Rob Cook, director of civils and infrastructure at Winvic, tells CIOB People why freeing yourself from a fear of failure is critical to success
What attracted you to construction?
My father left the armed forces as a Sergeant Major in the 1980s and after working for a large civil engineering contractor, he started a business as a labour and plant provider for heavy civils works.
At 15 years old, I started work experience on site as a chain boy, laying pipes and building foul and storm inspection chambers before moving into engineering, constructing roads and sewers.
I naturally fell into the industry and enjoyed it from day one, working closely alongside Anglian Water and tier one suppliers that are similar to the main contractor role that Winvic fulfils today.
What is the best advice you have received?
I have a number of key mentors in the industry, including my dad, and 23 years of industry experience, so I’ve had a lot of good advice.
I do remember as I moved into senior management my dad told me to always look forward to the next set of challenges and opportunities – from the next 12 months on a project, to how I can help improve Winvic’s offering, what’s cutting edge and when we can put it in place.
But along the way I’ve learnt to be a solution seeker, to always be open and honest, to surround myself with people who are team players who can focus on the goal, to listen to other people’s ideas and take on constructive criticism.
Failure is an opportunity to learn, but remember, if you keep failing you must reflect why you’re not learning. Every time we achieve a milestone, or a client calls me with positive feedback, I know these values that run through Winvic’s civils and infrastructure team are working and appreciated.
Along the way I’ve learnt to be a solution seeker, to always be open and honest and to surround myself with team players
Which project are you most proud of and why?
I really enjoy working on strategic highways programmes and I’ve worked on projects in partnership with National Highways for more than 15 years. I was involved in the strategy and procurement of the Concrete Roads Framework (CRF), Regional Delivery Partnership (RDP), Construction Works Framework (CWF) and Collaborative Delivery Framework (CDF), where together we helped shaped the frameworks of today.
However, as Winvic’s first director of civils and infrastructure with the responsibility of building a talented team to focus on growing this sector, winning a place on the firm’s first highways framework, the Scheme Delivery Framework (SDF), is a moment I am personally proud of.
Winvic’s SDF delivery team is doing a fantastic job on projects across the country and it’s a pleasure to work with a client like National Highways that is motivated by innovation and doing things right. But also, our current major infrastructure projects are interesting and exciting because they include all C&I disciplines.
What advice would you give someone starting in the industry today?
Finding a mentor who shares your values, and who you feel comfortable asking any question, is important. Never be afraid to say that you don’t know how to do something or ask someone to show you or explain, because your colleagues (remember, surround yourself with team players) should have your back every step of the way. Being honest and having the willingness to challenge yourself will certainly help you progress more quickly.
What has changed most about construction since you joined the industry?
What hasn’t changed? Looking after people has thankfully come a long way, from safer plant to ensuring wellbeing and mental health are prioritised.
However, what really blows my mind are the technologies, innovative materials and the new methodologies that bring time and cost efficiencies to a project’s delivery and lifecycle value. Who would have thought in 1990 that a drone could survey a whole site for you and AI could present earthworks programmes and traffic flows?
Do you have a motto that applies to your work and if so, what is it?
My approach every single day – whether at work or at home – is to be positive, and within my role I am driven by a growth mindset, seeking opportunities for Winvic and its passionate people. I believe anything is possible if you want it to happen, you just have to take the first step, then the next and so on.