A day in the life of Karl Smith, Park Operations Manager

Karl Smith is the Park Operations Manager with responsibility for the management and ongoing development of the Park team to deliver first-class estate and occupier services. Here, he outlines some of the exciting projects planned for the Park this year, how his army background prepared him for his job and how he has become a taxi driver for his children!

Please describe your role: What do you do?
My role is varied and covers numerous disciplines and projects across the Park such as overseeing grounds maintenance, new builds, Park security, and mechanical and electrical maintenance.

What does a typical day look like for you?
I start early to check for any issues which may have occurred during the night and to ensure everything is in place for the day ahead. Getting around all of the Park buildings and grounds is also a big part of daily life. I then check my diary for meetings and respond to any emails.

How did you come to be Park Operations Manager at Chesterford Research Park?
I started as the Security and Park Services Manager. The Park and my role have developed together over the last ten years into what they have become today.

What is the best part of your job?
I love seeing our occupiers develop here at The Park. I’ve seen small companies produce an idea and watched it flourish into very successful corporations. I have seen individuals starting their careers in the field and develop into influential leaders.

What skills, experience or qualifications do you need to do your job?
I don’t think any qualification could prepare you for what is, although very enjoyable, a very demanding
role. However, the following skills are certainly a key factor to success:

  • Strong communication skills,
  • Effective motivational skills,
  • Good negotiation skills,
  • Exceptional organisational skills, and
  • An awareness of client needs.

My experience comes from a varied role in the Armed Forces and detention services dealing with a vast array of scenarios ranging from trivial matters to disasters.

What do you like about working at Chesterford?
It’s a cliché but I like that no two days are the same, there is no repetition here.

What gives you job satisfaction?
I like helping our occupiers to achieve their goals. So, when something comes to fruition it’s a nice feeling.

You manage a number of teams at the Park, can you elaborate on them and each team’s responsibilities?

  • Security – The main aim is to provide a safe and secure environment for our occupiers to work and relax in. From taking visitor details to dealing with a security matter, the Security Team are a valued asset to the Park team.
  • Maintenance – A small team with a mammoth task, the Park Maintenance Team has always excelled and see everything through to the end. They cover works such as planned preventative maintenance, fabric repairs, utilities and project works.
  • Grounds Maintenance – You only need look out of the window to see what our father and son team achieve on a daily basis. To maintain 250 acres to the level they do is a testament to their work ethos. Covering anything from tree felling to litter picking, they really are the unsung heroes.

What developments are you planning this year to enhance life at the Park for occupiers and visitors?
We have a very exciting and busy year with projects on the Park. Here are a few:

  • Electric vehicle charge points in the Science Village car park with a further two to follow on other multi tenanted buildings.
  • Building a compost and recycling area in the Park grounds.
  • Building a new underground water reservoir near the B184 to assist in the Park’s business continuity.
  • Working with the Butterfly Conservation Team, we have reserved two areas in the Park grounds to support the rapidly declining Four Spotted Moth and Liquorice Moth.
  • A team of volunteers will be encountering the trials and tribulations of bee keeping as the Park will be obtaining and running two hives this spring. The aim is to use the honey in The Nucleus Restaurant and, bees allowing, to sell some of our honey to help sustain our bee keeping.

In your opinion, why do the Chesterford Research Park occupiers choose to base themselves here?
It’s such a wonderful environment in which to work. We are off the beaten track and do not have to contend with the hustle and bustle of city life. You can go for a quick walk around the Park roads to clear your mind or a more energetic scramble through Blue Bell Woods to take in the scenery. All this, along with a committed Park Team to help with anything required. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I’m married with two children (14 and 17) so most of my spare time is taken up with being a taxi service! I love rugby but injuries have put an end to me playing; luckily my son plays so I get to take him all over the county, in the taxi. My daughter insists I love shopping and lovingly takes me, in my taxi, to town to remind me. I also enjoy clay shooting when time permits, a sport I would love to pursue more often but I’m currently too busy with my taxi service!