James Lewis
Drainage Engineer
Kidlington Utility Hub

James Lewis

  • Drainage Engineer
  • Kidlington Utility Hub

One careful employer – and every day is different

James Lewis left his job selling cars to become a drainage engineer with Lanes Group plc – and he has not looked in the career version of the rear-view mirror since. 

James, aged 36, from Freeland in Oxfordshire, is a blockage engineer working for Lanes Utilities, the wastewater network services maintenance partner for Thames Water. He says: “I love working at Lanes and being a drainage engineer. It was a bit of a change from selling cars, but I’ve never regretted the move. Every day is different and brings new and interesting challenges. 

“Also, you constantly meet new people. I love the fact that we go to a customer having sewer or drain difficulties and can sort their problems. The thrill of turning someone who is very upset into someone who is very happy is huge.”

James, who is based at the Lanes utility hub at Kidlington, near Oxford, joined Lanes in October 2015. He left school after his GCSEs and worked as an electricity meter reader and installing power cables before becoming a car salesperson.

He says: “I was good at selling cars and worked 100% to make a go of it. But I wasn’t really enjoying it. A mate working at Lanes regularly drove past our showroom in his CityFlex jet vac tanker. Then, one day he sent me a text saying ‘You looked unhappy at your desk! Fancy a change? There’re jobs going at Lanes. Why not give it a try?’. It got me thinking, and a few weeks later, I was a drainage engineer.”
James says he likes the job security, working for a company that sets high standards and offers good training with real qualifications, and that pays well, with lots of opportunity to do overtime.

He also likes the fact that, since joining Lanes, he has lost nearly four stones in weight because he has replaced sitting at a desk with being out and about all day, doing an active job. Improved health and fitness are big bonuses. But long-term prospects and decent money are what James really appreciates. Not least because he has just got married and has three children, two sons and a daughter. And it is the day-to-day experience of working with a good team of people, doing a job that is both vital and helpful to so many others, that gets James fired up every morning.

He says: “I am a bubbly person. After a cup of tea, I’m ready to smile and enjoy my day, even when starting work at six in the morning. I’m also a people person so I love working with our customers.” It is one reason why James regularly gets excellent customer commendation for his work. Another is his determination to solve technical drainage challenges and do so the right way.

James says: “I am a good listener. I want to learn quickly and get things right first time. Safety is also very important to us at Lanes, because sewers and waterways can be dangerous places. Attention to detail is everything.”

Thanks to the training given by Lanes, in less than four years, James has become one of the most qualified and capable drainage engineers on the team. He is qualified to carry out confined space entry and confined space rescues in the deepest sewers and chambers, respond to pollution incidents, work in water courses, and carry out rat baiting.

James is also one of the go-to trainers in his team, supporting new recruits as they start their own careers in the drainage industry – with an important first message: the smell is mostly not THAT bad. He says: “Just by chance, when I joined Lanes I was trained by one of my old school friends. We’ve become best buddies at work, and he’s just been the best man at my wedding.

“I want to give the same back to new people joining the team. A lot of people have the wrong idea of working in drainage. When it’s done well, the Lanes way, it’s a great job, and a great career.”

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Working at Lanes can be rewarding and fulfilling, but you don’t have to take our word for it - we’ve asked some our staff to share their stories of what it’s really like to work here.
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17 Parkside Lane, Parkside Industrial Estate, Leeds, LS11 5TD

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