The Impact Blog is a spotlight series that highlights and celebrates the diverse employees that make MGAC 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 Rob Kay, Director in our Birmingham office.
MGAC: Hi Rob, and welcome to the Impact Blog! Tell us a bit about your role.
Rob Kay (RK): I’m a Director working with the project management team here in Birmingham. I joined MGAC in May 2022, and we’ve been quite busy since then. I definitely hit the ground running, so it’s been an exciting time in the office.
MGAC: Wonderful! What led you to MGAC last year?
RK: I was a director at another similar-sized practice to our Birmingham office, but what attracted me to MGAC was their ambition for project managers. They really want to grow this role in the UK, and framed a real opportunity around the position. So far, they’ve made good on those promises, and more.
MGAC: Sounds like an exciting time to come on board!
RK: Yes! I’ve been fortunate in my career, particularly over the last decade, to work on some really exciting projects and local landmarks. I have the opportunity to do more of that at MGAC, so I’m eager to bring some real experience and knowledge of how those projects work.
MGAC: Let’s go back in time a bit. What did you want to be when you grew up?
RK: I was a rugby league player when I was a teenager, and really enjoyed that, but nothing was going to happen for me professionally! My father was a Quantity Surveyor (QS), so I was immersed in that environment my whole life. I saw that everyone worked really hard, had a lot of fun, and took a lot of pride in their job. So it was a natural progression that I would do something in construction.
MGAC: Sounds like a great early impression. How do you think your younger self would feel about where you are now?
RK: I think he’d be quite excited. I really enjoy my role, and I’ve met some fantastic people. In our industry, you meet everyone from successful CEOs to talented tradespeople. It’s varied and challenging, which keeps it fun.
MGAC: Absolutely. What projects are keeping you busy these days?
RK: A lot of new construction. Away from helping manage the team and the great projects they are delivering, there’s One Eastside, which just started on-site. It will be a major landmark in Birmingham—at 50 stories, it will be the tallest residential building in the UK outside of London. I am also acting as owner’s representative on a scheme in Birmingham and working through the design for a student residences project, which I’m keen to get delivered.
MGAC: Are you from the Birmingham area?
RK: I’m from a town called Bolton, near Manchester in the northwest of England. I went to school in Blackburn, then to university in Preston. After university, I wanted to do something different, so I moved down to Birmingham and have been here ever since.
MGAC: Who’s your football club?
RK: Birmingham City, for my absolute sins! They’re not having a great time at the moment. But I also follow Wigan Rugby League, who do have some success!
MGAC: Ok, changing the subject! What have you enjoyed about your time at MGAC so far?
RK: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by MGAC’s approach to its staff. The company is very flexible, really wants employees to feel appreciated, and the support we get from finance, HR, marketing/etc. here is so impressive.
MGAC: That’s awesome to hear!
RK: Yeah, I’ve had that previously, but this is on another level. The consideration shown to the staff is ingrained in the company. I’ve also been amazed by how close the U.S. and UK offices are, never mind the collaboration between the local offices. You’d never know the Atlantic is in the middle. It’s a very connected company. We all talk and engage a lot.
MGAC: What impact do you hope to have here?
RK: For my team in Birmingham, I want to give them the excitement and enjoyment I’ve found over the last ten years, and really let them flourish.
MGAC: What about your community at large?
RK: In terms of general impact, in construction, we’re in a unique position, working on buildings that people live in, learn in, work in. I want to build great buildings that people enjoy, but also respond well to the climate crisis, we can be at the forefront of some of these important issues. We’re always trying to get our clients excited about moving toward Net Zero. It’s a conversation we have every single day—is this building doing enough? Are we doing enough? How can we do better? In several years’ time, I want to feel really proud of the things we’ve created.
MGAC: What a vital perspective to bring to your work. Likewise, what at MGAC has made the greatest impact on you?
RK: The culture and the connectedness, really. It feels like we all have a shared ambition in terms of where we want to get to. Everyone is very hardworking, but we’re all enjoying it. We’re in that sweet spot—very entrepreneurial and flexible enough to make decisions quickly, while also having the support of this bigger organisation behind us.
MGAC: What challenges have you been faced with so far?
RK: Recruitment. It’s a challenge facing our industry in general. I’m quite steadfast in that I won’t just hire someone to fill a seat; they have to be the right fit—someone the clients will respond to, who will fit in well with the PM team and the larger MGAC organisation, who will work hard but really enjoy it, too.
MGAC: That makes sense—the right people can truly make all the difference. On the other hand, what have you found most rewarding about your job?
RK: In this line of work, projects can sometimes take seven, eight years to be completed. Watching the evolution from a client’s idea to a few sketches to eventually a new building, full of people enjoying the space we worked on… it’s an incredible feeling.
