It might surprise some to learn that CEOs, having climbed to the top of the corporate ladder, can have unfulfilled dreams.
Like most kids growing up in the U.K., Len Murray aspired to become a professional footballer like his uncle, who played and coached in the former Football League First Division.
The CEO of Klohn Crippen Berger Ltd. (KCB) might not have a statue like Cristiano Ronaldo or worldwide fame like David Beckham, but that hasn’t prevented him from leaving his mark on the world, and a substantial one at that. Fame comes and goes and heroes fade away, but a 600-foot wall of concrete like North Vancouver’s Seymour Falls Dam, which Murray helped build, is an achievement that can last for ages.
“You get that real sense that you’re creating something that’s never been there before,” said Murray. “And it’s going to be there almost forever.”
Engineers will likely never be as iconic as professional athletes, but it is undeniable that through his creations Murray has made a substantial contribution to the world. And while not travelling around the world to compete at a World Cup, he gets to experience the world in a way that’s not impossibly far removed from the perpetually on-the-go life of a soccer champion.
“I didn’t want a career where I just went into the same office every day. Engineering was a kind of mix of the ability to travel, get outside and there’s always something new happening. What can be better than that?” said Murray. “And they pay you for it.”
With an inquisitive mind and desire to explore – ever since he was a child, he’s loved science and the outdoors, he said – Murray has embraced frequent travel, searching out new places with his wife and kids.
In the 1980s, Murray and his wife decided that they were bored of ordinary life in the U.K. and headed to Calgary, a place they knew little about. When a recession made living in Alberta untenable, it was of little concern to Murray. At that time never one to stay in one place for long, Murray took his family to Papua New Guinea for three years.
While Murray helped develop the Ok Tedi mine, his wife taught at a school set up on the site for children of the workers at the mine.
Working in the fields of science and engineering, travelling and spending time outdoors in an unconventional job with unique opportunities was everything Murray cherished. So when he was given the opportunity to take on a senior leadership role with a division of the company in Richmond, B.C., he took it with misgivings.
But any reluctance soon turned to enthusiasm as Murray began to realize the impact he could have on key projects, the company and most importantly the people he was working with.
Murray never expected that climbing to the top of the internationally renowned engineering consulting firm would allow him creative freedom in his work. Yet it does, he said, and in a way that extends to aspects beyond just the design and construction of each new structure.
The creative work that Murray seems proudest of is the mentorship he offers his fellow engineers. By helping them to develop their careers, or as he puts it, taking people “out of short pants” and putting them “into long pants,” he allows young engineers to take on more professional responsibilities within the business.
“There’s a creative element to that, and you get the rewards that are different from the design,” he said. “It’s not painting a mural on the side of a wall, but you look at the group that you got doing the work that they have and get to think that you were influential in starting that.”
Looking back at his career and the company that he helped develop, Murray is proud of what he’s been able to accomplish.
Picking engineering over English football turned out to be the right choice, he said – after all, engineers seem to become better and more in demand with age, but the same cannot be said for footballers. In fact, Murray said, the best piece of advice he ever got was from his soccer-playing uncle, who discouraged him from pursuing the life of a professional athlete. It was advice that allowed Murray to cement his place in the world in other ways, as a builder and leader. •
Join us to celebrate this year’s honourees at the 2018 BC CEO Awards November 15, 2018, hosted at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info, visit www.biv.com/ceo.