Michael Dryden


From the Royal Engineers to Project Manager

Michael served in the Royal Engineers for 15 years from 2005 – 2020, finishing his service as Staff Sergeant. Michael’s last role was Clerk of Works, which involved quality assurance on construction projects, design and project management.

In Michael’s final two years of service, he was deployed twice to South Sudan, to help with a number of projects at various stages, such as a water pipeline, 25m range, runway, HLS and a hospital design and construction.

Whilst serving, Michael achieved his APM Membership and Chartered Manager status with CMI. He felt this opened more doors for interviews as it made his CV more attractive. However, it was Michael’s soft skills that really made a difference, drawing down on his military experience in interviews; in one instance he presented an aerial photograph of the UN camp in Malakal and delivered what was basically a brief on the projects he had worked on which impressed his interviewer.

Michael also emphasises the importance of confidence and being proactive:

“The confidence instilled in armed forces personnel is second to none and the ability to make decisions goes a long way. I am chasing up members of the project team daily and it is this proactive approach that service leavers have, that makes them ideal for the construction industry.”

Michael’s current role as Project Manager for Lysander was acquired through one of his many online applications. BuildForce were a great support during his transition, by securing him civilian attachments which supported his decision about whether to be a site or client based Project Manager.

His biggest challenge however, was Covid, resulting in two of his offers being retracted and resettlement courses and civilian attachments cancelled. In Michael’s opinion, ultimately the transition process is what you make of it. He also found BuildForce to be a huge support with their many contacts and their excellent Armed Forces insight days. Their commitment and dedication was paramount, and he recommends using them as part of resettlement.

Michael’s current role manages projects from start to finish on behalf of a client where he is involved at every stage and also chairs meetings for the entire project team from architects and planning consultants, to contractors. He has great flexibility in his role and can work from the office, on site, or even from home. The knowledge and experience Michael has gained from being a Clerk of Works has eased his transition to civvy street, as well as his drive and people management skills, which are all transferrable from his military career.

When asked what advice he would give to someone leaving the armed forces and seeking a new career in construction, he replied:

“There are great opportunities at all levels for service leavers. The construction Industry is flooded with ex-military and it is that way for a reason. My advice would be to understand where you want to fit in, if you are unsure, arrange some work attachments. Talk to people in the roles you want to be in. Understand what qualifications you need and go and get them. There are a number of transition programmes for military personnel wanting to get into construction so look into these. Oh and get a CSCS card!”

Finally, Michael’s three words to describe a career in construction: “Enjoyable. Challenging. Rewarding.”