Sam Foster

Sam Foster

What have you been doing since finishing your studies?

Following completion of my MSc in engineering project management, I’ve been working as a project manager for Mott MacDonald in their Leeds office. Mott MacDonald are a multinational engineering and management consultancy, which employ around 17,000 people across the globe. The role involves managing a number of public-sector projects, delivering major infrastructure investment for some challenging Clients. The projects range in capital value between £1m and £25m. As well as delivering my own projects, I also mentor more junior project managers to assist in the delivery of their schemes.

My job is very client and end-user facing, and you’re expected to consistently communicate with both the project director and the client-based project sponsor to drive the project forwards. As well as managing the technical delivery associated with the project, you also have to manage the project financially. This involves a lot of budgeting and assessment as the project progresses, alongside managing and mitigating risk.

I spend a lot of time between the office and the different sites where my projects are being constructed, so it’s a really varied job.

What experiences at Leeds do you think have particularly helped with your career/will help with your future career?

The courses at Leeds can be really demanding. There is a lot that’s expected of you, and there’s a lot that I’ve taken away from this. The quality of the work that is expected from you is also high – this helps to have pride in your work. This is something that I maintain, and often find myself challenging others to keep the same high standards!

Looking back, why did you choose to study your particular course and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I was working as an electrical engineer after completing my Bachelor’s degree at Leeds University and was weighing up what kind of Master’s course to take. I didn’t want to complete another technically-specific course, because I knew that it would be unlikely that I ever used its content in my day-to-day job. When I looked into the Engineering Project Management course at Leeds, it sounded a lot like the kinds of activities that I already do. This was really attractive to me, because I wanted to understand how a project should be delivered, rather than just picking up lots of bad habits as I progressed in my career.

Leeds is a great city to work and study. It feels like a young city, and there’s an active student community. The University is highly regarded and being a Russell Group institution goes a long way. After completing my Bachelor’s course, I had no problem getting a job and so for me it was a ‘no brainer’ to come back here.

What was the best aspect of the course/the University and why? Any highlights?

The Engineering Project Management course is set out so that each module focuses on a different element of project management. The course also has industry professionals giving lectures about some their most challenging projects, which helps put the theory into perspective. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t use what I’ve learned on the course. I’ve also been able to take things away and introduce it into the workplace. My degree has given me a step up into project management and helped me better understand the different aspects of delivering successful projects.

What would you say to students thinking about studying the same course at Leeds/thinking about the same career?

Project management is a brilliant career. Instead of waiting for the others, you are one pushing the project. You’re not a passenger in this job - you are in the driving seat. It’s a lot of responsibility and the Engineering Project Management course helps you get off to a good start. There’s a lot of autonomy in the job and every day is different. The course accounts for this really well, and helps prepare you for what is expected in the industry. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did it.