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Jess Barnes

Jess Barnes is a Project Manager and Surveyor in the Estates team at The Institute of Cancer Research, currently focusing on the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery – a project she has been involved in since construction began.

Talk us through your typical day

Jess Barnes - Project Surveyor – Centre for Cancer Drug DiscoveryMy day is typically spent either in the office, on a construction site or a bit of both depending on where I am in the planning or implementation phase of a project. 

If I am in the office I’m usually in meetings, planning projects, reviewing budgets and documentation such as risk assessments, method statements and programmes of work.

When I am out on the construction site I carry out reviews of progress against programme plans and quality inspections, witness the testing of services, inspect defects, carry out safety inspections and show visitors around. 

How does your work contribute to our mission?

Our aim within the estates team is to provide the ICR with the best facilities to enable its research and help the ICR in its mission to defeat cancer.

I work closely with our researchers to ensure their needs are met, and that the space they occupy provides the correct environment for their research and equipment. 

What big projects are you working on?

At the moment my sole focus is the ICR’s new building, the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery. It is a very exciting £75 million project, and the biggest capital project the ICR has ever undertaken. I am part of the team who have worked on this project for a number of years from inception through to various design stages and approvals before work started on site.

My role as a client-side Project Manager means I act for the ICR to ensure the physical delivery of the building meets all expectations set out in the final approved design stage. I act as an interface between the ICR, our architects Feilden and Mawson and our building contractor Kier to manage risk, relationships, report progress and clarify any items as the project progresses through to completion and occupation.

I manage the construction programme day-to-day and I support and participate in the workstreams for transition and building management.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery project for two main reasons. Firstly, I feel this building has bought different corporate and scientific teams together fostering new and enhancing existing relationships and we have been able to support each other which has been great to be part of.

It has been brilliant to see people get more and more excited as the building becomes a reality. Witnessing things like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing on a construction site to help promote our fundraising campaign for the final £15 million needed for the building will probably be something I will never see again in my career.

Secondly, for me the new Centre is a challenging project to work on, and it has given me lots of opportunity to show myself and others what I can achieve. I am proud of the work I am doing to support the ICR, and of all my colleagues who are working hard to make this building a complete success. 

Can you give us any examples of where you see the ICR’s values in your work? 

I think the majority of the ICR values are demonstrated in my work delivering projects. In order to manage the expectations of the people we are completing projects for, trust is key. In order to gain trust, you must act with integrity, be honest and kind, and show people you value their input by listening to their ideas, concerns and comments – working together to provide a solution.

To pursue excellence, it is important to challenge ideas, mindsets and attitudes in a respectful and appropriate way to create innovative, sustainable spaces for the ICR to pursue its mission to defeat cancer.

Who do you collaborate with at the ICR and elsewhere?

I have a great role where I get to collaborate with a lot of people in corporate services and the scientific divisions at different levels across the ICR. Having this network gives me a great insight into the fabulous work being carried out and helps me to understand some of the science which is incredibly inspirational and everyone is really helpful.

I also collaborate with a huge variety of external companies on projects including architects, mechanical, electrical, civil and structural engineers, cost consultants, contractors, safety professionals, ecologists, aboriculturists and planners. I am able to promote the ICR externally and ensure that the values of the people we employ to deliver our projects are aligned with our own.

On the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery I have also been collaborating with our local partners The Royal Marsden, the London Borough of Sutton, the Harris Academy, and Epsom and St Helier Trust in order to make improvements and repairs to site infrastructure.

What makes you want to work for the ICR?

I lost my dad to cancer when I was 18. During his time at The Royal Marsden when he was having his treatment, I witnessed the amazing work the hospital does but also heard a lot about the ICR as well.

A few years later the opportunity to come and work at the ICR presented itself and I grabbed it. It makes me feel extremely proud to be playing my small part in improving the lives of cancer patients and their families. 

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I really enjoy the collaboration part of my job, meeting new people and taking them through the process from design to occupation is very rewarding.

The best part has to be handing over a shiny new facility, be that a refurbished part of our existing estate or a new building like the Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery and watching that building come to life.

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