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Mott MacDonald’s first archaeologist Josh Williams

Josh Williams, heritage team leader in Mott MacDonald’s environment team, reflects on his career and development of a specialist service for the consultancy firm.

What I hadn’t envisaged was the sheer scale of the company and the large and diverse range of projects which people were working on.

I first encountered Mott MacDonald in 2000 when working as a digger on an archaeological excavation of a Roman settlement encountered along the line of the A6 Great Glen Bypass in Leicestershire. Mott MacDonald were the scheme’s designers but I didn’t really understand what they did.

Ten years later I was a lot more clued up on the engineering and consultancy world and knew of Mott MacDonald’s reputation as one of the UK’s foremost companies in the sector, so when the opportunity came up to join the company as its first archaeologist I jumped at the chance. Although the company had numerous environmentalists, ecologists and landscape architects, it had never branched into archaeology or heritage, largely because there was uncertainty over whether there would be enough work.

What I hadn’t envisaged was the sheer scale of the company and the large and diverse range of projects which people were working on. My first projects included an offshore gas storage scheme, a historic town waterfront regeneration in North Wales, the London cable car and a water pipeline in Iraq. Saying that though, it took a while to get known around the company and to expand a portfolio of work. I lost count of the number of times I heard “I didn’t know Mott MacDonald did archaeology.” Still, people were largely interested and willing to put me forward for their projects.

I got to travel across the country talking to engineers, project managers, planners and other environmentalists. Within a year I had enough work to employ another archaeologist to help me out, and the team has grown year on year since then. We have expanded our heritage offer, able to cover historic buildings, historic landscapes and conservation of heritage. Over the last seven years I have been the Highways Agency cultural heritage advisor, heritage lead for two sections of HS2 and become the practice leader for Heritage and Archaeology at Mott MacDonald.

I am writing this sitting on a train to Edinburgh, travelling to meet the latest member of my fifteen-strong team. I’m not the kind of person who normally thinks too much about the past, but writing this has allowed me to reflect on the past seven years which have been busy, challenging and hugely rewarding. I also think of the latest Mott MacDonald strap line ‘opening opportunities with connected thinking’ and realise that this really applies to my career development at Mott MacDonald.

Our UK graduate schemes are open for applications, take the first step in your career and apply now.

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