People come to the profession of engineering in different ways. For some it’s a ‘light bulb’ moment, a particular building that inspired them to pursue engineering as a career.
It wasn’t like that for Jamie Beeson. There was no ‘Eiffel Tower’ revelation that drew him to be a structural engineer. He is the first to admit that, as a younger man, he didn’t really know what engineering was. ‘No one in my family was an engineer or an architect,’ he explains. ‘I thought an engineer was someone who came to fix the photocopier!’ He was, however, an excellent student in the fields of mathematics and physics. ‘I was originally considering a maths degree but I had a cousin who went to Cambridge and he said it would be worth my while to take a look at engineering if I didn’t want to write out two-page proofs that one plus one equals two!’ It was sound advice.
After completing his general engineering degree at Cambridge, Jamie started to distil what it was that appealed to him most. ‘Electrical engineering wasn’t for me, but I enjoyed the structural and mechanical elements of my course. My dad and both grandfathers were very practical people – there was always a lot of DIY at home.’ After a couple of site placements whilst at university convinced him that working for a consulting engineer rather than a contractor was where he could best use his talents Jamie accepted an offer to join Price & Myers. He had found his home. ‘I loved the atmosphere at P&M. These were my people.’
Fast forward two decades and Jamie is now a Partner at the practice, leading one of the largest structural engineering teams in our London studio. For all of the technical expertise he has garnered over the course of his career, it’s the people that continue to inspire him. ‘I like meeting people and getting to know them,’ Jamie enthuses. ‘I’ve met some great people – ground workers, steel fixers, bricklayers, quantity surveyors, architects, project managers and other engineers. And some great clients – developers, funders, and people from worlds outside construction; and several notable public figures from the world of entertainment, sport and beyond.
It doesn’t take long after meeting Jamie to realise that he is a ‘people person’. He has an interest in individuals and a desire to connect with people that made his position as the Price & Myers’ social value and recruitment lead an obvious choice. That role sees him talking to a group of students about engineering one day, interviewing graduates for positions at the practice the next, and contributing to social initiatives on the projects the day after. ‘I enjoy talking to school or college kids about engineering and construction,’ he enthuses. ‘A lot of people don’t know what engineering is at that age – I didn’t! – and if I can talk to 150 young people and have two of them come away with something useful for their futures, then that is hugely rewarding for me.’
A lot of Jamie’s projects are in the education and estate regeneration sectors, and he is proactive about the broader contribution such projects need to make. ‘It forms part of the work that we bid for. Take the Aylesbury Estate Regeneration in south London –one of Europe’s largest housing estate regenerations. Whether I’m talking in local schools or to local communities, I’m trying to expand opportunities beyond just the built environment,’ Jamie notes. ‘It’s also about career opportunities for local people.’
Jamie’s love of working with people is reflected in the quality and longevity of his professional relationships. He enjoys working with like minds, people dedicated to a great result, and he has clients who have called upon his skills time and time again over the entire length of his career. ‘I was told early on, by Sam Price and others, that if you do a good job people will come back to you. I’ve found the key is to be technically sound and curious, be reliable and take deadlines seriously, and do it in a friendly way. If I work with someone who is good to work with, I want to keep working with them. I never see jobs as a one-off. I want long-term relationships.’
Jamie also speaks of the need to be flexible and to go the extra mile for his clients. ‘Price & Myers doesn’t have a contractually aggressive approach,’ he notes. ‘We like to do things properly. We won’t do a rubbish job for a low fee, just to win the job, and then pump up the costs with lots of additional fees.’ You may have guessed as much, but Jamie places a high tariff on great communication. He’s developed those so-called ‘soft skills’ that can make or break a project and a relationship. ‘I’m good at finding a way. I’ve learned the art of compromise and of finding mutually agreeable ways of arriving at a solution,’ he points out. ‘Once you have the technical skills, it’s the art of communication that makes a successful project.’
It’s not just relationships with people that Jamie enjoys. He also talks of developing relationships with buildings – of getting to know a project in a detailed and intuitive way. ‘I love being able to go to places and spaces most people don’t get to - places like Lord’s cricket ground, the old Wembley stadium, and the basements and rooftops of central London,’ he recalls. ‘I’ve crawled every square inch of a Grade II listed house renovation in Kensington Palace Gardens, I’ve understood every beam, column, joist, and floor slab in school projects, houses, and even boat club buildings. You build up a relationship with these places that makes you a better engineer.’
Jamie’s project portfolio runs the gamut of building typologies, from schools and university buildings to workplace and public projects, but residential architecture and engineering has become an increasingly important part of his work life. It’s a sector he really enjoys. ‘I’m most into the big residential stuff,’ he confirms. ‘I’ve got a lot of experience working with them, and a great network of trusted collaborators I’ve worked with on them.’ His project portfolio includes a swag of multi-residential buildings, often drawing on his long-term relationships in places like Wembley and the Greenwich Peninsula, where he has completed multiple designs at each location.
He also likes the unique challenges of the one-off, high-end residential project. ‘I like working on them. It’s interesting and challenging work and I get a kick out of doing good work on these kinds of projects.’ Does he have reservations about the often resource-intense nature of one-off houses for the high-end market? ‘We need the best people working on these types of projects, trying to influence the client and making sure we are doing them properly, doing them well, and in the most sustainable way possible.’ Jamie’s view is to make sustainability aspirational. ‘Sustainability is key, and it needs more attention. The work we are doing on embodied carbon is world-leading and it’s really piqued my technical interests. We are a fair way ahead of most of the industry. Embodied carbon is a big chunk of the carbon in construction, and construction is a big chunk of the world’s carbon output. Even before you’ve turned on a light in a new building, structural engineers can make a huge difference to its carbon intensity.’
Jamie is a keen sports fan, a slightly more reluctant runner, and a devotee of AFC Wimbledon. He appreciates the collaborative approach. ‘I’ve got a great team at Price & Myers – I believe in surrounding myself with good people. And we are constantly assessing our approach to design, to sustainability, to communication, to make sure we get the best possible result.’ When talking about his work, it’s Jamie’s focus on people that surfaces time and time again.