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Featured review

Engineering in perspective

Author: Tony Ridley 

ISBN: 978-1786342287 

Price: £40 

Publisher: World Scientific Publishing 

This is a book about having a successful career in engineering, project management and academia. As a past president of both the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and APM, author Tony Ridley held senior managerial positions for the Tyne & Wear Metro, Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway and Eurotunnel. He became head of the department of civil engineering at Imperial College London, and has given advice at senior political levels in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. 

Ridley's central argument is that engineering is a much broader discipline than the public and profession understands. and, perhaps more surprisingly, than the profession itself understands. He argues that there are three stages of  an engineering project, not just design and construction, and that his discipline has the challenge of understanding the most difficult engineering material of all - people.

At the outset, Ridley provides a roadmap for the reader to find their way around the book. It is well referenced, with significant projects from his personal experience. Factually accurate, the stories reflect the ups and downs of the major projects environment. His thoughts on handling the tragedy of the King's Cross fire are remarkable, and his compassionate treatment of this work is likely to prove of interest to those outside the project management and engineering fields.

The book gives context to the career of a professional who has travelled the world to ensure he has had the best education, mentors and early experience, using that as a springboard to strategise, engineer and manage domestic and international projects of significance around the world. What resonates throughout the book is the coming together of countries, organisations and people. The ability to formulate and structure delivery teams that take on the holistic project life cycle - from project initiation and business case, through design, construction and effective handover, to fully using or operating a facility - is comprehensively covered. 

Ridley celebrates his own mentors at the outset of his career, and his colleagues and peers throughout his working life. The late Mike Nichols is fondly remembered as a key support on Eurotunnel and other work.

Reviewed by Philip lsgar, a company director with wide experience of developing, leading and managing multi-disciplinary, high-profile capital investment programmes.