What is it like to celebrate 25 years in Water Services?

Paul Aitken joined RPS 25 years ago, from a small office with four colleagues in Edinburgh. Today, he is the CEO of Services, UK and Netherlands. We caught up with him to understand more about his unique journey with us, the pride he has with the projects we currently work on, what he feels about the future of RPS and the next 25 years.

What was your first day at RPS like?

25 years ago, I started with RPS with a smaller organisation called H2 Operations, and it was only four of us in an office in the outskirts of Edinburgh. At its height, we were probably very small, probably around a hundred staff. We're now probably around a 1000 staff, which is top 3 in the UK water sector!  

What do you see as your most memorable accomplishment since you started 25 years ago?

When I started, I was involved in the Scottish side of the business, I then got involved in the wider UK side of the business. I think this step, to become MD of the UK Water business, to be CEO of a larger segment is perhaps one of the key milestones that I've managed to make along the way. 

Describe a favourite part of your role at RPS today.

First of all, I think that the diversity of work that we do is extremely exciting. For me, the Services segment offers a whole range of different services. We operate across a number of different sectors as well. 

We've got Laboratories staff, operational field staff and professional services. The other part I think that's important, is the value of work we provide. We provide great value to improve our communities, we support the environment and we can see the work we do provide real value to the communities we work in. 


What lessons have you learnt early in your career, that are still valid at RPS today.

One of the things that RPS has always offered is the abilities for individuals to grow. I think that remains the case today; that's been a constant thread throughout my 25 years here. You know, when new staff come and join us, they are given the freedom to grow and develop.

They also have the opportunities to achieve training and coaching as and when they need it. But they're also allowed to grow by themselves, at their own speed and to focus on their job at hand. 

What changes have you seen at RPS over the years and what is your biggest hope for its future?

For me, we've achieved a lot! RPS is still fairly a young organisation, but culturally I think we've changed a lot over the last 25 years. I think in the next 25, we will probably also see a greater focus on our connectedness. 

Due to the way that we've evolved historically, I think we will see much more focus on how we can connect to make us stronger. As that connection grows, our ability to start going for bigger projects or better projects will continue, as will growing the business. 

What sort of RPS projects are you interested to see come to light in the future?

In our UK Laboratories, we are very much focussed around emerging substances in water environments; the sorts of things like PFOS and PFAS chemicals. We're also seeing a lot of focus in the press recently around sewage going into water courses. Our Water team are also doing a lot of valuable work.

In our water business, there's also a lot of focus on flooding, pollution and drainage. These are areas that will continue to grow. Meanwhile, we're continuing to do a lot of leakage detection work, which of course reduces demand and defers the investment potential in new treatment works. 

What advice do you have for anyone that may be considering joining RPS?

Well, I think if you're interested in career development, if you're interested in making a difference and if you're interested in a flexible work environment, RPS is a great place to work! 



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