Career path: Howard Ritchings - Head of Estates Management for the RNLI

Howard Ritchings

Why did you decide to go into engineering/infrastructure? 

It was not so much a decision rather an evolution from an early interest in surveying and meteorology leading to coastal engineering – Ports and harbours and thence to lifeboat related infrastructure.

What did you study? How did that lead to this career? 

I studied a civil engineering sandwich degree at Portsmouth leading to brief period in drainage works with local authority and then into consulting engineers in UK and overseas (South America and the Far East) and on to current position.

Who was your first employer and why?

Guildford Rural District Council who then sponsored me through my degree.

What does your job involve?

I am responsible for the development, strategic planning and management of civil engineering and building works at the RNLI’s 236 lifeboat stations, HQ campus in Poole, division bases and area support centres, which means I am procuring the works to support the launching and recovery of lifeboats and their crews.   

Did you have a career plan? How has reality panned out against that plan?

No, apart from wanting to travel overseas, particularly South America.  The travel worked out well and an interesting career path opened up in an opportunistic manner.

What is special about where you are and why did you stay?

The RNLI is a unique organisation performing a very specific and valuable job.  The combination of dedicated professional colleagues and committed volunteers makes for a very rewarding working environment. The responsibility of spending money raised for charitable purposes wisely is challenging and seeing the majority of my efforts translated into useful infrastructure is very satisfying.  

What is exciting? 

The challenge of many of the exposed coastal sites and working with skilled engineers who take on and solve problems in such an environment.

Who has had the most influence over your career and why?

Those who donate the funds that make my work possible.  It is their trust and understanding of the need for high quality supporting infrastructure that makes it possible to provide RNLI’s life saving services at no cost to the tax payer.

What about work gets you interested, keeps you interested? 

Seeing most of my efforts turned into practical results and the very varying demands that the coastal locations present.

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

A fulfilling and meaningful challenge with freedom to seek sustainable solutions.

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Believe in your own judgments and challenge perceived knowledge.

What is the one thing you have done that has been fundamental to your career?

Being prepared to take on unusual projects.

What is the best thing so far in your career? 

The last 25years - managing the programme of works associated with the modernisation of lifeboat stations around the coast of the UK and Republic of Ireland.

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