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Tony Thompson project manager

Project manager Tony Thompson describes his professional background and how he ended up as such an experienced senior manager working on field projects for SafeLane.

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What’s your background and how did you end up as such an experienced senior manager working on field projects for SafeLane?

I joined the British Royal Navy as a clearance diver and spent nine years fully operational on two UK based mine hunters, and on bomb and mine disposal teams in Scotland and England.

I served during the conflict in the Falklands, and was awarded a Mention in Dispatches for my efforts in the removal of a 1,000lb bomb from the RCT Sir Galahad.

I left the Royal Navy to pursue a career as a commercial saturation diver, operating in the North Sea.  In 1992 I decided to have a career change, and I went from commercial diving into explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and humanitarian mine action (HMA).

Before joining SafeLane I held positions including technical advisor, operations manager, quality assurance officer and regional manager with global commercial companies and with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in a number of countries including Somalia, Bosnia, Angola, Kosovo, Sakhalin Island, Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The projects I undertook included all facets of mine action including battle area clearance (BAC), EOD, survey, rapid response teams, quality assurance and quality control (QA / QC), integrated demining (manual, mechanical and mine detection dogs) and mine risk education (MRE). 

The majority of these positions also entailed the mentoring and training (or management of training) of both national and international teams. 

All were conducted in line with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and National Technical Standards and Guidelines (NTSGs).  Therefore, throughout my professional career I have built the skills absolutely aligned with the services SafeLane offers, and when the opportunity to work as a project manager overseeing multi task teams (MTTs) arose, I jumped at the chance.

What are some of the challenges of your current role, and how do you address them?

One of the challenges as a representative of a contracted company is building strong trust with the client.  My team and I have established this in my current location due to the excellent working relationship we’ve forged with the client’s in-country management team.

Also, there are many dynamics to take into account to ensure staff can operate safely and effectively, but with planning and effective communication, combined with a client relationship - I find almost any challenge can be overcome.

It helps that SafeLane is so well established and regarded by the client of course, and that its SafeLane policy to recruit and train local personnel wherever we can.

The local personnel I’m fortunate enough to manage have vast critical local knowledge of key logistical requirements with regards to fuel, water and food.  Due to their knowledge, we are very much self-sufficient and require very little ongoing logistical support from SafeLane HQ with the exception of resupplies – although we know we have that back-up should we need it.

Do you like working for SafeLane…what makes the company different?

I feel well placed to answer this question from a point of significant experience.  I co-found an international humanitarian NGO accepting the position of acting CEO and then technical director.  Furthermore, I have worked for many major commercial companies and NGOs – and so many have slipped into the realms of quantity rather than quality and became so corporate that they have lost the technical understanding of their HQ management.

In the time I have been with SafeLane I have enjoyed the experience immensely.  I regard SafeLane as one of the last remaining companies that has avoided being lost as a corporate.  SafeLane senior management are in touch.  The team understand the needs of their personnel who are working in hazardous or remote locations, and they are always willing to assist in whatever way required, whenever necessary.

I think that all currently operational commercial companies and NGOs have positive and negative points with regards to meeting a client’s requirements; however I believe that SafeLane has an HQ management team that understands the client’s needs and puts those needs into the field.  

I also know that SafeLane understand the need to ensure they recruit and deploy the right project management and field staff to contracts – highly qualified, experienced individuals who also understand the needs of the client, the project challenges, and who can build excellent working relationships.

I look forward to many more years working with the extended SafeLane family.


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