CEOx1Day finalist spends a day with Kier Group CEO

Jack Covey

An undergraduate from the University of Southampton has spent a day working alongside KIER Group Chief Executive, Haydn Mursell as part of Odgers Berndtson’s CEO for a Day initiative.  Jack Covey, currently studying Environmental Science was among a number of students selected to glimpse of life running a major company or organisation. After his day with Haydn, Jack provided his CEO for a Day diary.

09:30 – 10:00

I was slightly apprehensive at first about how the day would go, but Haydn put me instantly at ease - he was very welcoming.

Haydn and I met with the Communications Director, Nicola, to discuss urgent items. What struck me was his efficiency in making the decisions and his comprehension of the issues despite no prior warning. I was grateful that he took the time to explain acronyms they were using so I could keep up with the conversation.

10:00 – 11:45

We then visited KIER’s new premises on Foley Street. It was a new and exciting experience for me visiting a construction site. Having walked past many sites but never having been on one, this was a real insight into the meticulous level of detail required, ranging from where the temporary office is going to be located (in this case, 20ft in the air on a scaffolding) to the aesthetics of the hoarding used on the outside of the site.

From a leadership point of view, it struck me how Haydn took the time to introduce himself and get the names of each of the KIER employees on site and had an instant rapport with them. His passion for the building and for construction, in general, was clear; it was a reminder that is incredibly important to work in an area that enthuses you.

12:00 – 13:00

I then had a one-to-one meeting with Iain Casson, one of KIER’s environmental managers. He explained to me his day-to-day role within KIER. It was encouraging that from my university studies I was familiar with many (not all) of the processes that Iain referred to the implementation of ISO14001; assessing environmental aspects and impacts; waste management; pollution prevention and control; and providing basic training to suppliers on environmental principles.

The way in which Iain’s role encompasses management and project delivery in tandem with environmental consideration is something that appeals to me. I would like to blend corporate management and sustainability in my career, so this discussion was perfect for that aim.

As did many KIER employees, Iain took a genuine interest in my area of study as well as my plans post-graduation. He gave me some useful tips regarding employability, most notably the value of having blue-chip companies on your CV in order to stand out from the crowd.

13:00 – 14:30

Over lunch with Haydn, it was interesting to chat to him on a personal level, to understand the career path he has taken and what he sees as the ups and downs of his various roles to date. It was interesting to hear him talk about the same aspects that had stood out to me as being potential drawbacks of being a CEO.

We then discussed more the structure of KIER and how the Group works. He drew a schematic of the company for me, showing graphical representations of how the cash flow reflects his decision making. It was a great insight into how different elements of a massive organisation such as KIER influence each other and what implications that has for Haydn.

It also gave me an insight into the length of his working day, and his mind-blowing, busy schedule. Despite this, it struck me that he seemed to truly enjoy his work and also the people he worked with. In turn, it was also apparent that the individuals working with him enjoyed his input with frequent laughter and smiles in most discussions I witnessed.


15:00 – 17:30

I then sat in the board room to witness a review of a major new project that KIER Group is involved with. It was great to see the team of experts and the project manager give a presentation and also to see the degree of critical analysis that the senior members of the Group provided, even at such an early stage. The way in which everyone worked so efficiently together to ensure that everyone’s opinion was heard was very impressive, having myself struggled with group situations where much less was at stake.


What I learned from the day:

The day with KIER was a fantastic insight into high-level, corporate working. The efficiency and enthusiasm with which everyone went about their work was obvious to see. For me, this reiterated how essential it is to pursue an industry/sector that you are passionate about; as Haydn said, ‘Money will be fun for a while but it’s no coincidence that if you enjoy what you’re doing you have a high chance of being successful’.

Whilst the construction sector is unlikely to be my ultimate career destination, the day of shadowing Haydn has fuelled my desire to help make big decisions and work with highly-skilled teams to make a positive contribution to sustainable businesses.