From The Royal Engineers to Associate Director


Daniel Hopwood served in the Royal Engineers for 16-years, leaving the Regulars in 2021 as a Major, before re-joining as a Reservist. Daniel advised “my career highlights are varied, too many to mention. It was a privilege and an honour to command both a troop and squadron, going on operations as a young Search Advisor and leading the team looking for IEDs in Afghanistan to an Air Infrastructure Exercise in the US. Working with the UN in South Sudan was certainly a unique experience as well as serving alongside the Gurkhas on Op HERRICK at the height of the building phase. Delivering a Corps Games Event in Kinloss for the first time was incredible. Playing cricket in Australia for the Corps, skiing in France, winning football cups all etched into the memory. I must admit I was always proud to see colleagues and those under command to get deserved promotions and watch them develop their skills and thrive over the years.”

Daniel’s current role is Associate Director, Consult, working at Mace. “BuildForce connected me with those working in the consultancy business to see what the role entailed. I had two interviews each with two different companies and chose Mace. I started as a Senior Project Manager and got promoted after stepping up into leading a sub-programme after my manager departed. I got promoted after 2 years with Mace. Earlier this year, I was awarded New Service Leaver of the Year in the British Ex Forces in Business Awards, which I felt humbled and honoured to receive.

Reflecting back, having a plan and working out what I’d miss from service life and how future work career would fit into that new plan and vision. Mentoring, coaching and teaching void was filled by Reservist Service at the Officer Training Corps. Sport and feeling part of a ‘Mess’ was filled by joining my local cricket club. Deciding where to live was the biggest challenge having lived in service accommodation until the end. It’s a simple choice to start with; move to a job and then find a house or move to a house and then find a job – I chose the latter and settled in Manchester. Speaking to those in my network and both Buildforce & LinkedIn to grow that network and reach out to gain as much information as possible. Having a Mace Military Network to reach into from Day 1 was invaluable and continues to provide support, familiar faces and those with similar experiences that can help unlock issues and provide an excellent sounding board – networks provide confidence. Making a CV from scratch is hard. I used my trusted colleagues working in the construction industry to help, before I started getting conflicting views from my support. At that point I took the plunge and decided that the final version was good enough.

I had a smooth experience. The advice I got about spending my resettlement credits can be tricky as booking those courses can sometimes come before you’re ready to commit to a certain new career path. Be prepared to wait for the right role. Although the gap was minimal between last paid day and new role starting plan to give yourself time, so you don’t feel rushed to accept a role you aren’t entirely happy with. Companies take time to onboard, interview and secure roles so having patience to wait for the right company is key.

My day starts at 09:00 after a short commute into our new offices in Manchester. I would typically field a few calls from the people that manage my sites for updates or escalation, before either a programme, commercial or design touchpoint with the Client. Today I have a session on Value Engineering, but this knowledge gain session is typical in a week, where the business will offer an insight into a topic and experience shared. Some days are spent on site, visiting with the Client or checking on a milestone with my site Project Managers who deal with the day to day. Last week was a commute to London to meet with the Client’s Director for a monthly update. We have recently expanded the programme I work on, so will likely field some calls on how we structure and deliver the new scope. Flexible working is the ‘norm’ so will probably spend Monday and Friday working from home which is a good balance. All done for 17:30.”

Military skills Daniel utilises in his day job “communications – verbal, written, body language – these are skills service leavers are immediately on the front foot in ‘civvy street’. The power of an IRTB or speaking to subject matter experts to glean the information you need to form the plan is second nature.  Also, Stakeholder Engagement – service leavers are adept at reading the situation, being able to ‘read the room’ and deliver the message in the style that is required at the time. Companies are looking for those that can deliver the project, but that is so much easier when everyone knows the goal (mission), how it will be conducted and how it is driven forward. Problem Solving – this is more about ‘can do’ attitude and not wanting to let people down from the inherent responsibility service leavers have to do a good job. Not being afraid to ask questions, seeing how a lot of factors can play into the problem and being methodical in how those factors are resolved are skills Service leavers have in abundance. Bigger Picture – service Leavers tend to see the bigger picture more clearly than others. In this context it’s about what needs to be done now and what can be done later, making changes early to have benefit later on. This plays into risk management and putting in place mitigations to stop the risk becoming an issue. Leadership – don’t expect just because people haven’t been in the Service they somehow don’t know how to lead. Service leavers will bring experience for sure, but the biggest asset is being able to change your style to suit the situation and allow your own style to be patiently built as you gain an understanding of how the construction industry works. Your impact will show, just be patient.

The advice I would give to those leaving, register with BuildForce. Working out what a consultant does and reviewing my CV after I was happy with it. They organised a few chats with people outside consultancy to see what they did. They knew people at Mace so were able to enhance my application with a recommendation.  Also be patient. Service Leavers will say that the first job will not be the one that you do forever. I think that is a good mentality to take pressure of finding the ‘perfect’ role straight out of Service. I would add that finding out as much about the company’s culture, behaviours and reputation is just as crucial. Service life easily determines your ‘why’ you get out of bed in the morning and reason you ‘serve’, so finding a business that shares your values is golden. It helps provide your new ‘why’ and purpose now that the element of ‘serving’ has diminished. Most of the ‘day to day’ will be similar wherever you end up, so being around the right people in the right company that values you, becomes paramount.

Construction allows you to be part of a legacy and something you can be proud of. Being part of an innovative industry that creates something from nothing is a powerful concept. Everything from high end architecture on iconic buildings, to new construction techniques to mass schemes improving the communities we live in – it caters for everything, and new people are required to take the industry through the next step.”