Behind the Job - Melissa Wise​, Operations Director at AmcoGiffen

  • 18th October 2022

Tell us about you and your job
I was a Police Officer for 12 years in The Wirral before I changed careers and moved into local government highways delivery and management. While this was quite a significant career pivot, working in the police equipped me with crucial people management, communication and life skills that still underpin my career today.

Following the development of my highways experience, I joined Balfour Beatty and for three years I oversaw the management of the M25. I then went on to become an Operations Director with Amey Plc, however after three years of travelling across the UK, I changed tack again and became an independent business consultant supporting private sector companies on their bids and tenders. It was great working for myself but I missed working in a team. 

I am now Operations Director at AmcoGiffen. It is an exciting time as we are developing the North West and Central that spans from Euston right up to the Scottish border. 

What are the key skills required to do your job? 
Technical qualifications and project delivery experience are hugely important. However, life skills for me are also vital because of the varied responsibilities of an Operations Director. 

The role of an Operations Director means you're simultaneously always thinking commercially, strategising, budgeting, leading a team of managers (who have their own teams), reporting, focussing on Health and Safety standards and innovation, interfacing with clients, plus working on bids and tenders to successfully deliver key projects and contacts. 

I’m always wearing several hats when I go into a meeting. That’s where I feel my policing background really comes into play. On the beat I had to learn how to actively listen to people to try and understand who they are to quickly build a relationship as well as adapt to (and manage) different types of situations. 

At the end of the day every job, project, and business comes down to the people who make it happen. Knowing how to connect to, support, and get the best out of others is a skill the corporate world often doesn’t appreciate but for me, it’s crucial.

What does your job entail day-to-day?

A lot of meetings! I regularly speak with other departments across the company to understand their strategies and collaborate on how best to deliver against targets. I also have regular meetings with our varied client base to ensure we fully understand their requirements and to build strong relationships.

I touch base with my team on a daily basis. Every month I spend half a day with them to check-in, discuss any feedback or project issues, and create new strategies, where necessary. Financial review meetings and target updates are another important part of my role as I develop the North West side of the business. 

There are amazing people at AmcoGiffen and I lean on my colleagues to guide me and support me through key business areas to deliver each part of my role to the utmost standard. 

What makes us different from other companies within the industry is not only our abilities but our collective desire to adhere to rail industry and engineering standards, whilst continually working to deliver value for money solutions. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

There are two parts of my role I absolutely love. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a project through to completion. Seeing something go from just a proposed site through to building a structure and seeing it have an impact - it’s a great feeling knowing you were involved in creating that. 

Diversity and inclusion is another part of my role I’m passionate about. Currently  I’m working with AmcoGiffen to develop its support network for females and minority groups. It's great to see a variety of young people entering this industry. To be able to offer them the support, mentoring and the guidance they need to succeed is fantastic. 

What advice would you give to someone considering a career such as yours?

To have confidence in yourself and your skills. When you're an Operations Director, you are a leader so you need to believe in yourself and embrace what makes you different. Now, I know more than anyone, that that is easier said than done. So, how do I do it? The key is to build your support network and always ask for help, keep learning and growing by connecting with others both within and outside your organisation and sector.

For me personally, there wasn’t a clear career path. Along the way, I reached out to and learned from others through different networks and groups. I have met so many inspirational people over the years from female entrepreneurs to sector experts. Although it can be intimidating to ask for help, everyone was more than willing to share their advice.

What projects have you most enjoyed working on or are you most proud of? 

Throughout my career I’ve promoted and supported the development of diversity and inclusion. While at Balfour Beatty I received an award following my staff retention scheme for everyone working on the M25 project. It was a ‘you said, we listened’ scheme which enabled staff members at all levels to make change through forums and feedback. We were able to successfully reach out to teams and create an inclusive culture that staff wanted to be a part of. 

Currently my team and I are working with Merseyrail on a number of its ‘Access for All’ rail projects. With hundreds of railway stations across the country, only a small number of them are accessible for those with disabilities. It’s exciting to be working within the rail industry to update as many stations as possible to help provide wider access to train travel. 

You work with Coleman James. Why do you choose them as your recruitment partner of choice? 

I’ve found recruitment companies I’ve worked with previously to lack communication and occasionally have a disregard for potential candidates. This was not the case when it came to working with Rachel. She took the time to learn about and understand me as a person. Throughout the whole process she kept in touch with both myself and AmcoGiffen to check-in, address any questions and keep things moving. 

I knew Rachel wanted the best for me and wasn’t just thinking of me as a number. She was genuinely invested in helping me move forward in my career and passionate about finding me the right role. I firmly believe this is what helped me secure my current role as she was able to talk about me, my strengths and what I could offer AmcoGiffen with confidence. 

Coleman James has continued to support me in my new role too. After I started, I received a card from Rachel and the team and although it is a small gesture they wrote some lovely words about me as a person and their hopes for me in my career. It meant so much to me.

Recently when my father passed away when I was just a couple of weeks into my new role, Rachel and the team reached out to me to check in that I was okay and to offer support if I needed it. This is something that is way over and above the responsibilities of a typical recruiter and further solidifies the fact that for me, Coleman James is so much more than a standard recruitment firm. Thank you Rachel and the Rail team for everything.