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September 2022

Collaborative Working Profile – Amy Estall and Rachel Willett

Ellie caught up with Amy and Rachel following their recent Operational Project of the Year win at the 2022 Partnerships Awards.

Amy – I’m Amy Estall. General Manager for Broomfield Hospital. I’ve been on the project for around two years and was previously Operations Manager here. I’ve got around five years’ experience on the site itself.

As General Manager’s, a lot of what we do is risk analysing, and contract management. Ensuring our client is happy and the FM service provider is doing everything they can to keep the public and staff safe. It varies from day-to-day. It can be challenging, but very enjoyable.

Rachel – I’m Rachel Willett. Operations Manager at Broomfield Hospital. I’ve been with Vercity for five years and worked my way up initially, starting in the compliance team. In 2020 I began to work with Amy as a part of a development role.

This was initially two days a month on the projects where she was General Manager, and then an opportunity arose for me to progress to Operations Manager, which occurred in September 2020. I’ve been Operations Manager for two years now. My role mainly is to deal with the ongoing day-to-day elements on the project. Monthly reporting and help desk queries, variations, small works.

All the little bits and pieces that can be handled on the ground level so that Amy doesn’t have to get involved and can deal with the more high-level elements that need more of her time and attention. 

Rachel, you’re on the ESG working group. What’s involved with that? 

Rachel – ESG was mentioned to me when I first started on the project. The first element I was involved in was care packages during the first Christmas we were hit by COVID. I came on to the project as Operations Manager and we discussed what we could do to help those that were most in need. 

Care Packages

We’ve then been approached by various end users and the trust offering their own ideas in relation to what we can do to help. A lot of it happens when I’m walking the floor, which is a sort of a monthly operational element that I do, giving me an opportunity to meet the end users, the staff, the patients, and interact with them. Checking to see what else we can do to help.

We’ve done an ESG exercise today. We donated some items to AMU through an approach from the Trust charity. We’ve been working quite closely with them and we’re going to be continuing. So that’s where the ESG element comes from. And then from that Michelle Barron asked me if I would lead the ESG expert group, based on all the work that we’ve done at Broomfield and the positive impact that we’ve had there.

Amy, how important is ESG on Broomfield?

Amy– Massively. Rachel leads with the social and environmental stuff, we’ve both been working on the woodland walk, it provides an area for patients and visitors to go. That’s external to the hospital for users who want to get a bit fresh air or be able to relax in an area that isn’t a staff room, for example. 

There’s also a savings side that we’re looking into for the future, tied in to net zero. And that’s working with the trust to see what their plans are for the future. We all need to look at this, especially from an SPV point of view. How will we deliver energy efficiency to our clients?

Are there possible savings on that which we can utilise for other areas. In terms of the project and the contracts, the FM providers have been working hard in making sure they provide as much energy efficiency as possible. They’ve got an Energy Manager who’s great on the project.

We’ve got LED replacements currently happening, which will produce savings eventually. And so, it’s a whole variety of things, and a big part of our role now.

You recently won Best Operational Project at the 2022 Partnerships Awards and so you must have a very strong working partnership. Can you tell us about that? And, how it came to be an award-winning partnership with your strategic partners on the project as well.

Amy – I brought Rachel in on a development role, and she’s worked hard to get herself into an position now where she’s looking after three hospital projects. It is brilliant for her and for me, the key thing that I think we do quite well is communication. If we need to just pick up the phone and call each other, we will do. We won’t wait until we see each other next.

I think is important in terms of how we work operationally. We’ve got a good relationship with our client, and we work with them on ESG, but also, we help them as much as we can in terms of understanding the PFI, for example, variation works and making sure that we’re trying to deliver them as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Rachel – Amy’s always been incredibly supportive and from when we first talked about the development role and route into operations from the RBM team, Amy has supporting me every step of the way. She’ll give me things to look at or to look for and then we’ll sit and discuss it to make sure that I have understood.

We sit down and go through the contract to discuss how we both interpret it so that we’re getting a joined-up approach in respect of what we’re looking at and what we’re reviewing. If I’ve got a slightly different opinion, we’ll talk out why we’ve got slightly different opinions or on how we interpret the way that something’s written.

And as Amy said, we work well with the Trust and with Bouygues. I think the fact that we’re on the ground at the hospital at least once a week makes a huge difference, the fact that people can see us and know who we are, a lot of people are quite scared of PFI, but I think we’ve made it an approachable element.

You’ve both developed from within the organization. What has your career journey been like to get to your current position, Amy?

Amy – I started working with Vercity in 2016. I came in as a risk-based monitoring officer and was there for around a year.

I was interested straight away in project work and operations. I was approached by Patrick Hamill and to see if I was interested in developing into an Operations Manager. I worked at Queen Elizabeth Hospital for around a year on this.

I think it was a very much being thrown in at the deep end, but it worked for me. You can’t be afraid of asking questions or getting it wrong. It’s how you learn. The contracts are all completely different and the way that people work is different as well. It’s about adapting yourself to the specific project. 

I then I took a break from Vercity to work on the client side.

The experience taught me the challenges there which I now better understand and appreciate. I returned just before 2020 as a General Manager, starting on two accommodation projects, and then quickly moved into Broomfield Hospital. I’ve also looked after a Roads project, Sirhowy Way, seven schools in Waltham Forest and Ellenbrook, the student accommodation at the University of Hertfordshire. It’s diverse and challenging. Michelle, my Regional Director is very supportive.

Is there a typical day for you?

Rachel – No two days are the same but daily we keep on top of the emails, and on top of systems, the contract monitoring that we now do and variations. 

Today we’ve been on site. I spent time with the FM provider discussing contract monitoring KPIs. I’ve then walked to the floor and done an ESG initiative and then reviewed and issued the monthly report. It’s all very different depending on what the day is and what time of the month it is as well. It can be incredibly busy some weeks and then a little bit steadier on others. 

Amy – In terms of General day-to-day stuff, the main thing for me, although it isn’t specifically the same thing every time, but it’s about making sure that there’s no SPV risk, making sure that we have the monthly report delivered to the client on time, and forward planning accordingly.

Every day we’re thinking of what’s next, so we have as much notice on any issues or challenges coming up. 

It sounds like you have intense jobs and undertake a lot of ESG too. What do you like to do to unwind?

Amy – Recently I’ve got into paddle boarding. I’ve been doing it for around three months now.

Amy Paddleboarding

I’ve completely fallen in love with it, it is invaluable to my mental health. Especially when there’s good weather, the sun’s out. You can get on the water and reflect on workday and personal life.

I go to the gym a lot. I’m a fitness fanatic and I also teach aerial trapeze in my spare time as well. I’ve been doing aerials for around six years now. I guess I don’t relax as such but fitness for me is a benefit mentally. 

Rachel – I love sport and am a qualified level one football coach. I am also a secretary for a men’s Sunday side, so a lot of my spare time is taken up in organizing them. This time of year it tends to be incredibly busy for me because our season starts in September. I’m dealing with player registrations and friendly fixtures and all that sort of thing. And that has been good for my mental health.

Rachel and her London Marathon medal

I am with a group of lads who are like brothers to me. They’re all younger or a similar age to me, so I get on well with all of them. I volunteer at Ebbsfleet United, which is where I started my working career. I help them out on a match day, from operating a turnstile to working on a pop-up bar. I also ran the 2020 London Marathon for charity.

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At Vercity, we encourage professional development and recruit for a wide range of roles across the UK, Canada and North America. Our workforce is diverse, we offer great benefits, flexible working and equal opportunities for talented individuals at all levels across a variety of disciplines.

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