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Meet the Team: Keith Miller

Meet Keith, our head of estimating, a DIY aficionado, part-time photographer and wildlife lover. Keith has been part of COEL for over a decade with this month marking his 15th anniversary with us.

Keith has seen COEL through a myriad of changes, but we could not be happier that he is part of our team – we caught a good one. His work has been instrumental in the company growth so, we decided to sit down with Keith to find out more about his journey with COEL, what his day looks like heading up the estimating department and his many passions outside of work. Keep reading to find out more.

Can you describe a typical day at your job?

My alarm will go off at 05.15 am, and I will leave the house just before 6 am, arriving at the office at 7 am. A quick cuppa whilst reviewing my calendar is followed by writing up my daily to-do list.

I’m not sure how I would function without my list! My days can be quite varied and can include anything, such as:

  • Meeting a new contractor or supplier
  • An adjudication for an upcoming submission
  • A team or client meeting on a current project
  • A site survey
  • Assisting other members of the department with anything they require support on.

I think having a varied job is great as no two days are ever the same. I will attempt to leave the office by 4.45 pm and be back home just after 6pm. Dinner with the family is followed by a bit of family time and the usual house chores before the bedtime routine for my youngest daughter. Following that, it will likely be a few final chores and a sit down in front of the TV to watch a crime drama before bed.

Keith Miller personal photo

Did you always want to work in estimating / construction?

No, when I was young, my dream was to join the police force. I did enrol for a Public Services college course upon leaving school, however the course was cancelled the day before term was due to start which was disappointing.

This forced my arm into going out to work at the age of 16, where my dad helped me to secure a position working with him at his book binding factory in North London. Following that I worked for the Royal Family for a while, (well I say Royal Family… I was a postman for Royal Mail!), which was interrupted for a year whilst I travelled Australia, before moving into self-employed decorating and then to COEL.

An interesting fact about Keith

Back in 2015, after finishing a day’s work one weekend on a COEL project in Whitehall, the building that we were refurbishing was filming scenes of the upcoming James Bond movie, Spectre. The building manager allowed me very private access into the loading bay area, where I was able to get really close to Daniel Craig, in full character, discussing and rehearsing scenes with Sam Mendes.

I have always been a big James Bond fan so to say I was excited is probably a bit of an understatement. There is a shot at the end of the movie of Bond overlooking Whitehall and my claim to fame is that my office was directly under where he was standing.

You have been with COEL for 15 years, how did you join COEL and how has your role changed?

Back in 2009 I was a self-employed decorator and would regularly work on COEL sites. COEL then made the decision to expand their internal resource capabilities and wanted an inhouse decorating team. I was lucky enough to be one of those chosen few and after a quick meeting I was on the payroll and haven’t looked back since.

During my 15 years with COEL, I have held multiple roles. I started off on site as a decorator, before moving into Site Management then Project Management, and then Estimating. Today I run the Estimating department.

One of the proudest moments has definitely been when – following the management change at COEL in 2021 – I was asked to become an Associate Director.

My role has naturally changed over the years and I’ve always been happy to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of the business. COEL as a company has changed significantly in 15 years – we have never been a company that stands still – we will always find ways to improve and be better tomorrow than we were today.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about going into Estimating?

  • Remember that without the other people around you, you are just an estimator.
  • The relationships you create are crucial – you are only as good as your worst supplier / contractor.
  • A quick thank you to a contractor or supplier can go a long way and builds relationships for the future.
  • Be a team player.

What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome in your role?

I think any job role where you are working to deadlines carries a challenge. Add to that the volume we are managing – coordinating multiple tenders where you may be engaging with 20-30 different suppliers on each one – can be very challenging at times.

Managing a department with different personalities and various work styles, can also be a challenge. As a manager you should always be learning.

COEL has been very supportive of my progression as a manager. I have recently received some excellent management training, which has really helped me manage the department, the people working within it, and myself better than I ever thought I could.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

My job role has many different factors. I enjoy leading the department and working closely with different members of the wider teams. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t still enjoy writing a scope of works and doing a take-off for a Design & Build project. I also really enjoy the challenge of creating a construction programme and working out the sequencing of works.

What is your favourite thing about COEL?

Having been with COEL for as long as I have, I have seen a lot of change within the company over the years, however one thing I would say that has remained is the desire to improve. There is a passion to push on and be better in everything we do; whether that be improving how we work as a business or improving the experience for staff or clients.

There is a drive to ‘not to settle for how we are today’, but to make ourselves better for tomorrow and that is a big motivation for me and why I continue to enjoy working here.

Another favourite thing would be the people. I am fortunate to have made many friends during my time at COEL, both with those I worked with when on site, and those I now share the office with.

What is your favourite thing to do outside of work?

Apart from watching crime dramas which I think I have a slight addiction to, I spend most of my weekends at home with my family, either enjoying the Norfolk countryside or doing DIY projects around the house.

When I do manage to get some time to myself, I enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting by a stretch of water surrounded by the wildlife and fishing. I am a keen pike fisherman during the winter months, and I find this satisfies my passion for wildlife, both above and below the water.

Do you have a personal ambition to still fulfil?

I feel lucky to have fulfilled some of my ambitions, however, I still have some I continue to strive for. One that I have had for a long time is to cage dive with Great White sharks. I have a fascination with life under water and would love to be up close with them in their natural environment. Somehow the Jaws films have not put me off this!

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