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Sean has been with DPAG since September 2014, and as part of the Facilities team, is responsible for undertaking critical building maintenance, repairs and installations, alongside designing and refurbishing laboratories to ensure Researchers' space requirements are met. Interview on Thursday 28 March 2019.

Sean HodgkinsHow did you come to work in Facilities?

I worked in IT for around 13 years, and that mainly involved installing and setting up servers and copper/fibre networks. Due to my background as a builder, this lead on to shop fitting for customised cabinets and control rooms. I did a lot of work for the MOD as a civilian contractor, mostly the upkeep and installing of servers and looking after the avionic computers on transport aircraft on RAF bases that log flight times, wind speeds and plane faults. Gradually, I moved more into the management side of things, which I really enjoyed as there's a lot more involved, so I started to look for Facilities Management posts. 

What brought you to DPAG?

I'd actually already worked for the University in around 2000/2001 for 6 months in the Security Services team. I enjoyed it as it's quite a regimented and structured environment, things are planned a long time ahead, so you tend to know what’s happening day to day (although that's not necessarily the case in facilities)! I left that first job to support my wife when we had our first child, and I then became a stay-at-home father looking after our three kids while working night shifts, very little sleep for the first 5 to 6 years! Later, I had a few health issues and wanted to try and give something back where I could, plus I knew I wanted to get back into the University, and DPAG is one of the departments recommended to me. My job here popped up and I was lucky enough to get it!

What were your first impressions of DPAG?

It was a lot bigger than I initially thought it was, so finding my way around was quite daunting! I must admit it was also a slower pace than I was used to, so that took a bit of getting used to, but I really enjoy it here!

What does your job here entail?

I'm part of a small team, which will soon get bigger as we've got two new people coming on board soon. There's a lot of maintenance, I do the floor plans and building plans, and I design the layouts for labs when they're doing refurbishments. Designing the layouts helps give Professors a visual representation of what they can get. They'll have something in mind for how they want their lab laid out, then they'll see the ideas on paper, realise how it could work better, make changes and then we get it done. After they've sourced their equipment, I can install it for them. Then, as soon as they move into the brand new lab, if they need more shelves, or the benches are too big or too small, we can alter these for them. We get called on a lot to do minor alterations, because it'll get done quicker than if they hire a contractor. Plus, we often save them a fortune because we normally have perfectly useable stuff from other lab refurbishments hidden away somewhere that we can dig out and modify for them, so the money they would have needed to spend from their grant on refurbishments goes to the science instead. I'd rather see their money go on science than be used to put a shelf up! 

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The variety. I'm hardly ever in the office. There's always a call for refurbishment work, putting shelves, pictures and plaques up, so I'm always out and about doing stuff. They days always go by really quickly, no sooner have you started Monday then it's Friday, and I like that it's quite fast paced. But I do manage to get some time to sit down and get the admin done, such as floor plans and designs, so that's good too. 

What's the most challenging part of your job?

It takes a great deal of planning to refurbish a lab, and as the work evolves people often realise they have different requirements, so it can be a challenge to incorporate these changes. It's a journey each time to make these work, but when it all comes together it's really rewarding.

What has the highlight been for you so far?

I really like the change in our Sherrington reception area. It used to have a little wooden hut in the middle and the area was very dark. I sketched the initial ideas and then helped to strip out the old reception, plus the flooring and painting. I remember we spent hours and hours with marker pens colouring in the edges to blend it all in! Now it's all changed, it's made the whole place feel so much nicer, as it's so bright, airy and welcoming.  It was a long time coming and a really good moment. A real game changer for the Department.

What do you think would surprise people to know about your role?

Facilities is a lot more involved in everything than people might realise. It's everything from the cleaners, to physically doing the maintenance work, to testing electrical equipment to make sure it's safe before we install it, and there's lot of things we do to meet legislation, such as servicing the air conditioner and wiring checks, which have to be done so everything runs properly!

How do you work together as a team?

We all gel together really well. Gary and Lee are the Estates Support Assistants, and if you ask them to do something they just get on and do it. They’re always rushing around to get the job done! Philip Thornton-Evison has been doing this job for 40-odd years and has a science background. The Manager, Shaun, has got a science background and is also very good technically. If someone doesn’t know one aspect of the job, there is another person who does, so there’s a lot of crossover. Dave Greenwood and Sean Alderson look after the LGC building and do a fantastic job after the retirement of Andra.

What do you do outside of your job?

I do a lot of cooking; my daughter’s a chef at Christchurch College and I like to think I taught her how to cook! She's very good and now she’s shown me lots of things! I’ve also been a Blacksmith for 20-odd years, so I make a lot of gifts for friends. I do woodturning as well, and friends are always asking me to make them Christmas trees! I'm also a Forester and I've got my chainsaw licences and run my own sawmill. My friend has got a large wood in Newbury, so I look after that for him.