"Axis gave me the chance to develop a new skillset"

Bobby's Journey

Bobby had worked in the public and private sector before finding Axis. In this interview, Bobby elaborates on how he has found his niche at Axis, and how the diverse benefits of its supportive culture keep him happy.

Hi Bobby, so let’s cut to the chase, why did you choose to work here at Axis?
Well it was quite the happy coincidence that I sought out Axis, and Axis sought out me. I previously (albeit briefly) worked with two of the Axis Directors on a project back in 2018 and then our paths crossed again at a conference in 2020 where we got chatting. I liked the sound of Axis – a small, ambitious and growing consultancy in the sectors that I worked in (namely energy and infrastructure). We agreed to keep in touch. Fast forward to 2022, I reached out to David Adams and Andrew Russell to see if they had any vacancies they thought I would be a good fit for – they offered me a role in the Planning team, and the rest is history!

What does your job look like now?
I am a chartered Town Planner working as an Associate in the Planning team and specialise in Planning and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) across a variety of energy and infrastructure projects. I am always developing my skills and learning new ones, and the way Axis is set up really supports that. I enjoy working autonomously and am trusted to get on with my job, but no one is too experienced to seek out a second opinion, so I do, regularly.

You enjoy working autonomously, but do you also feel supported?
100%. I pick up the phone and use other colleagues as a sounding board all the time. I find it easy to ask for help here. There’s always someone who is willing to give you as much time as you need to talk through your challenge, and come up with some alternative ideas or answers. Everyone is so generous with their time. It’s reassuring knowing there is a supportive and collaborative culture.

What do you love about infrastructure?
It’s an often overlooked but hugely important element of planning. It gets right to the heart of people, place and our connections with the spaces around us. I first realised this when I studied geography at A-Level. The human geography element really interested me as I was always fascinated by how human behaviour affects and is influenced by its environment. That’s why I chose to study Town Planning at the University of Liverpool, and continue with a Masters, back in 2000.

Bobby Clayton at Axis
EIA at Axis

After you graduated, you worked for a variety of employers – tell us a bit about them and how they got you where you are today.
My first job was for Conwy Council, in the borough where I grew up in North Wales. It was a Planning Officer role, and though, as a new graduate, it was a useful first stepping stone into employment, I came to realise I’d be better suited in the private sector. I was young and keen to make change happen. I wanted to work in environments that allowed for agile thinking, problem-solving and innovation.

So you decided to move?
Yes, I did some research and came across The Environment Partnership (TEP), a multi-disciplinary consultancy in Warrington. Their focus on large infrastructure projects and environmental planning really interested me, so I applied and got a job with them as an Environmental Planning Consultant. It was a good move at the right time – I was exposed to an array of different experiences and scenarios far more interesting than my previous role. I greatly increased my knowledge of infrastructure planning and EIA and realised I’d found a specialist area within planning that I really enjoyed. I spent almost ten years there and I owe a lot of who I am, professionally, to them. My time there really shaped how I approach my work.

You clearly enjoy learning – how has Axis has helped you expand your knowledge?
I was selected to work with a long term client of Axis, on a project called The Core Valley Lines Transformation. The Welsh Government identified the need to greatly improve the frequency of services and upgrade the railway network between Cardiff, and the valley towns of Aberdare, Coryton, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhymney and Treherbert in line with its vision of providing an accessible and sustainable transport system. So my job is to secure the relevant planning permissions for these works including overhead line electrification works, new and upgraded track, existing station upgrades and new stations.

Although I had plenty of experience in infrastructure previously, I hadn’t worked on a rail project before. This was a brilliant opportunity where Axis gave me the chance to develop a new skillset, trusted me to crack on with it, and now I’ve got another string to my bow. These opportunities along with Axis’ ‘small company big projects’ approach, are what I enjoy most about working here.

And finally, what three tips would you give other professionals looking to follow in your footsteps?

  1. Nobody knows everything, workplace environments are a mix of people with different knowledge, experience, and backgrounds, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  2. Problem solving is generally easier and more effective when you make genuine efforts to understand what the other parties want. I try to put myself in their shoes and not solely think about my own objectives – it’s a difficult skill and one I try to remember and develop as often as I can.
  3. Perfection doesn’t really exist so don’t expend unnecessary amounts of time trying to get there; however, being really organised and calm will enable you to identify your priorities and deliver really good work for your clients.
I am always developing my skills and learning new ones, and the way Axis is set up really supports that. I enjoy working autonomously and am trusted to get on with my job, but no one is too experienced to seek out a second opinion, so I do, regularly.
Bobby Clayton

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