The Aukett Associates director tells Nancy Cavill why he gave up teaching, and why, like a swan, he never loses his cool.
Describe your job

I am a board director at Aukett. I am responsible for the engineering group, new business, IT and management systems.

What’s your typical day?

It’s a mixture. I manage all submissions for new projects and orchestrate all our presentations. I’m also involved in buying computers and software and setting our IT budget. I get involved in current projects, too. There are usually at least three on the go, so I go to project meetings.

What hours do you work?

I usually get to the office at about 8.15am and leave between 7.30pm and 9.30pm, or later when we have a big submission coming up. I sometimes work until late at night and at weekends.

Do you take all your holiday entitlement?

My allocation is six weeks but I usually take only four or five.

Why did you become a teacher at first?

I taught evening classes in my early 20s and got a taste for it. But the real reason was that I was approaching 30 and felt I needed to break the mould. My career was progressing in a fairly pedestrian way and I hoped to change that by setting up my own business. I thought if I went into teaching, I would have more time to work on my own business because, ostensibly, the pressures are not so great. I then found that teaching was terribly demanding.

Is that why you stopped teaching?

I started lecturing in 1972 but from about 1974 I began to do consultancy work as well; a lot of it at Aukett Associates. It was becoming a multidisciplinary practice and I helped integrate engineering expertise into the way it did things.

By 1985, I realised I couldn’t do either job properly. It was driving me insane. The commercial world won me over, partly because of the money, but also because I couldn’t see myself becoming a venerable old lecturer. I also think industry experience is important for lecturers – they need to keep in touch with the industry they are teaching about.

What do you prefer about your job now?

I can stand back and say: “I had a hand in making that. I built that.” As a teacher, there is no tangible result to show for your work, other than former students who are now engineers.

  And I like the perks that go with my job – driving a Jaguar, owning a boat and living in a big house, as well as being able to give my kids a good start in life.

What stresses you out at work?

Submissions. They always have immovable deadlines and come in at random.

Do you ever lose your cool?

No. I’m like a swan. Serene on top and paddling away furiously underneath.

How do you relax?

I like a beer in the evening after work. Every other weekend in the summer I go sailing, either off the Isle of Wight or around Yarmouth. It’s a great way to de-stress because when you sail, you have to concentrate. You can’t think of anything else.

Age 57 Current job Director of Aukett Associates Employment history Project engineer at Laing, 1964-1967; building services consultant at Hanniford & Upright in Weybridge, 1967-1972; lecturer in environmental science and building services at South Thames College, 1972-1985; joined Aukett Associates in 1985 Qualifications ONC, HNC and building services engineering diploma, South Bank Polytechnic, 1957-1964; masters in environmental design and engineering from the Bartlett School of Architecture, London, 1980-1982 Lives Belmont, Surrey Salary £78 500 Drives Jaguar XJ Sport Family Wife Ann, son Alistair, 32, and daughter Ashley, 28