A Designer at Heart

19 Jun A Designer at Heart

Continuing our Chubb Inspiring Leaders series, we spoke to Scott Brown, one of our talented Design Engineers at Vipond.  

Read on to find out how Scott came to specialise in designing fire systems, why regulatory compliance is essential in his role and where he’d take his little girl if he won that once in a lifetime dream ticket! 

Growing Up 

I was born in Bellshill in North Lanarkshire. Premature born, I didn’t give my parents the easiest start, with lots of trips back and forth from the hospital. It was a tough time for them no doubt. 

From an early age I was brought up in Blantyre in South Lanarkshire, not far from the River Clyde. I had one brother and our grandparents lived relatively close by, so were often visiting.  

Growing up, both me and my brother were into sports, football being the main one. That seemed to be all we did, get home from school, throw the bags in and get out and play football in the back garden. I’m a Rangers supporter through and through, so is my brother thankfully, so that made things easy growing up – no sibling rivalry! 

Football aside I was also into badminton, athletics, particularly running. I had quite a normal upbringing and happy school life. 

When I got to year six in secondary school, I’d had enough of education. I just wanted to get a job and start earning.  

Starting Work 

I left school at 17 and went to work for a business that had two sides to it – one was web development and the other recruitment. I got experience working in both areas. The recruitment was like sales really, phoning clients and finding out what vacancies they had and what type of people they were looking for. I enjoyed getting to know candidates and matching them with roles. But the web design side of the business was what really attracted me. Design has always interested me; I think I’ve always been a designer at heart. 

So that company put me through a two-year design course at Motherwell College. I got to learn the basics of web design and graphic design; it gave me a pretty good grounding in both. That’s what steered me down the design path. 

It was by chance I ended up coming to Vipond. 

I got back in touch with the training company that helped me find my current job, and they suggested I complete an SVQ Level 3, as it would open more doors to me. And it was this, that helped me get the job at Vipond. 

Arriving at Vipond 

I joined Vipond in 2011. When I walked through the doors on my first day it was the Design Manager at the time, Andrew Easton, that greeted me – and he set the tone really. Everyone was so welcoming. 

The MD John McCann really took an interest in the team. I’d not been working there long when John came to me and asked if I’d be interested in going to university to do fire engineering. I suppose he had his business hat on as well, as me doing a degree would benefit the business, but I genuinely believe he was interested in my personal progression. I felt a great sense of pride that I’d been identified as someone Vipond could develop. 

So, I got my degree in fire engineering and this paved the way for my career as a designer. 

Designing Fire Systems 

On the residential side we design fire systems for care homes, tower blocks and housing developments. Then on the commercial side we design for shop units, factories, warehouses – the list goes on. 

My work is very varied. One day I’ll be out on-site doing surveys, and the next I might be in the office doing design on the software, and this is something that has developed massively over my time at Vipond. When I started, everything was AutoCAD based, whereas now we have 3D design with Revit models where you can see things developing; its high quality software and fascinating to use. 

When I’m working on a design there’s lots to consider – spacing sprinkler heads, running pipe work, calculating the hydraulics. You need to take into account a lot of different services.  

Keeping compliant  

Typically, in designing fire systems we need to ensure we’re following the latest regulations and guidance.  

We take regular competency exams that assess our knowledge and expertise in a particular area. For instance, one of the exams I’ve taken on the residential side is for the design of residential sprinkler systems, which has been designed in accordance with BS 9251. 

Once you’ve passed these competency exams, they allow you to assess and check other engineers’ work. Passing demonstrates that you’re up to speed with the latest regulations and are following the rules. 

There’s lots to keep on top of with frequent technical bulletins highlighting new rules coming in, which is something we discuss at our monthly design meetings. These meetings are an opportunity for us to share interesting projects we’re working on but also discuss changes in regulations we must be aware of. 

We’ve had a number of leaders steering the design team through the years. Michael Hall has been the leader for a couple of years now, who I get on extremely well with both in and outside of work. We have a strong team, we have similar interests and work in an open plan office, so can easily bounce ideas off each other; it’s a great work environment. 

Achieving great teamwork 

For me great teamwork is all about communication. There are always little quirks with jobs, and everyone’s got different experiences. So, if you’re facing a particular challenge, chances are, somebody has come across it before and can share their solution and how they solved it.  

We’ve got a lot of experience in the team, that’s why communication is so important; its crucial to share our knowledge and pass it on to others in the team. And speaking regularly to the project managers delivering the projects, who in turn are communicating with the guys on site. 

Adapting to change 

We’ve faced major change in the last couple of years as a business, transitioning from a standalone business to part of Chubb. It was worrying at first, but the management team kept us up to speed with everything that was going on, so on the face of it, the design team was mostly shielded from the changes taking place. 

I think it’s been a positive change for the business. Chubb didn’t previously have the capabilities that Vipond has in terms of our suppression sprinkler offering, and Vipond now has access to a far greater range of fire and security solutions now we’re part of Chubb. 

There’s also been a strong cultural shift. I’ve been present at a number of the Chubb Chats, where the business has shared its strategy which is all about coming together as a team, together stronger and ultimately building a people first organisation.  

I’ve seen a difference recently in the IDPs (Individual Development Plan) that are being filled in. They’re not just being done, but the feedback is being taken on board and acted upon, and that’s really positive for the individuals and the organisation as a whole. People are feeling more valued. 

Vipond had company values before joining Chubb but the new set of values we share I think are more meaningful. For instance, ‘owning what we do’. Fire protection is such a critical industry. It’s vital we take ownership of our projects, take pride in what we do, but also not be afraid to own up if we get something wrong. 

Embracing family time 

I became a dad a couple of years ago. I have a little girl who recently turned two, so it’s been fun. Fun and exhausting.  

Family time is very important to me, just the simple things like going to the park. It’s easy to get bogged down in work. By the time I get in from work its dinner, play for a little bit with my daughter, then bath her and get her to bed, so I really treasure time with my daughter at the weekends. 

When my fiancée and I first got together – a long time ago now – I was quite a picky eater. I wouldn’t touch salad or anything like that. Thanks to her though, and my daughter coming along, I try to eat more healthily now. Although saying that, my favourite food is still curry. 

To relax I like to watch Netflix. But actually, what I’m watching at the moment is on STV Player it’s a sort of thriller called Red Eye. The series takes place during an all-night flight between London and Beijing after a British man is extradited to China on suspicion of murder. He’s flying back to Beijing and gets stopped by the police at the airport, he’s been drugged and can’t remember what’s happened the night before, so he’s trying to piece everything back together. We’re only a couple of episodes in, but it’s been really gripping so far. 

Dramas aside, I like watching true story films, like Lone Survivor.  

Finding family friendly holiday destinations with toddlers is tricky. We love Center Parcs but last year we fancied going somewhere different and ended up at Ribby Hall, which was great as it had loads of activities for young kids but was also close to Blackpool so we could go to St Anne’s and the beach. 

If I was given a dream ticket to go anywhere, do anything, it would be New York at Christmas with my fiancée and little girl. I think that would be pretty magical and memorable, the sort of thing I would’ve loved to do as a kid.