; a 25,000 capacity cricket stadium; a 10,000 seat multi-purpose indoor arena; and a 5,000 seat hockey stadium.

SKM’s scope includes structural and building services engineering and security design verification and contract administration for the multi-purpose outdoor stadium and the cricket arena, together with the design of project variations.

In addition to the sporting facilities, Dubai Sports City will be home to world-renowned sports academies and major residential, retail and commercial developments, together with all the related amenities expected in a purpose-built city. The first completed facility in the city is the 18-hole championship golf course, The Els Club, Ernie Els’ first golf course design concept in the Middle East.

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