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One to watch: Tom Debono MCIOB, Turner & Townsend

The assistant project manager in T&T’s Dubai Office talks to CM about his career in construction and working in the Middle East.

Why did you choose construction as a career? What else might you have done instead?

Good question. I studied politics and history at college, however quickly realised that, aside from not being my ‘forte’, I felt the subjects didn’t provide a clear career direction.

A lot of my close childhood friends left school and pursued vocational courses to become electricians and joiners. I saw them enjoy working on site, earning a good wage (and finishing early on a Friday…).

“In between my studies, I’d experienced working abroad in Ibiza, which definitely gave me a taste for a warmer climate. Dubai seemed like a great opportunity to gain unique experience and earn a competitive salary.”

Tom Debono MCIOB

As such I decided to complete a course in real estate management and quickly developed a keen interest in property and construction. I then completed a construction management honours degree at Liverpool John Moores University and I haven’t looked back since.

I’d encourage anyone who is unsure of a career path to consider construction. If you are creative you can pursue a career in design. If you are good with numbers, look at being a quantity surveyor. If you have good leadership skills and can proactively overcome challenges then you might have the makings of a strong project manager.

You’re working in Dubai. How did that come about and how is it going?

I actually visited Dubai for a wedding back in 2019. One of my close friends was working with Turner & Townsend in Dubai and had regularly encouraged me to join him. He managed to set me up with an interview during my holiday and luckily it went well, which is surprising as the wedding was the day before.

Previously, in between my studies, I’d experienced working abroad in Ibiza, which definitely gave me a taste for a warmer climate. Dubai seemed like a great opportunity to gain unique experience and earn a competitive salary.

I now work within Turner & Townsend’s Corporate Real Estate team in Dubai, delivering office fit-out projects for a wide variety of clients including some well-known tech giants, financial institutions and law firms. It’s very fast paced, but really interesting, with no two days the same. Most of the offices we build contain facilities you would expect to see in a five-star hotel. It’s safe to say that the DNA of the corporate occupier is evolving in the region. 

What are your career ambitions?

My career ambitions have evolved as my career has. I started my career with a small turn-key property developer which gave me an appetite to build my own developments in the future. I then joined a boutique PMC consultancy which gave me the appetite to one day own my own practice.

More recently, working for a large multinational, I have aspirations to become a partner with Turner & Townsend and develop my experience across a multitude of sectors. I would say that my goals will no doubt change and evolve again but I am sure they will remain ambitious!

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