MGAC: What a cool thing to be a part of.
RK: It really is. It all starts with a client saying, “I want to do this. What do you think?” and leads to a tangible object you can say you were a part of. Literally, thousands of people are part of this process, from designers to suppliers to sub-contractors. They all come together to make this happen. It’s pretty amazing.
MGAC: What gives you energy?
RK: The enjoyment of it all, but my children and family, too. I love the work, but I also have a family that I’m doing it for, so it’s a nice mix.
MGAC: How old are your kids?
RK: 18, 14 and 4. My eldest has just started university whilst my youngest has just started primary school. Quite the range, 4 to 18—weekends are full!
MGAC: I imagine! What’s your secret to winding down at the end of a long day?
RK: Probably playing a game with the children. I also quite like to cook, so after helping put my youngest to bed, we will often make a meal, chat and maybe have the odd glass of wine. We don’t watch much TV, but we might have some music or sport on in the background.
MGAC: How do your mornings typically start?
RK: Making coffee and spending time with the family. Getting them up and ready for school before I start the day.
MGAC: Are there any books that have made an impact on your life?
RK: I’ve read quite a few sporting autobiographies. They feed into what I enjoy about my job, in terms of team dynamics and motivation.
MGAC: That makes sense! What are some of your favourites?
RK: Definitely Blaze of Glory by Martin Offiah. As a rugby league player, he was my hero growing up, so it was quite interesting to get a window into his mentality. There’s also a coach called John Monie who revolutionised coaching in Rugby League. His book The Ice Man was quite interesting as well.
MGAC: How about a quote that inspires you?
RK: Two come to mind. The first is Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena,” which essentially says: “The critics don’t matter. They’re often the ones on the sidelines, having a go at people. If you give it a go and you fail, at least you’ve had a go.” It applies to so many different aspects of life. Whenever people are being critical of others, I just think, “Whoa whoa, at least he’s having a go! If he’s made a mistake, so what?” The other is, “If you’re speaking, you’re saying something you already know. If you listen, you might learn something new.” It’s basically a reminder to take it all in. Don’t just speak for the sake of speaking.
MGAC: Two great choices, and very applicable. When you think about your lasting impact, what do you want it to be?
RK: In terms of my family, I want to give the children the opportunity to be successful in whatever they choose to do. That’s the best impact I can have on them. And for them to feel loved and cared for, of course. Professionally, I want to build a team where people can grow, find support, and become the best versions of themselves. I want to provide them with the kind of opportunities I had, to work on some great projects.
MGAC: Does it seem that any of your kids might follow in your footsteps?
RK: Not at the moment! Joe, my oldest, is studying Aerospace Engineering—he’s quite a good mathematician, and great at physics. He’s far cleverer than I ever was, so I suspect he’ll go on to do some fantastic things. Lottie is athletic and a great dancer, again far better than me! And Penny is just starting out.
MGAC: Time for a few rapid-fire questions. What’s the first thing you do at work every day?
RK: Coffee and emails. Planning for the day ahead.
MGAC: What’s the last thing?
RK: Check the trains. We’ve got terrible train service at the moment, so I’m checking to see if they’re on time, or running at all!
MGAC: What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your desk or work bag?
RK: Probably a drawing from Penny, my youngest. They tend to find their way into my bag. I’m fairly tidy otherwise, though.
MGAC: What’s your go-to weekday lunch?
RK: Just a baguette sandwich from a local shop.
MGAC: What’s the most used app on your phone?
RK: Twitter, probably. I get a lot of sporting info there, as well as general and industry news. After that, music apps.
MGAC: Describe your job in five words or less.
RK: Challenging. Exciting. Fun. Varied. Rewarding.
MGAC: What’s your biggest work goal for 2023?
RK: I want to make sure that by the end of 2023, a few big projects are delivered successfully, or are where they need to be to proceed. As a wider goal, there are a few clients I’d love to work with locally—getting to work with them and their design teams would be fantastic. Part of my role is identifying these people, and trying to make those partnerships happen.
MGAC: Where do you see yourself in five years?
RK: Keeping with the theme, I hope to have a strong team that’s doing really well, working on exciting projects in Birmingham and beyond. I’m still new here and have lots to prove, but that’s definitely my long-term goal.
MGAC: Finally, what’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
RK: I try to keep it quiet that I qualified as a QS! There’s a friendly tension between QSs and PMs. I started working as a QS, but was very quickly taken over to project management, I saw the light quickly.
MGAC: Any parting thoughts?
RK: I’m really thankful for the opportunity at MGAC. There’s so much support, and I can see some great things for the future as the company grows. It’s exciting—life’s pretty good at the moment.