MGAC Impacts: Jeremy Hill on Powering Innovation, Bicycle Commutes, and Building Better Communities
The Impact Blog is a spotlight series that highlights and celebrates the diverse employees that make MGAC | RLF tick. Beyond their day-to-day schedules, we want to know how they have a greater impact on their colleagues, their company, and the communities in which they live and work. We want to know what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what led them to their current role, and what they hope their lasting impact will be.
Today, we get to know Jeremy Hill, Senior Quantity Surveyor at MGAC | RLF.
MGAC: Welcome to the Impact Blog, Jeremy!
Jeremy Hill (JH): Hello! It’s good to be here.
MGAC: Tell us what you do at MGAC | RLF.
JH: I’m a Quantity Surveyor based in our Glasgow office. My role is to provide cost and procurement advice to our clients, both in the pre-contract and post-contract stages. Pre-contract, I get involved with establishing and updating the budget, reviewing design information, advising on procurement routes and methods, overseeing the tender process. In the post-contract phase, I’m monitoring costs during the actual on-site work and closing it out when it’s finished.
MGAC: And how did you get into this industry?
JH: Prior to joining MGAC | RLF, I was with Franklin + Andrews, part of Mott MacDonald. While there, I worked on everything from football stadiums in London and Italy to the retail store Harrods. I started this work in London when I was 25, having grown up in the Midlands. After living in London for some time, I eventually decided I was ready to leave. By then, I had met my partner, Katie. She’s originally from Scotland, and had been wanting to move back up north, so I said I’d come with her. I transferred up there with my previous job, and after a year, was interested in switching from such a massive consultancy to something more moderately sized. I discovered MGAC | RLF and immediately liked the size. It felt like the perfect fit, and didn’t take much to persuade me to join.
MGAC: That’s great. You mentioned you started this work at 25. When you were younger, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?
JH: I don’t think I’d ever really pinned down what I wanted to do as an adult. I was more of a dreamer, I suppose! I’ve always been open to new experiences. When I was 15, I went skiing for the first time and fell in love with that sport. I went on to spend a few years in my early 20s working as a ski guide in Canada, France, and New Zealand. Actually, I thought I might get into building, so one day I could build ski chalets. I also had a dream to build a huge indoor ski center in a bio-dome which covered an existing hill.
MGAC: Never say never! So how did you go from ski instructor to quantity surveyor?
JH: I’ve always been interested in buildings, and while passing construction sites would find myself curious about how it all works. So I saw construction as a good opportunity for me. I went to university in London, at Greenwich, and a course I took ultimately led me to my first job.
MGAC: Nice. What keeps you busy these days?
JH: Quite a lot! One of my bigger jobs is with the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland, an industry-led manufacturing and research development facility. It will be run by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and includes a digital factory space where technology and innovation happen, as well as collaborative seminar spaces and office space. It was tendered just before the COVID outbreak, and then was disrupted, but we overcame that, started on-site, and recently completed it. Now, we’re working on client fit-out. Some incredible machinery—robots and other elements—needs to be installed. We’re helping out because there are a lot of mechanical and electrical supplies involved. It will open and be fully operational by 2023.
MGAC: Is the space primarily for university student use?
JH: It’s for students, yes, but also for business and entrepreneurs who want to do research there. It’s part of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland, a huge part of Glasgow near the airport that’s being developed. It’s in its infancy and we are one of the first buildings out there.
MGAC: Exciting to work on one of the first! As you reflect on your time with MGAC | RLF, what impact do you hope to have?
JH: Within the team, I try to make life in the office environment enjoyable, open, and honest. I encourage everyone to have discussions and bounce ideas off each other, gleaning knowledge and sharing as much as possible. I’m not afraid to ask people questions, and I don’t want others to be afraid to ask me questions, either. The way I see it, there’s no point in retaining information in your own head! When it comes to our clients, I want to make their life as easy as possible. To make the construction process smooth and with few surprises. Of course, construction throws you a lot of curveballs and problems. And there are a lot of global headwinds at the moment that impact our work—global economic issues, for starters—but it’s our job to explain situations to clients and find solutions as quickly as possible.
