Career path: Zoe Madams, Mace

Overseeing project controls within the Mace Major Programmes and Infrastructure business is Zoe Madams. She explains her career to date. 

Zoe Madams, Mace

How do you describe you main role? 

I am responsible for overseeing the Mace project controls functionality within the Major Programmes and Infrastructure business and the wider consultancy sector. We aim to develop a consistent project / programme controls framework across Mace, developing controls environments for all our new clients and programmes and assuring and auditing our current commissions to ascertain we are delivering against industry “best practice” and the ISO9001 certified.

Why did you decide to go into infrastructure? 

It was the first thing I had undertaken in my career which I really connected with. Seeing projects develop, all working towards the same goal. I really relate to the logical aspects of what “controls” can bring to projects and programmes and how that control can determine the end game.

What did you study and how did that lead to this career? 

I originally studied Business Studies. For my chosen field of project controls understanding business objectives, financial modeling and accounting is essential. 

Who was your first employer and why?

I started my career in stockbroking with a small firm in the City in the 80’s after leaving school without a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve. This opportunity did develop my IT skills though, as well as working with analytical data, which started me on the road to controls. 

Your brief CV since that time

A wide variety of skill sets make a “well rounded” individual and I feel everything in my previous roles have given me something; Leaving the City, I moved into retail management and became a trainee buyer for the House of Fraser – however, I never felt satisfied and travelled in Europe for a year. 

When I returned I found myself a temporary role in what was then Glaxo as an assistant planner for six weeks; six weeks later I was offered the planning role, a year later I was running two parallel programmes of work and was instrumental in bringing in new planning software and processes. I moved into the Major Projects division of Railtrack three years later and spent the next ten years of my career in the Transportation arena working on major infrastructure schemes such as West Coast Route Modernisation, the Jubilee and Northern Line upgrades before moving to Mace in 2009 to join the London 2012 team.

Did you have a career plan? Do you have one now?

I didn’t, I have always been very capable, highly motivated and worked hard. Pursuit of a better way, which is one of Mace’s goals is very much in my DNA and that has got me to where I am today. It is important that you love what you do, my plan is very much keep enjoying work and being consistently good at it.

How has reality panned out against that plan?

The reality is much better than the plan. There are aspects of my career that make me very proud; being a senior woman in construction, building teams, mentoring and watching people grow is an amazing opportunity. 

What is special about the point you are in your career now?

I can change people’s lives; I never thought that it would be within my ability to make a real difference to people. Bringing graduates into the business, knowledge transfer, mentoring and promoting.  It still also always feels good being part of the project or programme which comes in on time and on budget.

What do you like about your employer?

They have given me opportunities that I don’t believe other companies would have. Mace is different, we don’t just “talk” about supporting individuals, we do it and I never feel like being a woman has held me back.

How long do you think you will stay with your employer?

Till I retire, my roles are so different every day, it will keep me motivated until I can’t do it anymore. 

What is exciting about your role?

It used to be watching things get built, actively being involved in getting projects fulfilled. These days it’s the people aspects, I have built an exceptional team since I started as Head of Project Controls just over 18 months ago. 

Who has had the most influence over your career and why?

Me. I have been lucky I have made some good choices career wise and I am fortunate to have a very supportive employer and I have a lot of scope in developing my department and my team. Also, my family as I am a working Mum and my family comes first. I am lucky that Mace understand that home comes first, having a good work life balance is important.

What about your job gets you out of bed each morning?

The variety of my role, one day I can be writing procedures and the next day presenting the art of programme controls to the Qatari High Commission. I enjoy being activity involved with our clients as well.

What most interests you and keeps you interested?

I think as project controls has developed over the years, with BIM, apps and iPads etc. the industry is changing. Technology is changing so much and we are really starting to see this filter through to how we manage projects and programmes. Gone are the days we need to be sitting in a site office to use project controls software. 

What can employers offer to make you most happy in your career?

Variety, it might sound like a cliché but working within an organisation who enable you to make some major careers changes without having to move to another company is a winner. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

  1. Never doubt yourself. Confidence is not something I was born with, I have developed over the years and I realised that nothing is out of your reach. 
  2. I studied part time all the way through my career and eventually got my MA in Management Studies when I was 35. I wish I had gone to University when I was in my teens, not because I feel like my career has suffered but because work is inevitable for all of us and 16 was too young.

What is the one thing you have done that has been fundamental to your career?

Working abroad; working on major infrastructure projects in Thailand and Hong Kong really developed me a person. I had spent many years in a comfortable place and it seriously pushed me out of my comfort zone. Having to change the way I thought and the way I worked, it was life changing. It gave me such a more rounded view of life, humbled me and I was definitely a better person for it.

What is the best thing so far in your career?

London 2012, I live in East London and as soon as we won I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I was very fortunate to work on the Olympic Park when the venues were only just coming out of the ground and also headed on the planning and controls team for Olympic Readiness for the Events aspects. I was lucky enough to get tickets for what turned out to be Super Saturday – bringing my family to the Park and seeing what we’d achieved for the Olympics but also being left with the Legacy is amazing for my part of London.

If you hadn’t chosen this career what else might you have been?

My other talents are making fancy dress costumes and organizing parties; so either a costume designer or a party planner (or I could combine them and be a fancy dress party planner).

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