Five minutes with… Parviz Khalilpour

Civil engineer Parviz Khalilpour has been working in the water and waste water industry for the past 12 years and joined Cappagh Browne two months ago as a site agent. We managed to grab five minutes with him to learn more about what he does every day, his achievements and advice on how to get ahead.

What does your role at Cappagh Browne involve?

I look after all sub-contractors on site, and assist and solve all technical issues or problems that crop up on site. Health and safety is paramount in our work, so I have to always make sure there is a safe access to work areas and that everyone’s well-being is looked after.

What was your first ever job?

When I was a student I had three jobs, so I know what it’s like to work hard! I was a taxi driver, worked in a holiday camp in the summer as a pot man in the bar, collecting empty glasses and then in the evenings I was a door man. I had a great boss there and one day, he needed someone on the door, so said to me ‘Just put your dinner jacket on, look smart and stand over there’ and that’s how I became a security guard. I did that for seven years during the summer breaks from university. I then also trained to become a lifeguard so I was also doing that in the day and my wage was £2.50 an hour! We had 12,000 caravans on the site so every week, we’d see up to 3,000 new faces. Funnily enough, it didn’t take long to get to know everyone. I really was quite an interesting job and set me in good stead for my working life.

How did you get involved in this industry?

I went to the South Bank University where I studied civil engineering. When I first graduated, became a setting-out engineer, and worked on the refurbishment of the Prince of Wales Hotel, opposite Hyde Park in London. It was a really big job.

I then worked for Costain as a senior engineer at Conquest Hospital in Hastings, before getting offers to work on some buildings in Canary Wharf, but my project manager from the hospital trusted my ability and knowledge, and asked me to go and work with him at a water site in Tonbridge Wells. I worked on more than 60 projects over nine years, mainly covering areas across Sussex and Kent. When AMP 5 finished I went and did some other jobs, including working for Highways England where I built eight bridges in Ashford, Kent. I worked on one really big bridge, which was a £90m project, with the bridge being 42m high and 18m wide. I won a quality award for it, which you can see in my picture – that’s something I’m really proud of.

What do you like most about your job?

For me, it’s simple – it’s the job satisfaction. I work on interesting projects and there’s a sense of achievement in seeing it all come together. At Cappagh Browne, I like the whole set-up and system we have: the company looks after its people, my managers and team are always there for you and they look after you. And we all learn from each other – it’s important to keep on learning, every day. If I’m ever stuck or need some support, there’s always someone to go to and speak to.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the water industry?

If you want to work in water, then I really believe that you need to have a solid education and a background in engineering – if you don’t know how to get from A to B properly, you can get really stuck. There’s a logical process and you have to understand the full picture. You have to ask yourself lots of questions – What are the reasons for why you’re doing things? What’s behind that reasoning? What are you trying to achieve? You need to understand all the parts of a project, not just the bit you might be working on. Working in the water industry offers you good work and a good future, but you need to enjoy it, to be happy about what your work is when you come to site. It’s a truly rewarding career and you can progress well if you’re a hard-working person.

Can you share an interesting fact about yourself?

In my year out from university, I went to Kenya with a group of students to do some voluntary work with UNICEF. I helped to build school and install a water system. There was no hotel or anything – we were sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags, but I really enjoyed my time there. I’ve always been charitable, making sure I give back what I can. I believe if you give people opportunity, like being able to get an education, read books and learn, it really helps. Everyone is equal but unfortunately not everyone has that equal opportunity.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?

I keep fit, go to the gym, play badminton twice a week and I walk at least four to six miles every day. In fact, one of the nicest walks I know is along the cycle and footpath along the seafront from Hastings to Bexhill, just behind the site I’m working on. It’s especially lovely when the weather’s nice!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given during your career?

The best bit of advice I’ve been given is to behonest with yourself and never regret a day in your life. Good days give happiness and good memories, bad days give experience and the worst days give lessons.

What do you consider your biggest success so far?

Helping others, which is something I have always done throughout my life, but my biggest success is guiding my son to become a good person. An interesting fact is that he was born in the Conquest Hospital, where I worked, and many years later, he went on to work there as a doctor. It all came full circle! He’s very ambitious and I’m really proud of him.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Tehran in Iran. Everything about it is the best – the people, the food, the entire place… the list goes on and on! It also has the best ski resort just outside of Tehran with beautiful mountains. But I’d definitely say it’s especially the food that makes Tehran my favourite place. We go there every year to visit. I took my son and his friends there recently – they were so surprised by how wonderful it is, and to see a country that’s very different to the on we get shown on the news. I hope that everyone goes there some day!