We are EMBL: Timothy Shayers on building maintenance and renovation in Rome

Timothy Shayers talks about his role in overseeing the renovation works at EMBL Rome, his past experiences around the world, and his personal passions

Tim Shayers sitting in his office
Tim Shayers. Credits: Rossana De Lorenzi/EMBL

2023 will mark a major turning point for EMBL Rome. A few weeks ago, half of the main building was emptied and some of the offices and meeting rooms were moved to a temporary building. Although it might feel strange to walk down the empty and cold hallways, the staff are excited because these are tangible signs that the building renovation project will begin soon. This challenging project will take about two years to complete, and will eventually transform the current building into a modern facility with a new space distribution concept, including joint laboratories, multiple-use modular rooms, and study areas.

Timothy Shayers joined EMBL Rome in 2021 as building maintenance officer. Besides routine maintenance activities, he is in charge of the renovation project and has been taking care of administrative procedures in preparation for the start of the renovation works.

What do you think is the most exciting thing about your work?

What I like about my work is that there is always an element of not knowing what I will be doing each day. Although we have our planned maintenance activities, mechanical failures do occur, especially on old infrastructure and equipment. We need to be ready to face those challenges to try to minimise their impact on scientific activity. For this, I can rely on a very supportive and experienced team.
However, the most exciting aspect of my work is definitely overseeing the renovation project, with all the changes it will bring. Having all-new equipment and infrastructure will allow us to be more efficient and save a lot more energy. We will also make better use of technology by implementing modern building management systems, which will help us control and ensure the continuity of the scientific work.

What’s the best part of working at EMBL?

When I first visited the EMBL Rome site for my interview, it felt friendly and welcoming. My previous work environments were more business-oriented, with more stringent procedures. As the building expands, we will probably need to put in place more structured maintenance systems, in line with other EMBL sites. But I really like that the organisation of the space here reflects the EMBL spirit of knowledge sharing and open culture. Technical staff at EMBL also have many opportunities to learn and participate in trainings. We are free to attend the scientific seminars, and this strengthens the connection with the community and the science that is carried out at the site.

How do you see your work evolving over the next few years?

We are entering an exciting phase for the Rome site with the transition to the new building. Aside from the upheaval of relocating people and labs before, between, and after the construction works, we will eventually become more independent from our host site and fully responsible for the new building. Our focus will shift from repairs on old systems and equipment to asset monitoring and management.

Where do you find inspiration for solving problems at work?

I think it is a mixture of experience in previous jobs, formal training, and the people I work with. I have been fortunate enough to hold different roles throughout my career and to travel to many countries, meeting people from different cultures and ways of working. These experiences and specialised training courses help me find the right approach to problems. But it is also essential to have qualified technicians to support you.

What’s the best advice you were ever given in pursuing your field?

One thing that jumps to mind that I am pretty sure came from my dad is “Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t want to do yourself.”

What is your passion?

At one point in my life, ‘travel’ would have been the instinctive response, but now my wife and children are. I spent nearly three years traveling in India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, and Australia and then worked in North and South Africa. I still enjoy meeting new people and seeing new places, but I am not so happy to be away from home.

What is one thing about you that most folks don’t know?

I support the Leicester City football team. I have always followed them, but since I came to Italy, it has become a stronger passion, probably to keep the connection to my hometown.

Tags: administration, facility, rome, sustainability, we are embl


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