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Working lives

59-year-old consulting engineer Geoff Rooke is co-founder of Paris-based Terrell Rooke Associes

Route to the job

I have a first class honours degree from Leeds University and a diploma in concrete structures and technology from Imperial College.

For 16 years I worked with leading British consultancies on a number of interesting and prestigious projects including the Barbican, the Emley Moor TV tower and World Bank projects in North Africa and Iran. These provided excellent experience in the areas of design, site supervision, project management and handling claims. I later went to Nigeria to represent the Oscar Faber Partnership and stayed there for three years.

Expectations

It was in Nigeria that I met my current business partner. We saw an interesting opportunity in acting as consultants to French contractors who were making inroads into the anglophone market in West Africa. After setting up in Paris and we soon secured some interesting work, including an audit of the seismic resistance of IBM's research establishment in the south of France.

Reality

Today we are known throughout the French building industry and have a reputation for high quality design and innovation. We are now actively pursuing work with French connections in South America and in Egypt. The new challenge is to manage this work with the same success that we achieved here.

High quality office buildings have provided an excellent baseload of work in recent years. The other challenge is to move into other high value added markets before the property market slumps again, as it did about 10 years ago.

Everyday life is a rewarding mixture of prospecting, fee negotiations, financial management, fee collection and even some engineering design!

The office is a veritable league of nations with 10 ethnic and cultural origins represented. There is an ouverture d'esprit inevitable in such a grouping and that infects our engineering in a very positive way.

The constant challenge is to give a maximum free rein to the energy and creativity of our people while maintaining enough businesslike management to ensure a sound future for us all. As managers we often 'pull up the plant to see if the roots are growing' and I sometimes think it would be nice to be more settled.

Advice

The global village becomes more and more of a reality and English is it is lingua franca, but I would urge young engineers to really try to learn another language and to get to grips with another culture; it is good intellectual exercise and it teaches a lot of valuable life skills.

I shall also be telling my youngest, who is going into engineering, always to take the long term view. It is very tempting, especially in the early years of family life, to become a bit preoccupied with the monthly pay cheque. A general improvement in the pay and status of engineers would help a lot in that respect but that is in the hands of my generation.

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