Case Study

Michael joined Cockram Construction in 1995 and has progressed to his current position as Victoria State Manager and Associate Director.  He has worked for Cockram Construction on overseas pharmaceutical projects in China and Puerto Rico, and their seconded services business in the United States.  He played a leading role in the establishment of Leighs Cockram JV Ltd in New Zealand, a joint venture partnership between Cockram Construction and New Zealand builder Leighs Construction.

“As the Victorian State Manager for Cockram, I enjoy leading a large and very talented team delivering high quality projects on time and on budget for our clients,” Michael explains.

Michael joined Cockram Construction in 1995 and has progressed to his current position as Victoria State Manager and Associate Director.  He has worked for Cockram Construction on overseas pharmaceutical projects in China and Puerto Rico, and their seconded services business in the United States.  He played a leading role in the establishment of Leighs Cockram JV Ltd in New Zealand, a joint venture partnership between Cockram Construction and New Zealand builder Leighs Construction.

“As the Victorian State Manager for Cockram, I enjoy leading a large and very talented team delivering high quality projects on time and on budget for our clients,” Michael explains.

He works on projects across a range of sectors including health and aged care, research and education, sport and defence.

“The opportunity to work across Australia, delivering projects in several states and internationally has enabled me to sharpen my cross cultural communication skills,” he continues.

“I am passionate about leading, training and mentoring staff to allow them to progress and continue to have successful careers at Cockram.”

His close involvement with Master Builders began in 2011 when he joined the Council of Management. Since then he has been made a member of the Board, a position he considers a great privilege.

“I enjoy putting something back into our industry, contributing and helping to foresee issues that are coming up and playing my part,” he said.

“I enjoy helping to shape where our industry is headed. There’s no point complaining about where things are at, I think you should be getting in there and doing your own little bit in terms of where the industry is headed.” 

Michael got his start in the industry after deciding against his initial interest in architecture, and going with a Bachelor of Planning and Design (Building) instead. 

“Working on a diversity of different construction projects has such variety, and working with people, that’s for me,” he says. 

He graduated with honours in 1993 and after working on commercial sites including Bandiana Military Base near Wodonga, he got his start with what was then Hooker Cockram. 

His work with Cockram has extended to projects across the state and globe, notably the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons project, the DSTO Stage 2 Rationalisation project for the Department of Defence and Pharmacia Nicorette in Puerto Rico. 

But the project that he says was a turning point in his career, one that he and his Cockram colleagues still talk about today, is SmithKline Beecham (now Pfizer) JV2 in the city of Tianjin in the north of China, a pharmaceutical development worth US$60 million in the late 90’s. He worked on the job as a contract administrator and programmer from 1998 to 1999. 

 “I certainly enjoyed the two years I spent in China, for the life experience, cultural experience and also building a large pharmaceutical plant in the middle of nowhere was a real experience,” he explains. 

“Having to go out and educate and find the right contractors and suppliers for our client. That was something that you didn’t need to do at all in Australia.” 

Michael recalls working among trades-people and staff from Australia, UK, US, China, Italy and Belgium all working on the one site. 

“For someone in their 20s that was a really exciting and interesting job.  A cultural melting pot of different work practices.” 

Michael says the Cockram culture lends itself exceptionally well to retaining staff. 

“People start their careers with Cockram and are able to grow within the company,” he explains. 

“We’ve changed a heck of a lot since I started in 1995, back then we were just a Melbourne builder, now we’ve branched out considerably across the country and internationally. You look at where we are and the size of our business and what we’re doing in places like China and how we’re continuing to grow.” 

 “It’s pretty unusual for me to have two days the same. I’d probably struggle being in a different, less challenging industry.” 

He says his keys to success are simple.

“Personally I think having a head down, bum up approach to my work has worked for me for over 20 years. It’s the mantra I was brought up with. And being well organised. It’s a must if you want to succeed in our industry.” 

From a company perspective, he says the focus is on reputation. 

“Cockram’s reputation is crucial to us. We treat every job as though it’s the most important, because at the end of the project, what our client has to say about our performance has a big bearing on our ability to roll onto future comparable projects.” 

Some of his favourite Victorian buildings are the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and the MCG. 

“I love the MCG, for extra-curricular reasons,” the avid North Melbourne supporter says. 

“We were fortunate enough to do a project there, the digital stadium upgrade, over the past 12 months.The project included stadium wide high definition Wi-Fi, exterior themed lighting and a significant broadcast infrastructure upgrade. An exciting project for our team.”  

With such a physically and mentally demanding occupation, Michael enjoys keeping healthy in his spare time. 

“I try to keep fit, just to keep myself sane.” 

He has completed several marathons, last year finishing the Noosa Triathlon and plans to give it another crack this year to improve on his time. 

“Our company has had a long association with Master Builders. Our former Director of the business Len Barlow who unfortunately passed away last year, was a former past president.” 

“I enjoy putting something back into our industry and contributing and help foreseeing issues that are coming up and playing your part.”

“I enjoying helping to shape where our industry is headed. There’s no point complaining about where things are at, I think you should be getting in there and doing your own little bit in terms of where the industry is headed,” he said.

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