In this article, we look at the many great things about working in the sector and show you what it’s really like to have a career in this growing sector, while busting a fair few myths in the process.
Haylie Orton had been considering a career in genetics after studying human biology at Salford University.
How, then, did she become the bid team manager for Lanes Group, the UK’s largest independent drainage services and asset maintenance specialist?
“Yes, it is a bit of a change of direction!” she admits. “It all came about because I had been temping on one of my summer breaks.
“I worked at Lanes in Manchester in the key accounts team, and stayed in touch with Michelle Ringland, who then headed the team. She asked me if I wanted a maternity cover job bidding. Then the bid controller didn’t return and I decided to stay.”
That was seven years ago, and Haylie, 32, has not looked back since. In that time, she has developed bid management from a team of one – herself – to a team of four, working for Group Development Director Richard Leigh. Together, processing and submitting hundreds of bid related documents a year.
Haylie says it typifies Lanes that Michelle Ringland, now Head of Marketing, should stay in touch with her, and give her the chance to develop a career she loves. “It’s a family business, where relationships are important,” she adds.
“There are no airs and graces. There’s no corporate ‘us and them’ which I really like. Also, I like the fact that hard work, the right attitude and talent count for more than qualifications. If you prove yourself, you can do well at Lanes.”
Not that Haylie has left behind her scientific training. On a daily basis, she uses the skills and disciplines developed in her studies to build what is an increasingly successful bid team.
She says: “I have always been very methodical, and that’s what is needed in bid management. There are a lot of documents and information to process. Deadlines come along very quickly. There’s a lot of pressure. So, working smartly and effectively as a team is very important.
“I massively enjoy putting bids together and the buzz we get out of it. But I am constantly looking at ways to improve the process, to make it easier, and make sure we show off the quality of the excellent service Lanes can deliver as well as possible.”
Ever the scientist: but relationships count as well. And emotion. It helps a lot that Haylie believes in the service that Lanes delivers. “You have to have your heart in this to make it work. You have to be in it for the long haul,” she explains.
A lot of her time is spent working with colleagues throughout the organisation, from board directors to field engineers, gathering information needed for the bid documents, which can be huge and complicated. One of the most recent ones was over 800 pages long.
Supporting and coaching colleagues is crucial. Most are very busy with their day-to-day jobs. Putting together documents that could bring in £millions in new business is obviously very important. But not central to their daily lives. Diplomacy, persuasiveness and the ability to inspire others to pull together in the same direction are all key skills for Haylie.
She values the support she has had as a working mother. She had her little boy in March 2015, and only started working full time again in her new role in April 2016.
Two of her three colleagues in the bid team are women. Haylie says: “Lanes has a lot of women working in senior roles. I’ve never experienced any sense of discrimination. Everyone gets on and does their job. It’s a very positive working environment.”
Haylie’s career has grown along with the company. She played a key role in Lanes winning its biggest ever contract, as a wastewater network services maintenance provider for Thames Water in 2012.
In 2014, just before she went on maternity leave, she also oversaw the development of a bid that was successful in winning major contracts with Scottish Water.
She says: “I love my job. It helps that there are a lot of good people who have been here for a long time. Which, I think, is a positive sign.”
Haylie may not have become a geneticist. But she and her bid team are helping create the building blocks – the DNA even – of one of the UK’s fastest growing mid-sized companies.