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Working lives

Philip Thomson, 41, is managing director of Philip Thomson & Partners, an Edinburgh based firm of consulting engineers.

Route to the job

In 1978 I left school and joined Central Regional Council, Water & Drainage Department as a sponsored student doing a sandwich BSc in civil engineering, at what is now the University of Paisley. After graduating in 1983 I studied part time, and in 1987 completed a postgraduate diploma in the engineering design of buildings. In 1988 I joined Kirkpatrick & Partners as a project engineer, and following a takeover by a European consultant progressed to the position of divisional director. In 1995 I left and started the multi-disciplinary firm Philip Thomson & Partners.


When I reflect back to the early days of my career, I would never have though that some day I would have my own business. My initial goals were to work hard and try and get promotion to senior management as quickly as I could.

However, circumstances change and sometimes there is an opportunity that allows one to make a life changing decision that - if successful - can be deeply rewarding.


People say that the first two years of business are the toughest and I can vouch for that. Getting new commissions was never a problem; getting paid is a different matter. It is this combined with an overdraft that gave me palpitations. Overall, running the business is far more than I would ever have realised, with less time on being productive than I would like. As a multidisciplinary practice we seem to get more and more project management commissions which, combined with our principal disciplines, reflects the trend for single point of contact appointments.


Always be yourself and try to get on with people, and in particular try and be a good communicator. Try and see the opportunities that come along in life - the secret to being successful is choosing the right opportunity. Work hard and enjoy life: remember you're a long time dead. And finally never look back and say what if - make sure you do it at the time.

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