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United Kingdom / Group support services / Group digital director

Darren Russell

Exploring South America

"Even before I started, Mott MacDonald’s culture stood out over the other companies I was speaking to."

What attracted you to apply for a role with us?

I joined Mott MacDonald in 1992 after completing a PhD in Geotechnical Engineering. The main reasons I was attracted to the Group were the projects and the people. My very first site visit was to see the last stages of construction at the Channel Tunnel – so I wasn’t disappointed!

How did you find the recruitment process?

Even before I started, Mott MacDonald’s culture stood out over the other companies I was speaking to. The employee ownership model creates a great environment where everyone is pulling in the same direction and aiming to deliver excellent outcomes to our clients and their customers. I met with several of the senior team in the geotechnics department and was immediately sold on the job by their passion and professionalism. I wasn’t disappointed when I joined as I got to work on a real-world example of my PhD work, which was exciting and scary at the same time. There’s a big difference between doing a numerical analysis of a structure and seeing the real thing being built!

What makes you look forward to coming into work each day?

My role has continually changed throughout my career at Mott MacDonald. The thing that makes it particularly fulfilling to work here is that there are always challenges available to overcome, whether they are presented to you or you go out and find them. This means that I found lots of opportunities to be creative and innovative with my career and I certainly haven’t followed a traditional route.

What’s your team like?

I work with several teams across the company, and they all strive to provide excellent solutions by working together. Of course, this applies to senior management, the team that has delivered our digital transformation, and the new business areas we are developing. The new businesses are filled with people with innovative ideas who are prepared to think differently to get the job done.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the opportunity to think differently and know that good ideas will always be embraced by the organisation and the team. This attitude is infectious and can be pushed through the businesses I’m building. We’re open, collaborative and outcome-focused.

How has your career progressed since joining?

After studying for 10 years at university, I spent another 10 years as a geotechnical engineer before transitioning to various roles in the IT group, where I worked for 12 years, eventually becoming the Group IT director. More recently I have taken up the role of chief digital officer, helping our people become even more digital. I’m now moving to my new role as the Mott MacDonald digital ventures regional general manager, setting up businesses and working with partners to deliver new digital services. This is a new thing for Mott MacDonald and just one example of how the senior leadership supports new thinking.

What’s been your best learning and development moment?

I’ve learned a huge number of things at Mott MacDonald, but my favourite has always been employing and working with people who are better than me. This presents a great opportunity to learn, develop, and to be continuously challenged.

What impact has working here had on your life outside of work?

My various roles have allowed me to travel the world, right from starting as an engineer all the way through my IT roles and now as a regional general manager. Travelling opens your eyes to new people, cultures and experiences and it’s a privilege to have been able to visit so many interesting places.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

I recently found a new favourite place in the world on holiday with my family. After several years of lobbying I managed to get everyone to walk part of the Inca trail ending at Machu Picchu. An amazing walk and a fantastic finish, which was made infinitely better by doing it with my wife and two sons.

How has Mott MacDonald’s digital technology aided you in your day-to-day role?

I love technology, both in my work and in my personal life, and I’m lucky that my role allows me to use the very latest technology; Mott MacDonald is always at the leading edge. This ensures that my role is always interesting and sometimes surprising!

What excites you most about the digital technologies being developed within the company?

We are definitely pushing the boundaries of technology and we always have the customer in mind. What I find most exciting is working out how the latest technology can deliver those crucial step changes in outcomes. I believe we are on the brink of dramatic changes, and as a leader in a company as forward-thinking as Mott MacDonald, I believe we can improve the lives of people across the world if we embrace the disruption to come.

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