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Working lives

John Williams joined Parkman as an AutoCAD technician 11 years ago. Now aged 27 he is business developer with the consultancy.

Route to the job I was eight years into my career in engineering when, in moment of clarity, I suddenly realised why I was here - project managing the removal of ordnance in a muddy, rain soaked field in Plymouth.

I joined Parkman as an AutoCAD technician at 16 having just completed GCSEs and enrolled on an ONC in building, followed by HNC in civil engineering.

In at the deep end researching phase one desk studies, I quickly graduated to the mud, snow, rain and JCBs of site work. Life on site was varied, but the ordnance site in Plymouth had to be the high point. I was eased into the role by a bomb disposal expert and was comfortable with my job - even when he dropped into conversation one day how he had once stood on a land mine and lost half his leg!

After about four years of JCBs and bad weather, I was offered the opportunity to move indoors to the office in Bristol. I found my calling writing health, safety and environmental plans, training new staff, and developing business skills.

Expectations I realised early on that the traditional career of a civil engineer was not for me. I found it difficult to fit into the rigid and structured career path. But the breadth of experience I gained stood me in great stead for my current career path.

The business development path opened after I gained some excellent leads in the fields of leisure and regeneration, with project values in the region of £900M.

This gave my confidence a huge boost.

Reality My last two years have been focused on 'business and relationship management'.

I have received mixed reactions to my age, non-degree status and unorthodox career path.

The team I am working with are involved with looking at new markets and high quality environmental management consultancy. They are supportive, fun and recognise my assets.

I have recently put a team together to win a leisure development project valued around £5M. I am particularly proud of this achievement as the project fell outside of the team's usual remit.

At present I am not entirely sure where my career will take me next.

I am riding the crest of a wave and the next few years will depend upon delivery of results and continued support from my colleagues - especially in business development.

Advice Get a great mentor. Think laterally Work in a team that has fun and with those who enjoy their careers.

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