Q&A Jul 22, 2021

Q&A: Talking with Phil Higgins, our Head of Water for the U.K. and Ireland, following his Interview with British Water

As part of its thought leadership series, British Water interviewed Phil to get his views on what matters most in the water industry.

Phil Higgins Q&A

We connected with our Head of Water for the U.K. and Ireland Phil Higgins following his interview with British Water CEO Lila Thompson, which explored the changing needs of the market, the need for greater focus on outcomes, client and industry collaboration and skills diversification.

You can read the blog and watch the interview here.

What’s your favourite part of your role?

Through working in a very diverse team, I get great satisfaction identifying opportunities and bringing organizations and people together to drive change and solve clients’ challenges.

What inspired you to pursue a career in water?

I love the natural environment and, while training as a civil engineer, I decided to combine and specialize in the Water sector. This was reinforced when I spent a 12-month industrial placement working on a wastewater treatment plant, and then had the opportunity to undertake a PhD in Water working with very inspirational supervisors.    

Tell us more about your interview with British Water – how did that come about and what topics were discussed? What stands out for you?

British Water and Jacobs have a long-standing relationship supporting collaboration across the industry. As Jacobs has been transforming its portfolio over the last four years, across our U.K. and Ireland Water business we have been creating an environment where our people fully understand the market and our clients’ challenges, embrace holistic solutions through integrated water management, utilize digital solutions and feel empowered to collaborate to deliver wider social, economic and environmental benefits.

You’ve now moved into a new role, tell us more about that.

I spent the majority of the Water Services Regulation Authority’s planning period, Asset Management Plan 6 (AMP6), working in a water company across several roles, which gave me great insight into the regulatory framework and clients’ challenges. I returned to Jacobs in March 2020 to take on the Head of Water role for U.K. & Ireland, which is part of the wider Water & Environment team. I lead a team of approximately 500 people, providing a wide range of services from assurance and regulation through to engineering and delivery, and into operational support to multiple clients with close collaboration with our global Water team.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by seeing people grow and develop and explore new ideas. Leaders need to give people opportunities to develop in an environment where they are challenged and also supported. I didn’t see it at the time, however several inspirational leaders provided me with opportunities and support, for which I will always be grateful.   

What is a typical day like in your role?

It typically covers all operational activities from people to project delivery and client engagement to business development, which makes every day busy, fast and very satisfying.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

As I am writing this in July 2021, you will find me watching my two boys play cricket anywhere in North Yorkshire! Alternatively, I will be on my bike in and around Harrogate and Nidderdale.

Most interesting career moment?

I have been involved with many teams and projects, big and small, which have their own challenges. My most interesting career moment was undertaking a two-day behavioral assessment course. This was something my training to date hadn’t covered, and it gave me the greatest insight into myself, team dynamics and competing priorities when delivering collaborative transformation. 

What’s something you learned in the last week?

I learned that the next asset management planning period will have significant focus on best value solutions, which will include carbon, and that nature-based solutions need to be a significant consideration to help deliver net zero solutions.

Most proud career moment?

Leading and delivering the London 2012 Olympics water infrastructure. It was a real privilege to be involved in such a major project with a great team and a commitment to the long-term legacy of the Olympic Park.

People would be surprised to know that I….

Spent six weeks working on a Department for International Development project, cleaning and unblocking the sewers of Lahore, Pakistan.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?

Being encouraged and empowered to make something happen – but don’t get carried away by success, or lose hope, when things don’t go as expected!

Click here to watch the British Water interview and read Phil’s blog.