From Welding to WWA Partner – An Interview with Jon Sharp

Jon Sharp was invited to become a Partner at Ward Williams Associates last month. He tells us about how he started out in construction and the positive changes he envisages for the industry going forward.

I started my career 20 years ago as an apprentice welder working on construction and infrastructure projects. When I finished my apprenticeship, I was given the opportunity to continue my studies and completed an HNC in Engineering which lead me into management. I then transferred into Surveying at the age of 25 completing a degree whilst in full-time employment. I became a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors at 30 and a Fellow at 34. I helped open WWA’s Exeter office before moving to the Middle East. I started as an Associate Director in Abu Dhabi before becoming a Country Manager in Qatar.  My heart and family are in Cornwall and I returned in 2017. Since then, I have led WWA’s Project Management Team in Truro and progressed on to becoming Office Lead and now Partner. 

Question 1: What did you aspire to be when you were at school?

Many things – my best friend lived on a farm and was destined for a life in farming and I wanted the same for a long time. Also, my uncle was an Archaeologist; he would take me to digs that he was working on, which I thought was great! My maternal Grandfather was a Toolmaker and when I left school, I decided that I wanted to gain practical skills which led to my Welding apprenticeship.

Question 2: Who is your biggest influencer growing up and now?

My maternal grandmother – she would do anything for her family. She didn’t suffer fools and spoke her mind. She always said I should be a Surveyor, but I did not take her advice at the time and even though she passed away before I changed careers, she was the driving force behind the move.

Question 3: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? Did you take it?

‘Never assume anything’

My first boss told me this and I always try and follow it. A healthy sense of paranoia goes a long way!

Question 4: What aspects of your role do you enjoy most/least?

Being able to give people a framework to grow. As I get older, I find it easier to spot talent and see untapped potential in others. Sometimes, all it takes is an opportunity and they do the rest. Being an accomplished surveyor or project manager can be what you want it to be – it can be your ticket to work anywhere in the world or it can be a good, steady and engaging profession that allows you a comfortable career.  I really enjoy being in the construction industry; yes, it can be frustrating at times, but every day is different, so a strong character is essential!   

Question 5: What positive changes in construction do you envisage in the next 10 years? Will this impact how you carry out your role?

Whilst it has been extremely traumatic for many, I am hopeful that we learn valuable lessons from the lockdown measures. Everyone’s experience of the lock down has been different. For us, many of our staff have been able to work from home and many have found themselves more productive and has allowed more time to appreciate family and nature. On the flipside, for others, it has stopped a large percentage of their social interaction which happened in the workplace which is something to be mindful of. I do feel and hope that we can create a happy medium moving forward, whereby people can work either in the office or at home.

Wider, I see data collection and analysis playing a bigger part in construction.

Question 6: What would you do with an extra hour in the day?

Read more – I probably do more exercise than I should at the moment anyway and with one extra hour, I would catch up on all the reading I’ve been meaning to do!

If you would like to discuss more with Jon or would like his advice on a new project please get in touch