James Baillie works for Waldeck as a Revit and CAD technician within building services. His career journey originally took him down a very different route, with a stint playing as a professional footballer for Crewe Alexandra.
As part of our Pathfinders series, which highlights the career path of individuals across many sectors and industries, we spoke to James about his unusual route into engineering for National Careers Week 2023
Talk to us about your early years.
I did P.E, GCSE, maths and science and business. Throughout my whole life growing up I’ve always played football so I’d probably say that was all I knew from an early age. I’d say I wanted to be a professional footballer from an early age, about seven. I got picked up from Man United and Crewe Alexandra and at the age of nine I had to choose one of them. So, I chose United, stayed there for 14 years, and then went back to Crewe at under-16s level. I was offered a scholarship there and then was offered a three-year pro contract.
How do you think playing football from such an early age shaped your future career?
From an early age, it structured me to be quite professional, and so I’d say that side of it. I’ve always been dedicated to football. I’d say working as a team and getting to know the team and problem-solving. It’s a different type, but we face it every day and I think that side of it I’ve taken into my new role.
At one point in your career, you suffered the setback of a broken leg. Did you think your career as a player might be over and what did you do during the time that you were out injured?
Initially, I was obviously gutted. I had to have a second operation on my ankle. I was a bit wary that I’d been out 12 months and I was a bit worried that it’d take a lot longer to get back playing, but not that my career was completely officially over, rather just a retired, semi-pro footballer. In the time off, I just focused on getting a job.
When did you start thinking about a career outside of football?
It was when I was just coming out of non-league football, full-time football to non-league, I was focused on getting into a career and earning a bit of money on the side as well. So I said, okay, I’m out of full-time football, so I’ll go in and see what else I enjoy. From an early age I’ve been quite creative, from school, I covered a few lessons on AutoCAD. So, I went into the local offices nearby and it just went in and said, “can I kind of learn AutoCAD and just get a feel for it?” And in the end, they offered me a job. Now, I’ve moved to Waldeck Consulting as a CAD technician.
What does the future look like for you with the company?
I’m studying mechanical engineering. It’s the mechanical and electrical side, it’s building services. Anything above a ceiling, below the floor and pipework, ventilation. It’s more the design side and I use it as a big jigsaw. It’s kind of puzzling pieces together to make your system work. So I think that side of it I quite enjoy. I’m studying mechanical engineering as well, a day release at college.
So I’d probably say working up to being a chartered engineer and working my way up the business, doing it that way is what my future holds.