Ian Coulson


From the Royal Artillery to Principal Project Manager

Ian served for nearly 39 years in the Royal Artillery between 1977 to 2020, completing his service as Lieutenant Colonel. He originally joined as a Junior Soldier and after taking a break whilst serving in Germany in 1981 for 5 years, he re-enlisted and served a full soldier’s and officer’s career before leaving on 31 March 2020. Ian’s last rolewas Station Commander and Head of Establishment (HoE) at Thorney Island Station.

As Ian’s final role, he was accountable for the estate, facilities, security and safety management of a 700-hectare mixed-use estate, comprising residential accommodation, offices, commercial warehouses and food & beverage. His primary role was to deliver strategic leadership to staff members through co-ordination with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to Aramark (SFM) and the regional prime contract (Amey (HFM)), meeting and exceeding business requirements by devising and implementing robust business strategies, including land management.

A typical day for Ian during his last appointment consisted of regular estate project meetings with project managers and key stakeholders as well as routine meetings to discuss progress with the Hard and Soft FM contractors. Additionally, managing and monitoring his own team working in various areas such as Station Admin, H&S and Security. On top of estate business, Ian was also reporting to his own military headquarters and regional Brigade; “it was never a dull day!”

Beyond his military technical training and education, Ian gained many transferrable skills through leadership which began very early via mandated training courses for promotion and experience, Ian also realised he was able to watch and learn from self-selected mentors, whom he looked at for inspiration and guidance. Upon reaching Senior NCO, he felt the increasing responsibility allowed him to experience managing people and equipment in some very arduous and challenging conditions and circumstances. Furthermore, through managing projects such as mess functions and regimental events he could apply and improve his planning and organisation skills which he continually developed as projects became more complex with rank and seniority.

After commissioning as an Officer in 2003, Ian attended a myriad of courses including:

  • Specific officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
  • Equipment Management Training.
  • All Arms Quartermaster and many other online training courses supporting the various roles.

For civilian qualifications he gained a BTEC L7 Diploma in Strategic Management & Leadership; a City & Guilds L7 Diploma, Membership Award in Leadership and Management. During Resettlement Ian completed IOSH Managing Safely, School Business Manager training and Financial Management and Accounting training. He also achieved Certified Membership of the Institute of Workplace Facilities Management (CIWFM).

Ian believes the Army educated him and helped him to gain transferrable skills through decades of hard work and variations of roles and challenges. This has allowed him to bring a wealth of experience in leadership and project management skills; FM knowledge and experience from QM and HoE roles, along with integrity, loyalty, a tremendous work ethic and high standards in everything he does with the ultimate goal of success.

Ian gained his current role as Principal Project Manager – Mobilisation Manager for the Amey Defence RPSE, through his connection with BuildForce Ambassador Richard Castell who continued to support and mentor him through the interview process. Networking was Ian’s most powerful recruitment tool and his greatest support to ‘civvy street’.

Ian’s biggest challenge was not knowing what he wanted to do and where he would best fit. He was also frustrated initially applying for jobs and not receiving a response, but soon came to realise this was not unusual. He continually worked to improve his CV and cover letter skills leading to several interviews. Ian felt at times he pitched himself too low and recommends not to undersell yourself. Ian’s top tip:

“take time for your own resettlement and don’t do as I did and think work would not cope in yourabsence.”

Ian’s current role involves being responsible for managing the demobilisation of a large existing FM contract for Amey Defence Regional Prime South East. His typical day involves analysing the contract requirements, identifying risks and producing plans to successfully deliver this project accurately within fixed timeframes.

Within his day job, Ian utilises the following skills:

  • Basic leadership and management
  • Project management
  • Knowledge of the FM contract
  • Working relationships with the Army, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, and other key Stakeholders. Ian’s advice to someone leaving the Armed Forces and pursuing a career in construction would be: “Contact BuildForce immediately and seek advice!”.  Finally, Ian describes a career in the construction industry as “challenging, wide ranging with wider prospects.”