Project Sponsors are the ‘guiding mind’ of large development and construction projects, managing the relationship with the client. The client is usually the government (Transport Scotland or the Department for Transport in England) but often you might complete work for third party funders, an example would be a local Council. It’s a cliché phrase but no two days are the same, as a Sponsor you deal with a range of activities; stakeholder management, risk mitigation, budget control and act as main point of interface for your projects. Stakeholder management consumes a lot of time and this could be delivering a presentation to Transport Scotland, attending public drop-in meetings and handling difficult issues like noise complaints or taking a politician on a site visit. Being able to communicate, persuade and retain information is key!
I am ultimately employed to ensure the successful delivery of your projects, both in terms of time and overall cost. One thing I am always conscious of is that Network Rail re-invests taxpayers’ money to improve the railway, it’s essential that all costs are reasonable and spend is efficient. Everyday you ensure designs or construction meets passenger demands and will ultimately make their experience better. Relationship building is key and working well with other organisations makes the day-to-day easier. By collaborating with local authorities and third parties you can often secure additional investment to further improve the passenger experience.
After graduating, I initially joined the Network Rail legal team in Milton Keynes. I used my law degree to help the company transition from the private sector to becoming a public sector organisation. One of the significant legal challenges was being covered under the Freedom of Information Act. I was the case handler for one of the very first FOIs received, which related to income generated from charging to use station toilets. Network Rail scrapped toilet charges in 2019!
In 2016, I moved back to Scotland and moved into the project management world, gaining promotion in 2017 to my current position, Project Sponsor.
In a corporate environment it is easy to become disheartened. You will face a range of challenges and difficulties; these can often cloud your vision. For me the toughest experience has been representing my company at public meetings and being subject to anger and abuse. Unfortunately, you often don’t get the same time to savour ‘the wins’. Some of my successes include delivering multi-million-pound projects, building strong relationships with stakeholders and by delivering better rail infrastructure, making a real difference to passengers and communities.
I would like to work abroad, either in North America or enjoying the Australian sun.
I enjoyed the personalised nature of the courses and being on good terms will all my lecturers – I’m not sure how many law courses would offer the same!Kevin Rooney | Network Rail | Project Sponsor
I originally studied Pharmacy for a year in Aberdeen but realised it wasn’t for me. I liked the look of the law course and joined in the summer of 2010 through Clearing.
My law degree stood me in good stead for joining a corporate legal team. As well as completing legal work, part of role involved making the organisation more transparent and open to the public, in my interview I was able to talk about what I had learned during a business ethics module.
There always seemed to be a relaxed and friendly atmosphere around the campus. I enjoyed the personalised nature of the courses and being on good terms will all my lecturers – I’m not sure how many law courses would offer the same!
Tough! Energy drinks were part of staple diet until I realised I had to start going to bed at a reasonable time. I missed the flexibility of student life but you do adapt to the routine of working in an office.
Sponsorship is a niche area that draws upon project management, commercial and stakeholder skills. Sponsors are employed by government organisations that undertake significant construction work, they include; Highways England, Transport for London, Transport Scotland and the Department for Transport. Network Rail is a massive organisation in the UK with over 36,000 employees. It’s not often a place non-engineering graduates would automatically think of. You would be surprised though, there are large HR, Commercial, Project Management and Legal functions. Network Rail has comprehensive graduate schemes for non-engineers and apprenticeships, definitely worth checking them out.