Growing a culture of all round quality

Meet Alex Bearne, Head of Flood Risk & Hydrology at Calibro

We spent some time with Alex Bearne to talk about the culture at Calibro, growing and developing our Flood Risk & Hydrology team, and the diversity of client work. As part of our leadership team, Alex brings experience of working at small as well as large scale engineering firms across his career.  

Opportunity, diversity and culture are three of the things that Alex has always liked about the business: “Calibro has a positive internal culture, and offers a real variety of work. Most modellers are ‘pigeon-holed’ so that they only ever work on models. I enjoy working across a range of areas, and Calibro offers the perfect balance of technical work and also diversity of work, and the opportunity to build a team.”

Dedicated to high standards

A commitment to high quality work also made Alex want to join: “I’ve always wanted to work somewhere that matches my own high standards. I wouldn’t work for a company that’s just about getting it out of the door and sending the invoice. I like to deliver work I’m proud of, as well as continuing to develop. I’m in a position now where I lead a team, but I still enjoy learning – there are always things to learn.”

Alex sees dedication and honesty in our approach as central to the quality of work that’s consistently delivered by Calibro: “We’re always striving to make the work we do the best it can be – everyone works hard and contributes. We’re also honest in our communications, internally and externally, which I think is really important. Our friendly, informal style is married with a high quality of work, and this is representative of the way firms are moving away from more traditional approaches to communication. Often younger firms, like ours, are able to change more quickly and move with the times.”

Alex goes on to talk about the advantage of a team with a more rounded understanding, and how this provides more value to a project and the client: “We work with multi-disciplinary teams on large residential schemes – a real growth area for us. Working collaboratively on these schemes is important. It’s one thing to meet a policy requirement, it’s another to work collaboratively with ecologists, masterplanners and landscape architects in particular, and build valuable relationships with these external partners.”

Diversity within mentoring

Alex is growing a Flood Risk & Hydrology team that is ready to take on responsibility and shares his commitment to quality. People’s development is also helped massively by the variety of work on offer at Calibro, Alex explains: “With hydraulic modelling, for example, some people will leave university and just work on hydraulic modelling for many years, possibly without ever even writing something like a report for a planning application. From policy and regulatory framework to technical tools and how they work, real diversity is on offer here.”

Alex adds: “By not just specialising in one thing all the time, our team is more flexible and able to collaborate, and that’s important for the ebbs and flows of workload. It also helps you become a well-rounded consultant – more so than if you worked for a very large company, perhaps. We must always ask the questions ‘Why are we doing something, and what’s the purpose of it?’ We must always be aware of the bigger picture.”

Commercial awareness is something else that can be grown early on in a career at Calibro: “This might be something that’s more useful for a graduate in five or so years in, but we start preparing people from the outset to think commercially and work with clients.”

Alex enjoys the training side of his role, catching up with the team every week and identifying areas where further support is needed. “I want everyone in the business to be happy and fulfilled; so I keep checking in with colleagues, and I think that really helps to integrate the team.”

Maintaining a strong culture

Despite not meeting in person much over the past 12 months (because of the pandemic), Alex thinks Calibro’s culture and direction have remained strong: “We’ve become even more closely aligned as a business, and the three main parts of Calibro work closely together. A tight knit culture is part of our identity.”

This is borne out by Stuart, Calibro’s MD, hand delivering an Easter egg and bottle of wine to the home of every member this year. Alex continues: “There’s always been a good social aspect to Calibro. Once we’re all back in the office, the idea is for everyone to get together for a drink on a Friday towards the end of the day.”

Is there a Calibro way of working?

What’s different about Calibro’s approach? Alex tries to put his finger on it: “If we provide a price on a job, wherever possible we’ll identify what needs to be done and what the risks are, and quite often offer some initial advice too. We’re honest from the outset – even where clients want certainty, we’re still honest. It’s a well-worn phrase, but we really do go the extra mile: we’re flexible enough to reschedule and reprioritise workload to make sure we’re always on hand when clients need us.” 

We end our conversation with Alex by asking him to describe the firm’s culture: “Demanding but definitely rewarding. We enjoy the challenges and being out of our comfort zone. It’s a place for personal growth, a stimulating and exciting place to work.” 

And long may the exciting challenges continue.