From the Royal Engineers to Senior Project Manager


George Searle served in the Royal Engineers from 2016 to 2023, leaving with the rank of Captain. George advised “my most recent role was Programme Manager, for the Gurkha Welfare Trust, Nepal, leading a team of 25 Nepali project managers and engineers in delivery of schools (200 projects annually), earthquake resistant homes (75 annually) and facilities management and upgrade (23 sites) across Nepal for The Gurkha Welfare Trust.

Some of the most notable skills I achieved while serving include:-

  • Senior Stakeholder management – briefing and reporting to senior military leaders and Gurkha Welfare Trustees (lawyers, doctors, professionals).
  • Communication – distilling complexity and identifying the key decision / constraint / critical path to focus the team and leverage senior decision makers.
  • Leadership – confidence to drive momentum, own responsibility, and champion organisational values.
  • Line Management – career management, appraisals, grading, and employee welfare.
  • Project management – qualifications (APM) put into practice during construction tours to The Falklands, South Sudan, and Nepal.

I now work as a Senior Project Manager for Mace.  BuildForce were instrumental in helping me find my role, but I was fortunate enough to be offered several jobs. Engaging with BuildForce and The Officers’ Association/Forces Employment Charity really helped in my transition. One of the things I found the most challenging was visibility of the application process.

My current role involves leading a team of eight project managers and architects, on behalf of our client, the Ministry of Justice, in tender and design development of four prison expansions to meet a critical shortage. Construction is due from spring 2024. My typical day involves reporting to senior stakeholders, managing team output, line management duties (4 direct reports), planning project works, engaging construction contractors. I am approximately 60:40 in the office and WFH.

One of the things I would like to have seen more of during the transition process are the Insight Days  like the one I attended through BuildForce.  This included ex-military Mace and Turner & Townsend senior leaders. This was immensely useful and engaging.  Speak to BuildForce – they are phenomenally helpful, supportive, and experienced. Be ready to translate your military experience into language that can be understood by all. Understand your audience (hiring managers and recruiters) and their drivers before you interview. Keep building your network – always follow up on LinkedIn at a minimum. Attend the office/site as much as possible, at least when you first land in a role. This is akin to your previous experience – you will learn much more quickly and be better supported.

Finally, three words I would use to describe a career in the construction industry: collaboration, challenge and progression.”