21 April 2023

Working in bid writing and studying History at UEA

Ryan CornickRyan Cornick studied BA History from 2011-2014. Ryan is now an Assistant bid manager for Willmott Dixon Construction in Manchester. Ryan recently told us all about working as a bid writer and studying history at UEA.

My time at UEA taught me to look around because history really is everywhere - my other half is sick of me pointing out ancient hedgerows, ridge and furrow and 18th century parkland landscapes as we drive about.

What have you been up to since you graduated?

Since graduating I returned to Manchester where I gained a role in construction recruitment, after a year within this role I took a step into the world of bid writing - working with a bid writing and management consultancy working across several sectors including renewable energy, law, healthcare, facilities management and construction.

I have always had a passion for the built environment which was one of the reasons I entered the construction sector, using my bid writing experience to join Willmott Dixon Construction within their northern new business team. 

I have been with Willmott Dixon for six and a half years now, progressing to the role of Assistant Bid Manager and being involved in over £200m worth of public and private sector schemes across sectors - including Bluelight, Education, Leisure, HEFE and Commercial. In addition to my bid management duties, I also manage the Department for Education framework across the north, liaising with the DfE project management teams and our bid/project teams to ensure the success of their capital projects across the region. 

I have also been heavily involved in working with Building Equality, a group of building contractors, consultants and developers working across the UK to create a more diverse, inclusive and equitable construction sector. Representing Willmott Dixon and for a time occupying the role of Vice Chair of the Greater Manchester Committee, I led on a national poster campaign that addressed inappropriate and homophobic language usage on construction sites and contributed to an LGBTQ+ and Allies toolbox talk that has been delivered on construction sites across the country. 

When I’m not managing bids or visiting our construction sites, I am usually wandering around a National Trust parkland or out hiking in the moorland of the Rossendale valley where I live, with my partner Josh and Zephyr our boisterous Weimaraner. 

What was your ambition for your career when you started at UEA? Did you have a specific career path in mind?

I didn’t have a specific career path in mind when I started at UEA. I was passionate about History and looked forward to exploring all the subject had to offer throughout my undergraduate degree. I knew that History refined numerous transferrable skills that would enable me to pursue a fulfilling career. My time at UEA had a big impact on my career path, responding to essay questions/getting to grips with complex and sometimes abstract ideas by delving into documents, researching, trying to understand the impact and the wider context of events, time periods and figures. 

Tell me about your experiences studying at UEA.

I knew Norwich quite well before I came to study at UEA - I have family who live in the city and out towards the Broads, so the city was familiar to me. I knew that UEA was an exceptional university to study History, and I did a lot of research into the History course and the breadth of expertise within the school.

There are too many ‘best days’ to choose from - we were quite a closeknit cohort and many of the people I was friends with on my course are still my closest friends today. If I had to choose just a few:

Trips to various country houses around East Anglia with the Landscape department, the fieldtrip to Leicester and Bosworth Fields mere weeks after Richard III was found in the carpark, and sitting in the square or the Landscape room with other History people to write our essays and exchange ideas. 

Did you participate in any clubs or societies while studying at UEA?

I was a member of the Men’s Hockey team throughout my time at UEA and was also a member of the UEA History Society committee in the role of Publicity Officer in my second year, and then Social Secretary in my third year. I was also a student representative in my second year, attending UKAS fairs and then in my third year was a student ambassador for the School of History. 

Did this influence your outlook, give you skills that made you more employable, or expand your network?

My involvement in societies, sports teams and working for the University definitely influenced my outlook. My role within committees and as a member of my Hockey team increased my understanding of team dynamics and what it means to pull together as a collective to overcome challenges. These roles also gave me interpersonal skills which I use every day; the confidence and ability to be able to communicate effectively with anyone and extract useful information or get them on side to support a project I am working has its foundations in my time at UEA working within society and sports teams. 

Has your degree influenced your career?

My degree has equipped me with so many of the skills that I use on a daily basis within my role. Accessing and interpreting vast amounts of highly complex information and extracting the salient points is a key skill honed within History. In addition, bid management requires you to be a good writer, I always underestimated this until I entered construction. 

While at UEA I studied landscape history and in my third year chose this as my special subject. Everything I learnt pushed me further towards a career that would involve the built environment. 

My time at UEA taught me to look around because history really is everywhere - my other half is sick of me pointing out ancient hedgerows, ridge and furrow and 18th century parkland landscapes as we drive about. 

What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?

Winning the Willmott Dixon – Sonny Bill Williams Award for Outstanding Behaviour in Exceptional Circumstances which recognised my hard work within my day-to-day role as well as my work with Building Equality to challenge misconceptions of the sector and facilitate an industry-wide conversation around EDI within construction and the built environment. 

What were your experiences of Norwich as a city? Is there anything in particular that you miss or have fond memories of?

Norwich is a wonderful city, there are few better places in the UK to study history in my opinion and I frequently make the pilgrimage back to wander around Tombland and take a visit to the Castle and the Cathedral. The best thing about Norwich was that UEA had all of the activities, community and excitement of a campus university without being isolated from the nearest city. 

Norwich had everything you could ask for as a student - great nightlife down Prince of Wales, brilliant independent cafes, bars and restaurants as well as loads of great little pubs. UEA itself is such a big part of the city too, and I look back fondly on walking around the Sainsbury Centre, Earlham Park, UEA lake and broad. 

Would you recommend studying at UEA? Why?

I have always been an advocate of UEA and I always will be. My experience of the university is one of excellent teaching and mentorship from my professors - people who brought History to life for me and made me love my subject even more. 

Is there any advice you would give to current students, wishing to follow a similar career path to you?

The best piece of advice I can give anyone wanting to get into bids would be to try and secure some work experience in it first. It is a varied and ever-changing role - no two bids are the same so it provides variety, but it is also a pressurised environment with strict deadlines and challenges so it is important to experience these early in your career. 

There are a number of bid writing consultancies across the country as well as many of the large organisations across all sectors regularly advertising for graduate or trainee bid writer roles. These typically come with a development plan in place that will expose candidates to the different parts of the role and more importantly provide support, and I do believe this support is essential within the early stages of a bid career 

What is next for you?

The next step for me will be a Bid Manager role with Willmott Dixon. 

No two bids are the same, so I don’t know what my next bid will be, but Willmott Dixon is focused on Net Zero Carbon and Passivhaus buildings to help tackle climate change. Construction is not a climate-friendly sector, contributing to 38% of Global Carbon emissions, so it is a huge challenge but also an exciting time, we must change the way we think about buildings, the way we use them, what they look like and how we deconstruct them. I look forward to working with my colleagues, design consultants and suppliers to rise to this challenge and support our customers to deliver efficient, sustainable, and green projects in the future. 

Ryan Cornick studied BA History at UEA.