“Our” Derek Retires

November 2020

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that our lovely colleague Derek Baker is retiring at the end of this month.  After seven years with Symmetrys, Derek is hanging up his calculation pad, site boots and hard hat, for the more tranquil setting of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy.

His calming presence in the office, plus his vast yet understated experience, will be sadly missed.  Many a graduate has gone on to a successful career as a result of Derek’s guidance – and many more in our industry have benefited from having him on their team.  Unruffled in even the most challenging circumstances, I don’t think we’ve ever seen an “angry Derek”.

 Before he heads off to his new life, we ask Derek to list the top 10 changes he has seen over his career.

  1. Smoking: When I started work in the 1970’s most people (including me) smoked in the office. Pipes, cigars as well as cigarettes. Looking back, I pity the non-smokers who had to live through that time.
  2. Drinking on Friday afternoon: Friday lunch time was ‘social time’ down the Pub. Drawing work produced in the afternoon was generally crap, and on Monday mornings the sound of erasers scratching out the work produced on Friday afternoons was deafening. I don’t know how we got away with it.
  3. Drawing Boards: As an up and coming draughtsman, the aim was to get yourself promoted onto a parallel motion board, as opposed to having to draw with the tee square variety. You knew you’d arrived if you had a P.M. board.
  4. Blue Prints: The smell of ammonia from the print room. One way of getting high.
  5. Fax Machines: The fax machine was the start of the speeding up process for information. Before the fax machine if you got a call from site or the Architect saying “ where’s that bloomin detail you promised”, you would say “It’s in the in the post” and blame the postman for the delay. Fax brought an end to that little scam.
  6. CAD: This was the death of the Draughtsman, and the skill of drawing. In place of personal style, we just had people banging on about how much Ram they’d got and how big their windows were.
  7. Health & Safety: Long ladders have gone – along with scary situations on site where you had to pretend you’re not bothered about climbing up a 9.0m ladder that’s not fully fixed. It’s like being on a vertical trampoline. Or scaffold boards that are not tied down and extend to the end of the platform and beyond… Trust me, site health and safety could still be better but it has appreciably improved over the years.
  8. Internet: The introduction of the internet and email was like faxing on steroids. Now information could be sent turbo boosted without having to print anything.
  9. Sustainability: Until I joined Symmetrys I didn’t realise the importance of this topic and how as Engineers we will probably have the biggest impact in driving this forward. This is a development I shall really miss not being involved in.
  10. A Lifetime of Experience: If you’re around long enough you get to see a lot, such as the different forms of construction and the changing ways of putting buildings together. Without realising, you take it all in and that becomes your library. It stays with you until you get to a point where you’ve acquired a lot of knowledge. Just how much building and construction is in my head and how much of this I could share with younger folk here (and one or two of the not so young as well) became apparent to me when I joined Symmetrys. That has been incredibly rewarding and a good note on which to end my career.

In a year which is far from normal, we do not want to let Derek leave without the appropriate celebration of an amazing career. Please feel free to pass on your best wishes at derek.baker@symmetrys.com before he jets off in December.

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