Sleepless in South Norwood

I didn’t expect the former Lady Mayoress of Blackburn, a declared authority on “giant radishes and chrysanthemums” and a qualified cricket umpire, would have much in common with a Croydon-based construction manager who also happens to be Sierra Leone’s answer to Kevin McCloud. And yet, when I interviewed them both for a “Meet the Members” special in the CIOB’s Construction Manager magazine, the conversation was eerily similar. Both have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, both pack more into a 24-hour period than I’d think was practical in a week, and both wonder how they’re possibly going to get everything done while happily taking on even more. I have a feeling they’d get on like a house on fire if they ever met, but I can’t imagine either would have the time.

Stalking for dummies

I’ve turned into a bit of an internet stalker lately, ever since researching this “where are they now?” piece for Insurance Times. It’s extraordinary what even a half-hearted Google search can throw up about the most ordinary people. So, for this Inside Housing careers feature, I was fascinated to discover how recruiters use the internet to check up on potential employees, and how people with a less-than-professional online presence can wipe it squeaky clean. It seemed to hit a nerve in the housing sector anyway – the story was one of the most read articles on the website for weeks afterwards.

Digital editions of things I’ve edited

I manage all the content for Building‘s contract publishing supplements which, by the magic of the web, are now available as digital editions. Here you can have a virtual flick through a recent eight-pager for ICI – as it’s about paint, it was a good excuse to have fun with a very lairy colour scheme. And today we published a 32-page magazine for the government’s waste quango, WRAP. But this one is probably my favourite, for Waitrose earlier this year, which was rather more successful than my shortlived stint on their checkouts in 1994.

I’ve also edited quite a few editorial supplements – like this one on the retail sector in November 2007, this careers guide with a sustained “Choose Your Own Adventure” theme (complete with “If you decide to leap the ravine, turn to page 5” links) and this one, focusing on construction in the Gulf states – a must if you like pictures of very tall buildings…

Back to the future

2009 wasn’t a great year to be working in, or writing about, construction, and by October Building’s Good Employers Guide could be forgiven for deciding to reminisce about the boom instead. I looked at what HR departments can do to make life easier for staff at the mercy of frenzied M&A activity – deal-making is enormous fun for top execs, but less so for the underlings whose fate they’re buying and selling. Something to look forward to when the upturn finally comes…

Not-so-deserted desert city

Post-bust press coverage of Dubai conjured up poetic images of deserted half-built towers and tumbleweed blowing down the Sheikh Zayed Road. But what about all those construction people who moved there? They can’t all have abandoned their 4x4s at the airport and come home. I tracked them down and discovered that not only has expat life gone on, it’s considerably less blighted by traffic jams…

“My bike is RAD to the POWER of sick”

Last month, I edited the Practices 09 supplement for Building Design, Building’s sister magazine for architects. It’s not exactly a good time to be an architect (which is why this annual careers supplement ended up being a toolkit for staying in business) but we struck a note of defiance – why let a pesky rececession drive you under? I rather unscientifically discovered that the tipping point from small company to big company seems to happen around the 30-staff mark, and assembled a panel of “business doctors” to tell a very enthusiastic start-up practice how to get something built. But perhaps most popular was a random back page idea where we offered to tell architects what their beloved bikes were saying about their personalities, and were swamped with entries. There are some very strange machines out there…