Meet edie's 30 Under 30 Class of 2019: Tom King, Sir Robert McAlpine
This series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of 30 hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Next up: Tom King, sustainability manager at Sir Robert McAlpine.
The future of business leadership starts right here. Earlier this year, edie unveiled the inaugural members of its brand new 30 Under 30 initiative – a group of bright and ambitious rising sustainability and energy stars from across the UK.
After being nominated by their colleagues and impressing judges from Global Action Plan and the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS), this cohort of youthful visionaries now benefit from an unrivalled opportunity to connect with one another and co-develop solutions to some of the most pressing environmental and social challenges of our time.
In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.
This week, it's the turn of Tom King, sustainability manager at British construction and engineering giant Sir Robert McAlpine.
How I got to where I am now:
“Geography was always my favourite subject at school, so I decided to study it for my undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh. Whilst I was there, I gained a particular interest in the built environment and the ways it could be engineered to deliver positive societal and environmental outcomes.
“At the end of my degree, I did a summer placement at Bouygues, which was eye-opening and, in hindsight, has really shaped my career. After the placement, I went back to Edinburgh to complete a masters in carbon management, as I knew this was the particular area I wanted to specialise in. I then re-joined Bouygues as part of its graduate intake the following year.
“During the next five years at Bouygues, I progressed to become the company’s sustainability lead for all major projects and worked on some really exciting and challenging projects, such as Battersea Power Station and Manhattan Loft Gardens, trying to embed sustainability in all processes.
“I moved to Sir Robert McAlpine last year for a fresh perspective and to continue my development in a slightly different role. I now focus on 21 Moorfields – an office development in central London – for our client Landsec, who are ambitious on sustainability themselves.”
My biggest career achievement to date has been:
“Playing my role in some key projects which will have lasting benefits, including UCLH’s new Proton Beam Therapy Centre and the University of Cambridge’s Ray Dolby Centre – its state-of-the-art physics laboratory.
“It was great to lead sustainability in these projects so early in my career.”
The biggest challenge I have encountered along the way is:
“Generally, there is a compliance culture in sustainable construction, which I feel can be de-motivating for people in the industry. It can be disconnecting, and it can be challenging to engage teams in sustainability when the priority is often led by finding ways to comply, rather than chasing what truly seems valuable.
“A key aspect in overcoming this is partnering with people who share our values and have a long-term vision of projects. Learning from each other’s collective experience – as we are at 21 Moorfields – is a great help.”
If I had to describe my generation in one word or phrase, I would say:
“Sceptical of the status quo.”
A successful 2019-20 for me looks like:
“Helping deliver the sustainability aspirations for 21 Moorfields, including gaining BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ certification, as well as accreditations under LEED, WELL and the FSC.
“The project is running until early 2022 and, over the next year or so, my main priority will be managing the impacts of the structural steel frame of the building. It will contain twice as much steel as the Eiffel Tower, so I’ll be working to ensure its traceability, its responsible sourcing and to reduce the embodied carbon associated with the structure – which will require working in depth with our supply chain.
“Aside from this project, Sir Robert McAlpine is also launching our new sustainability strategy next year, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to. On a personal level, I’d also like to finish my application for full membership of IEMA."
In five years’ time, I would like to be:
“Proud of the work I’ve delivered and continuing to play my part in the ongoing sustainability revolution.
“I hope I’m still enjoying my work and learning as much as possible.”
Outside of my career, I enjoy:
“Like a lot of other 30 Under 30 members, I do a lot of running. I also enjoy hiking and climbing.
“I love being outdoors in general and I’ve got a bit of a bucket list for these activities going on; this year I ran the Edinburgh Marathon for a spinal charity, and I also hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc. I have some exciting plans for next year's list, including my first ultra-marathon."
My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business is:
“Don’t be afraid to be ambitious and, equally importantly, don’t go it alone.
“It’s important to bring all your stakeholders with you on your journey, because this will make the process much easier and you’ll all be able to learn from each other and share innovation.”
My key piece of advice for any young professionals entering my industry today is:
“Be curious – keep asking questions and say ‘yes’ to opportunities.
“When entering any industry it can be intimidating, and you will feel fairly clueless to begin with, but be resilient and try to embrace the experience.”
The full Class of 2019 series can be viewed here.
To stay in the loop for 2020 nominations for the 30 Under 30, email firstname.lastname@example.org.