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.
Shaun Ciccone has left behind a 30-year career as a restaurant, bar, and pub manager working across Europe to become a wastewater engineer for Lanes Utilities – and he could not be happier. The trained chef has taken his passion for giving great customer service into working as a drain blockage engineer for Lanes, on behalf of Thames Water, and he has never felt more fulfilled in what he does.
Shaun joined Lanes Utilities in September 2016 after he got talking to a Lanes wastewater engineer in the pub he was then managing in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, and got talking to him about his work.
A life in hospitality
Shaun was born with the hospitality industry in his blood. His parents owned and managed restaurants and pubs, and when he left school it was natural for him to choose the same career. He trained as a chef at college and worked for his parents before setting out by himself, owning a pub, then managing other pubs, restaurants, and bars. At one point he managed the Costa Coffee concession at Gatwick Airport. He has also been a departmental manager for retailer Alders.
Shaun ran bars in countries across Europe, including Italy, Greece, and Spain. Then, at the age of 50, he left behind a career he knew so well, to work for Lanes Utilities, the wastewater network service maintenance partner for Thames Water. He has gone from being responsible for managing a sizeable business, and for a team of staff, to starting again, at ground level, in an industry he knew nothing about, having to learn new skills, and a new way of working.
Same colour – different liquid
Shaun loved it. “I guess I have moved from serving one type of brown liquid – beer – to helping to manage another brown liquid – sewage. I’m just a little further along the way in the process!
“It seems a bit extreme, but I have always been adaptable and open to new ideas. I’ve had to continuously learn new skills and change throughout my career in hospitality, so it wasn’t so difficult.
“I knew from day one I was in a very professional organisation that wanted me to succeed. It inspired me really. I had a good feeling about my work and that has continued.”
Supported all the way
After joining the Lanes team at the Gerard’s Cross utility hub, Shaun continued his training by working with more experienced colleagues, primarily acting as an assistant on a drainage unblocking van, known as a van pack. Just over three months later, in January 2017, he was ready to go it alone, and was given his own van pack, which has a jetting unit and CCTV drainage camera, to operate. Shaun says: “I never felt pressured into taking on the extra responsibility. I was given all the time I needed to learn the job and feel comfortable. But when I felt ready, the opportunity came up and I took it.
Not much more than a year after joining Lanes Utilities, a new recruit was placed with Shaun, so Shaun could pass on his skills, insights, and positive approach to working as wastewater engineer. Then in 2018 he was promoted to be a Technical Specialist, a role that requires him to supervise work teams, and take the lead on large and challenging projects.
Making customers happy
Shaun says he also loves the way customer service is central to what Lanes Utilities does. It is one and the same with the philosophy he had during three decades in the hospitality industry.
“Our work is 100% about putting the customer first,” he adds. “The customer may be having real difficulties because of a blocked drain or another drainage problem, and they are relying on us to help.
“I get a good feeling from every job I do, because I know it has helped someone or probably a lot of people in their daily lives. As I walk away, I feel proud that I have done something good.”
Working with sewers and drains has not put off Shaun either. It is not as bad a people think, he says.
“When I ran pubs, we would have to clean up very dirty toilets, or clear up after someone had been sick. Most people have experienced a certain amount of bad smells and sights. Anyone who has looked after a baby knows that!
“There are moments when you are faced with some challenging jobs, but they’re not as frequent as people think, and we’re given all the equipment, clothing and training, including safety procedures, to manage them properly. It’s not something I am concerned about now, and I would advise others not to let that side of things stop them thinking about a career with Lanes.”
Looking after baby
A little over year into his new career, Shaun is not looking back. He knows he has made the right move, not least because it has helped reset his work/life balance. And would recommend others to do the same. He says: “Working in the wastewater utilities industry is not something I would have thought of, if I had not got talking to Steve in my pub that day. So, I am really glad we had the conversation.
“That’s probably the same for a lot of other people. They should take a look at an industry that’s got a lot to offer. I love my job right now, but I know there are opportunities for me to progress and develop at Lanes Utilities if I continue to do well, which is exciting.”
Shaun has just become a father for the second time and says working for Lanes Utilities will give him more time to be with his partner and their baby daughter.
“I work hard and do overtime as well, but the shifts I work will give me more flexible time to be a dad, and spend time with our baby. My career is important to me, but so is my home life, and working at Lanes Utilities helps with that.
Happier customers. Happier Shaun. Happier mum. And happier baby. That really is an impressive outcome from a single career choice.
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