Cardiff University helped shape Tom Hyett’s bright future. Now Tom’s shaping Cardiff University.
Tom Hyett finished his degree in Astrophysics at Cardiff University in 2019. He knew he didn’t want to do a master’s degree. Like so many students, what he didn’t know was what came next.
At the same time, ISG was named as the main contractor for Cardiff University’s new purpose-built Computer Science and Mathematics building. Tom, fresh from an internship with the university and looking for the next step, had a chance meeting with ISG social value manager Harriet Wade. He was “blown away by what ISG does in the construction industry”.
Soon Tom was welcomed onto a new internship - this time with ISG. Unbelievably, his first project would bring his own story full circle. He joined the team working at his old stomping ground, Cardiff University.
Tom began by focusing on social value, but senior project manager, Martin Cocks, soon recognised his maths skills. He was recommended to work alongside the quantity surveying team, a career path chosen by both his father and grandfather – clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree! Due to his excellent performance, Tom was offered a space on the ISG graduate programme. Now Tom’s attitude towards further education has completely changed – he’s halfway through a Masters in Quantity Surveying at the Northumbria University.
It’s a far cry from astrophysics – the study of astronomical objects and phenomena, seemingly light years away from construction projects here on Earth. Tom says of his time at Cardiff: “I loved my time studying astrophysics. But towards the end I lost a bit of passion for it. It’s something I’ll always look back on with fond memories, but I realised that I was keen to get into work, and an astrophysics master's degree was not part of that process.” You could say, however, that Tom’s keen undertaking of brand-new challenges was a little like stepping into the great unknown. Tom is channelling all the knowledge and skills he learned at Cardiff into both ISG and Cardiff itself.
Tom’s journey from a student at Cardiff to part of the construction team building it was full of surprises. It all started in his childhood, really.
A family history rooted in construction
Tom is Welsh born, with a detour in Dubai from the ages of seven to 15. Already well-travelled with a love of meeting new people, moving to Cardiff didn’t feel too daunting. As the son and grandson of Quantity Surveyors Tom knows a lot about the history of the construction industry. Whilst his family have been a big influence on him, he credits his time in Dubai as a major reason for his interest in construction. Tom says: “I spent a lot of time in Dubai as an impressionable youngster and got to see a lot of large construction projects taking place. I think it was the sheer overexposure of the projects that has given me my interests today. The extravagance of Dubai’s construction and vision is there for all to see - and growing up alongside that meant I saw and heard a lot about it. Entering the industry wasn’t planned, it was merely thanks to that chance meeting with Harriet”.
Early careers at ISG
Tom originally started working for Cardiff University as an intern and while he enjoyed the work, there was no promise of a job at the end. Meeting Harriet put him on the road to joining the ISG Graduate Trainee Programme. Initially Tom supported Harriet as an intern on ISG’s social value work across South Wales projects.
Tom says: “I had no idea of what ISG does in terms of social value. Seeing how Harriet spoke about the people she engages with made me believe that this industry can have an impact on individuals, not just the landscape. The extra lengths they go to, to support the communities they work in and to leave a legacy really stood out to me”.
ISG knew that Tom needed mathematically stimulating work, so he began working with the quantity surveying team on package procurements and hiring subcontractors. Unfortunately, Covid-19 hit and Tom was furloughed. But this wasn’t the end - Regional Director Richard Skone invited Tom to join the Graduate Scheme.
The Graduate Programme
ISG’s Graduate Programmes are designed to give the opportunity to truly understand core specialisms, whilst gaining work experience across different departments. The two-year programme offers the chance to understand various areas of ISG’s business throughout the project lifecycle and offers rotations of a number of roles throughout the company. It was an opportunity Tom couldn’t turn down, and he officially signed up in 2020. ISG has since sponsored Tom’s studies at Northumbria University, enrolling him on a two-year distance learning master’s.
Tom was surprised in the trust and responsibilities he was given from the word go. “It was far away from what I was expecting, considering my perceived value to the site. I was immediately put on different courses to help me gain the knowledge. If I’m honest I felt a bit out of the depth at the start, but after a few weeks I grew into the role. As I became more comfortable, I had operatives coming to me to ask questions and it made me feel proud as it showed the development I’d made”.
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A return to the capital
Another return to Cardiff University beckoned, as Tom joined the Abacws building project – the world-class home for the university’s schools of Mathematics and Computer Science.
Tom says: “It’s really exciting to be employed on a project of this scale for the university I attended! It helped me in becoming the person I am today, and now I can help to give back to not only the next generation of students, but also to the university itself”.
Bringing together Mathematics, Computer Science, and Informatics into one world-leading facility, the new building provides a creative environment for high-impact joint research between the two schools, and the opportunity to devise innovative new study programmes. The new building, in which all space is genuinely integrated, provides an innovative working environment in which all barriers to collaboration are removed.
Abacws provides academic and administrative workspaces, and general learning spaces (including lecture theatres and seminar rooms). It also has specialist learning spaces including computer labs, a cyber security lab, engineering and physical sciences room, research labs, financial lab/visualisation lab, a range of individual and collaborative study areas, support, and plant spaces.
Professor Rudolf Allemann, Pro Vice-Chancellor International and Student Recruitment, and Head of the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, said: “ISG and the university have collaborated closely to develop ways of addressing the challenges of this project. In future, we hope this spirit of innovation will be instilled in Abacws itself as it develops research in cyber security, artificial intelligence, and data science - areas of major importance to society”.
Tom has now finished on site at the university and is working on the recladding effort at Lydstep flats in Cardiff. With one year left on his Quantity Surveying master’s course, Tom will soon get to decide which role he suits best. He says: “The last two years with the business have been incredible. Everyone has made me feel so welcome and I feel like a really worthwhile part of the team”.