Showcasing careers beyond academia
Robert Fordham

Robert Fordham

MEng Engineering Science, University of Oxford
Associate Consultant
Chartwell Consulting

What is your background?

I have a background in science and maths as I pursued an undergraduate degree in Engineering Science with a Masters in Chemical Engineering. During my research project, I studied the pre-ignition in internal combustion engines.

Why did you move away from academia?

When looking for jobs in my final year at Oxford, I wanted to find a position where I could both utilise my Engineering degree and work with talented people to solve complex problems. I also knew that I did not want to be sat at a desk all day. I picked Chartwell as it could offer me all those things and give me the chance to be part of a small, rapidly growing, and exciting company.

What is the work like?

Chartwell Consulting is a recently established firm, specialising in the delivery of breakthrough improvement in operational performance. Within my first year, I have been involved in a variety of projects both in the UK and overseas, from fabricating armoured cars to producing e-cigarette liquid in a small chemical plant. No two projects are the same, and this means you are exposed to a range of experiences and challenging opportunities.

A typical project requires us to travel to the client site on Monday before returning home on Thursday. We are away from home 3 nights a week, but Chartwell places emphasis on a healthy work-life balance, with weekends off-limits for work. Projects are mainly in Europe, but my last project was in an automotive factory located in Canada. This experience not only helped me develop a new set of work-related skills, but also acted as an excellent platform to travel as I opted to remain in Canada for the duration of the project. Whether it was skiing, visiting Niagara Falls or socialising in Toronto, there was always something to keep me occupied whilst I was away from home.

No two projects are the same; looking forward to being part of this business as it grows further, meeting new people, and tackling stimulating problems

Tell us about a typical day?

On a day-to-day basis I spend my time working as part of an active and engaged Chartwell team. We work very closely with our clients at all levels of the company. I might spend my morning working with an operator to find solutions to the company’s most valuable and irritating problems, whereas I could be giving a presentation to the senior client, reviewing the progress so far and aligning on the next steps of the project in the afternoon. The work is challenging, but helping people to solve their most valuable problems and giving them a fresh insight into how the opportunities we discover can help move the company forward is hugely rewarding.

My evenings on site usually involve dinner with my Chartwell colleagues where we can discuss our projects in an open and relaxed environment. I spend the rest of my time in the evenings either in the gym, catching up on a TV series or completing tasks. With every day being different, the job remains interesting. Projects are also of a good length, with a typical duration of 3-6 months, which allows enough time to become fully immersed in the industry, while making sure we are kept exposed to fresh challenges and opportunities throughout the year.

The intensity of Monday to Thursday on site is balanced by the more relaxed atmosphere of the London office on Fridays, which act as a great opportunity to mix with different intakes and learn about other people’s projects.

What is the company culture?

Chartwell is a young company with a warm and supportive culture where all individuals share a passion for improvement. To enable this personal improvement, there is a well-structured training and appraisal process to accelerate and guide your development. Fridays are an opportunity for training and personal development as Chartwell has an extensive methodology that is applicable across a variety of industries, and two Fridays each month are dedicated to learning this methodology. Training is based around real-life case studies, and the training is often given by the consultant who solved the problem on site. This structure allows people at all levels of the company to contribute to our ever-growing methodology, using their own thoughts and experiences.

As a small company, there is a chance to have a real impact on the development of the business in whatever areas that interest you, be it website development or planning social activities. In addition to these fantastic opportunities for personal development, there is a range of social activities throughout the year, from major events such as a ski trip and Christmas party, to more casual activities on Friday afternoons such as archery tag and escape rooms.

Sum up the best part of your work?

My time so far at Chartwell has been an overwhelmingly positive experience and I look forward to being part of this business as it grows further, while meeting new people and tackling stimulating problems.

What were your transferable skills?

Persistence during problem solving and the use of data analysis and interpretation to determine the next steps.

Chartwell Consulting helps leading manufacturing and support services businesses to deliver industry beating improvements in productivity, performance and profit.

Our team of consultants have many years’ experience delivering operational improvement for a wide range of companies. With offices in London, Berlin, Boston and Zurich, the growing team are led by five partners with over 60 years’ experience in industry between them.

We believe passionately in continuous improvement; our core expertise is the identification and delivery of large and often hidden potential. We repeatedly achieve 20% to 50% improvement in performance in 2 to 6 months. Client leaders testify that we have a hands-on approach that leaves lasting change in their organisations. We will not take on engagements that do not justify our fees and we back up our work with a “no result, no fee” guarantee.
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