MGAC: Speaking of challenges, when it comes to your work, can you share one you’ve faced on the job?
JH: During the two years of Covid, adjusting to working while home five days a week was a challenge. Especially when you have young kids! They would want to play throughout the workday. Finding that work-life balance is always a task, but it’s important to find it so that you don’t neglect work or your home life. There’s so much focus on productivity today, but it’s important to get that balance right.
MGAC: Very true. What have you learned in the face of these challenges or others?
JH: To keep smiling and carry on! Not to take things too personally or carry all the weight on your shoulders. Talk with people and share any issues you’re experiencing.
MGAC: How do you hope your work will impact your community at large?
JH: By building sustainable, productive places where people work and live. Ultimately, I hope my work can bring a community together as much as possible. I’m not a politician; I work in an office on construction jobs. But we work on projects that can really improve things in our community.
MGAC: What else have you found rewarding about your role?
JH: From a cost perspective, there are a number of reasons why construction projects run out of control. It’s rewarding when you get to the end and everything has worked. There are a number of actors on any given project, the design team, the contractor, the client themselves. We need to have relationships with all of them. Most important is truly getting to know the client and understanding what they want at the outset. That way, you’ll know how to accommodate change.
MGAC: What gives you energy?
JH: My kids. (Though they also take a lot of energy away!) I also enjoy getting out in nature, perhaps on the coast or camping. I grew up playing a lot of sports, so I try to keep active. It’s important to me to have a balance of activity.
MGAC: How do you wind down at the end of a workday?
JH: I cycle to work every day, so I’d say getting back on the bike to go home. It’s slightly uphill, and I weave my way through potholes and traffic. And more generally, just hanging out with my partner and my kids.
MGAC: What about your secret to starting the morning off on the right foot?
JH: Just smiling through the noise and the mayhem of the children running around as I try to get them to sit still and get their shoes on. And drinking coffee! Once all that’s settled, I come up with a plan and list of things to do for work. Scheduling out the targets I need to achieve helps me start the day on the right track.
MGAC: Is there a book that has made a significant impact on your life?
JH: The books I remember having the most impact on me are those of my childhood: adventure books, spy stories. I remember getting so lost in my imagination that I was not able to put them down. These days, my kids are getting older, and I’m starting to read some of those books again with them—Enid Blyton’s books and Harry Potter—which has been really fun. And I’m looking forward to starting the Redwall collection by Brain Jacques.
MGAC: How about a favorite quote that inspires you?
JH: There’s one I remember from when I was a kid that always stuck with me: “A wise man (or person) knows he knows nothing.”
MGAC: Good one. Now, it’s time for a few rapid-fire questions.
JH: Sounds good.
MGAC: What’s the first thing you do at work every day?
JH: I change into my work clothes from my cycling kit. I’m determined to cycle every day, even through the winter, dark months, snow, and rain.
MGAC: Impressive! The last thing you do?
JH: Tidy my desk and shut everything down. Load the dishwasher/shut the windows.
MGAC: What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your desk or work bag?
JH: I have lots of pepper sachets. I collect them when I go out.
MGAC: Interesting. You’re a big fan?
JH: I suppose so! I add a lot of pepper to most savory delights, such as my sandwiches. I’m also a big fan of English Mustard.
MGAC: Now we’re getting hungry. Speaking of, what’s your go-to weekday lunch?
JH: Always a sandwich of some sort. With fruit and maybe a crisp or sweet biscuit.
MGAC: What’s the most used app on your phone?
JH: I think there are too many apps now! We have apps for my kids at school to review their homework. The COVID passport app. Loads of game apps my kids have tried to download but haven’t loaded properly because I have too many! But, for the ones I use often, I’d say the News app, maybe Google Maps. If I’m at home and need to tune my guitar, there’s even an app for that.
MGAC: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
JH: I’d like to still be in Glasgow, and still with MGAC | RLF. Hopefully, in a calmer world. One where everyone has time again to do their work without having to spin so many plates.
MGAC: Last one! Describe your job in 5 words or less.
JH: Nearly different every day. I’d say we go through similar processes every day, but there are always surprises and curveballs that keep things interesting.