James O’Keeffe, Project Manager
Joined NSG in 2020
Q. What was your impression of the nuclear industry before you started working in it?
A. Prior to being given my first role in nuclear, I was intimidated to say the least! I assumed that each person within the industry must be an engineer or physicist. Each of those would surely have PhDs coming out of their ears and have a wealth of knowledge about every technical detail. Nuclear must be an endlessly complicated industry, how on earth was I supposed to fit in here? Once I started of course, I realised the full diversity of roles and skillsets required to enable the industry to function. I now think there is a role within nuclear for every skillset.
Q. Describe your career journey to this point.
A. Having studied Economics and International Relations at university, I somewhat stumbled upon an opportunity to take part in a Project Management graduate scheme at a nuclear engineering company in the Midlands. Here, I spent extended periods of time within each major function such as Engineering, Manufacturing and Procurement. This gave me a broad knowledge of how the business worked, but crucially allowed me to understand the issues faced by different teams on a day-to-day basis. I worked my way up through the ranks as a PM prior to joining NSG in July 2020. I now oversee a large package of works involving 13 different projects – a challenging and very rewarding role!
Q. What do you enjoy most about your role?
A. I love that no two days are the same. Every day is different in project management and I enjoy liaising with dozens of colleagues, clients and suppliers to deliver the works. The collaborative culture within NSG means that there is always a focus on working together to deliver the best outcome. In addition to my role at NSG, I also volunteer with the Nuclear Institute’s Young Generation Network (YGN). Having been involved for nearly five years, 2022 will see me become Vice Chair of the organisation. NSG has been incredibly supportive in this area and encouraged me within the role.
Q. What three words would you use to describe working at NSG?
A. Collaborative, challenging and empowering. This is the most positive environment I have ever worked in. NSG’s mantra is to enable me (and my colleagues) to determine the best delivery method for our projects. There is a distinct lack of micromanagement and yet support is available whenever it is required – a perfect combination!
Q. Where do you see your career heading in the future?
A. I enjoy the overarching/supporting role I am currently delivering and also enjoy the process improvement side of things. Hopefully I will continue along these lines as I further my career.
Q. What advice would you give someone looking to join the nuclear industry?
A. A lack of nuclear knowledge does not mean you are not suited to the industry. There are literally hundreds of opportunities across our industry in a variety of fields. I would suspect that most people would have transferable skills they could apply to nuclear. I would recommend that anyone looking to join should not focus on learning the technical aspects in the short term – concentrate on how you can apply your skills at a fundamental level and learn the technical detail later down the line.
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