Career path - Tom Brancati: project director, Mace

Tom Brancati is a project director at Mace and is currently working with client Affinity Water.

Tom Brancati, Mace

How do you describe you main role?

I’m currently working with one of our key clients – Affinity Water.  I lead the Portfolio Management Office.  This involves all aspects of programme management – commercial management, master planning, risk and value management.  It’s basically my job to monitor the performance of the portfolio and ensure the right decisions are made at the right time to achieve overarching objectives.

Why did you decide to go into infrastructure?

Infrastructure was my route into the construction industry; through a rail maintenance contractor.  I didn’t give it much thought at the time.  However, I made a concerted effort to gain experience of other sectors in the early stages of my career.  This included work on office fit-outs and public property.  Having gained that broader experience I definitely made a conscious decision to build my career in infrastructure.  I’ve find the focus on efficient sustainability is prominent across all infrastructure sectors.  This uncompromised focus makes for a very progressive and diverse industry.

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

My degree is in Philosophy and History, which surprises a few people given my career choice.  My degree has no influence on my choice of career.  I chose a path in construction as it was an industry I had some understanding of – my father had a long career in construction with Bovis. 

I studied surveying at post graduate level while working as a quantity surveyor which led to RICS membership.  Other than colleagues past and present, becoming a chartered surveyor has had the biggest influence on the way I work and my outlook:  In a very similar manner to the ACE, the RICS incorporates a broad range of technical disciplines with heavy emphasis on a code of conduct.  Mace echo this in their values, as does the client I currently represent.  

However, looking back at my initial degree, it certainly encouraged me to keep thinking.  I believe taking time to consider the best way of overcoming challenges, whether small or larger, has underpinned much of the success in my career to date.

How has your career panned out against your initial plan?

My career plan until a few years ago was very simple: Increase my technical knowledge and experience.  I’ve always had an ambition to move into a senior management position where I can influence long-term strategy.  However, I’d never acknowledged the importance of management skill.  I reached a level where I struggled to effectively manage larger multi-disciplinary teams.  It put my career planning in doubt.  This sparked my interest in Mace around three years ago.  Mace has proved the ideal place for me to gain the management experience I lacked.  I’m on the proverbial steep learning curve, but with the right support around me I’m able to plan my career with more certainty and control. I now manage a multi-disciplinary team of over 30 people and an investment portfolio of £500M. 

What do you like about your employer?

Mace has a very strong culture.  It’s a lively and supportive place to work.  Mace continues to set ambitious but attainable targets and is incredibly successful.  This makes for a dynamic environment – challenging in a very good way.

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

One of my principal reasons for seeking a career at Mace is the company’s ambition.  Ambition that was and is made very public.  I’m very ambitious, which seemed like a good match!  I’ve never been more settled in my career, so something pretty dramatic would have to happen before I’d consider leaving.

What is exciting about your role?

My role encourages me to think long-term.  I’m aware of how my role fits with the long-term strategy of my employer, which provides context for the decisions I make and makes my role very rewarding.  Similarly, my current role with Affinity Water enables me to think and plan effectively, contextualised by their business objectives.  This is all relatively new stuff for me - it’s not too strong say a milestone in my career.

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

Without doubt my colleagues – and I include the clients I work with in that.  I’m fortunate to have a very effective and enjoyable working relationship with my immediate and wider team.  We’ve had some significant achievements in recent months.  We’ve also been stress tested and come out stronger.  

What most interests you and keeps you interested?

Diversity and new challenges.  Like many people, I find repetition erodes my focus.  This is one of the things which makes infrastructure perfect for me.  The challenge to continuously improve means things never become stale.  Within infrastructure sectors, there’s a thin line between commercial, project and programme management which means it easy to diversify what you do.

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

Good employers find ways of providing productive and fair feedback to employees on a frequent basis.  Most of us need recognition of things we do well with some regularity.  Providing it’s phrased correctly, taking time to provide constructive criticism can be very positive.  Speaking for myself, I’m happiest when I feel I’m developing and having a positive impact.  Sometimes the realisation of these things must come from feedback by others.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’m probably only a third of the way through my career.  However, I’d tell myself two main things: 

First be patient and take time.  This relates to the execution of my work and my career decisions.  There aren’t too many things that don’t benefit from some consideration before acting.  At times I’ve been guilty of crashing into things and becoming frustrated too easily.

Secondly, be comfortable with my strengths and weaknesses.  No one is perfect and we don’t often have strengths without corresponding ‘allowable’ weaknesses.  It’s about awareness, experience and finding the right blend of people to work with.  Trying to correct the things I’m weaker at was a constant source of frustration during the early years of my career.

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

I actually can’t imagine doing anything else.  At the point of choosing my career my two main passions were rugby and music.  Although I played rugby I was never going to make a career out of it.  My teenage guitar hero ambition lays dormant now…just about.  

Do you want to begin your career at Mace? Send your CV with a covering letter to

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