Profile - Andy Parker: High-flyer back from the battle front to begin a new campaign

After 27 years in the RAF, Andy Parker is keen to make his mark at Morgan Sindall. He talks to City Editor Ros Snowdon.

When your last job was managing Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan at the height of the Afghan conflict, settling down to civilian life would be a daunting task for most people.

But for Andy Parker, the decision to put his young family first made the move to civvy street the right one.

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Last November, he joined Morgan Sindall, the construction and infrastructure company, as its director of defence, and he now lives in Camblesforth, North Yorkshire, with his wife and three children.

Parker joined from the Royal Air Force, where he held the rank of squadron leader following a 27-year career, most recently as a facilities management practitioner and programme manager.

His most recent posting was to Kandahar, a base with up to 30,000 personnel, where he reported directly to the commander and provided advice on a wide range of topics at strategic, operational and tactical levels.

When asked about the scariest moment, Parker says: “I don’t really do scared. The worst part is probably the uncertainty. You just have to crack on with doing a job.

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“If you worry someone’s going to come round the corner – or take seriously all the realistic threats – you would go crazy.”

As director of defence at Morgan Sindall, Parker now oversees the design and delivery of a wide range of facilities to the defence sector, including capital works, repair, maintenance and refurbishment.

“I understand the military,” says Parker. “This job gives me the opportunity to connect my expertise with the formidable package of design and construction that Morgan Sindall offers to the defence industry.”

Morgan Sindall’s defence projects include the delivery of a new fighter jet training facility at RAF Valley in Anglesey, the relocation of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery across London from St John’s Wood to Woolwich, and ongoing capital works, repair, maintenance and refurbishments for the Defence Estates under regional prime frameworks.

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Part of Parker’s job is to strengthen Morgan Sindall’s relationship with the Ministry of Defence, which will, hopefully, lead to a greater share of the defence market.

“I’ve had a great career in the military,” he says. “I loved it; there were no negative moments. For all the right reasons I had a great time in Afghanistan.

“I ended up my military career on operations. I was taken out of my comfort zone.

“Kandahar airport has a single runway but it was as busy as Gatwick. At the height, we had 30,000 troops there; it was a phenomenal operation just to feed everyone,” he says.

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It was Parker’s job to manage the airfield and take pressure off the commander.

He says that while there were dangers flying in and out of Kandahar during periods when there were rocket attacks, it was nowhere near the level of danger seen by soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan.

Parker joined the RAF as an airman at 18 and made his way up the ranks. He was based in the Falkland Islands in the 1990s, after the conflict had ended.

In 2001, he began officer training and, with the rank of flight lieutenant, he went out to Gibraltar before returning to RAF Marham in 2004 when he decided he wanted to pursue a career in infrastructure.

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“I wanted a broader service career, and a front-line infrastructure job,” he says.

His roles include acting as programme manager for the Royal Air Force Capital Works Programme where he had responsibility for the programming of projects, ranging from guardrooms to the refurbishment of a runway.

Parker was also given responsibility for the progra-mming of projects, ranging from domestic accommodation to new-build hangars, with contracts worth some £500m over a five-year period.

This included the management of a team of eight officers developing the requirement and managing the delivery of all projects in England. In addition, he was also responsible for developing next-generation contracts, with a particular emphasis on the provision of a framework contract for the delivery of airfield pavements and other policy changes for the RAF Infrastructure Branch.

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He was also the Royal Air Force Infrastructure programme manager overseeing the development of RAF Brize Norton as a single, strategic airport of embarkation.

At this stage in his career he managed a £180m budget and was in charge of budgetary control.

He also did a maths degree via distance learning while at RAF Marham.

In November last year, he moved to Morgan Sindall. Asked how he has found the switch to civilian life, he says the past six months have been “great”.

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“I’m facing new challenges. It’s a huge responsibility and it’s really interesting,” he says.

He describes himself as having an infectious enthusiasm and energy that motivates others and says that he thrives on challenge.

But after a 27-year career with the RAF, the move to Morgan Sindall has given Parker something he didn’t have before – time with his family.

“I’ve got a young family; the kids are four, nine and 11. This was a carefully thought-through move – it was a conscious decision.

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“I did a Masters degree at Leeds Metropolitan University to make sure I would be attractive to industry. As a husband and father, I’ve got responsibilities.”

Having made his decision, he gave his notice to the RAF in September 2009, prior to his posting to Afghanistan.

“I gave them 12 months’ notice. It was a huge risk but then Morgan Sindall asked me to submit my CV,” he says.

The decision to take the job was an easy one as Parker had dealt with the company while he was in the RAF.

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“I found them very professional so knew it would be a good move,” he says.

In his role, Parker heads up Morgan Sindall’s defence business.

“Everything we do in defence is led by me,” he says.

Born in Dewsbury and schooled at Batley Boys’ Grammar School, Parker’s school career was far from exemplary.

“I left half year through my A-levels,” he admits. “I was bored. At that age, you start to get your own mind. The next move was to the careers office in Huddersfield, and three months later I was in the RAF.”

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Asked where he sees himself in five years’ time, he says the main priority is to make a success of his career at Morgan Sindall.

“My energies are focused on establishing myself in this industry,” he says. “It’s great to have new challenges.”

Andy Parker Factfile

Date of birth: 27-9-65

Title: Director of Defence, Morgan Sindall

First job: Working for the Co-op. “I had a Saturday job stacking shelves.”

Car driven: BMW 3 Series. “It’s the one they offered me. I’d have never spent that much on a car.”

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Favourite holiday destination: Center Parcs. “We all love it.”

Favourite film: The Italian Job starring Michael Caine

Last book read: The Tomb of Hercules by Andy McDermott.

What are you most proud of: “Being a dad.”