Jon Orrell, founding partner of HOP Consulting (Hemsley Orrell Partnership) and it’s Managing Director until 2018, was kind enough to share his experience of studying civil engineering at University of Brighton and his future plans.
How and why did you choose to work in Civil Engineering?
I left school with no idea what to do and from the moment I started working as a labourer I was happy working outside on practical things, so construction suited me.
What made you chose Civil Engineering at Brighton?
I had worked for six years in the industry and really felt I was being ‘left behind’ on the technical side, which was the side that had started to interest me. After working for two years in the Middle East, I was financially OK so decided to study for a degree. I applied to a number of then Polytechnics and Brighton was the only one that gave me an interview! They liked the wide variety of practical experience I had and I was very pleased to get offered a place, so I suppose you could say that Brighton chose me, not the other way round!
Tell us about your time at the University of Brighton
It was a lot of fun. I am in to live music, sport and the coastline and there is plenty of all three in Brighton. I found I related to and understood about half of the course, the other half (anything with mathematics basically) I really struggled with, so took a job as a nightclub doorman to pay for additional maths tuition. A lady in Woodingdean took me from primary school maths right up to A’ Level. Mind you, I still do not understand a lot about it!
What made Brighton special to you?
Mainly the wide variety of people, especially the few Fijian students and the sport and music. I enjoyed the practical aspects of the degree particularly geology and field trips.
How would your former classmates describe you?
Practical; hopefully hardworking and a bit mad.
What brings you the most happiness or satisfaction in your career?
Getting involved in community projects really makes a difference and helping train others. I remember at HOP taking on a lad from school, helping him through his career and studying at Brighton. He is now a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
What advice would you give to an up-and-coming Civil Engineering student of today?
Get as much experience as soon as you can on a wide variety of projects. Being on-site is how you start your learning process and the most valuable bit about being a designer is being able to provide practical solutions which are buildable.
What are your plans for the future?
After 33 years as Managing Director, I am handing over the helm of HOP Consulting Engineers to another great Brighton graduate, John Spearman. He is part of HOP’s great Board (three other engineers – all of which are Brighton graduates incidentally). I am continuing to look at a few jobs overseas for HOP and after a couple of months I am coming back in a different role, predominantly helping with projects, mentoring our great staff and helping them move on to bigger and better things so that they too can improve the world we live in and train others.