Latitude and Attitude: Geospatial adventures with our KOREC customers!

In the first of our 'Latitude and Attitude' series, we posed 10 questions to Mike Roller, Civil Engineering Surveyor, Galliford Try.

We’ve always believed that the geospatial industry offers up some fabulous stories, great personalities and interesting points of view and that now’s as good a time as any to celebrate this with some quick fire interviews.

In the first of our ‘Latitude and Attitude’ series, we posed 10 questions to Mike Roller, Civil Engineering Surveyor, Galliford Try. Why did we pick Mike for our first post? Well, the KOREC team has been lucky enough to socialise with Mike at work related functions over the years, including a recent trip to Trimble Dimensions in Las Vegas, so we knew he’d be a safe bet for some great stories…. and that with over 30 years in the indsutry working for some of the biggest names including Balfour Beatty, Skanska and even Trimble, there was a rich vein to be mined. Mike didn’t disappoint!

Why did you choose a career in surveying?

I was advised by my then Maths teacher to take a one or two-day course run by Birkbeck College. I believe it was called Vocational Guidance. They gave me an IQ test and alternatives from which to choose that were basically indoor or outdoor, using your brain or your hands, arts or sciences…etc. They concluded I could achieve a maths degree and my aptitudes lay in something like Clerk of Works or Quantity Surveying. I tried for a job in Quantity Surveying and thought I’d try for one in Land Surveying as well thinking they must be similar. I got the job in Land Surveying.

If you weren’t a surveyor what would you be….

I tried to join the RAF as a Pilot Officer on a twelve-year commission. I passed the medical and got good marks in the flying aptitude tests during the first two days of a four-day course at Biggin Hill. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the next two days as, during the interview at the end of the second day, I was deemed “not officer material”. It was only several years later while I was applying for Canadian citizenship (my dad was Canadian) that I discovered that my dad’s parents were Russian, which I felt may have actually been the reason, it was the 1960s, the Cold War etc…!

What was your most memorable survey moment?

I spent a year doing all the survey and setting-out for a five-kilometre conveyor belt for British Gypsum between their mine in Brightling and their processing plant at Mountfield, East Sussex. It was the first of its kind to follow the contours of the route rather than being a series of straight belts. The belt was pulled from the Mountfield end along a route which consisted of horizontal and vertical curves so any inaccuracy in the positioning could result in the belt being pulled off its rollers. When the M & E team came to commission the belt, they had allowed two months to tweak any problems. They started it up and it ran perfectly. They then loaded it with gypsum, and it continued to run perfectly so after two days they were on their way home!

What was your most dangerous survey moment?

Being shot while working in Iraq during the war with Iran in 1981. I still have the bullet lodged so close to my heart that the surgeon(s) thought it safer to leave it where it was than to try to remove it.

What was the best project you’ve worked on?

Lingfield all-weather racecourse. I carried out all the survey and setting-out for this contract during which time I was given free badges to bring my family to watch the horse racing free of charge. They were very enjoyable days out and we had three of them during the year I was working there.

What are your top three surveying tips?

Check, check, check.

Tell us about your favourite survey story

I worked for a year for the Eastern Road Construction Unit checking the setting-out of the alignment of the M11 as it was later to be known. I was checking the northern most section down to the A10, then three colleagues were doing the same for three more sections down as far as the North Circular Road. We used to meet up in a pub in Great Chesterford after work one or two evenings a week and on one particular evening, one of the other locals who was often in the pub after a train journey from London (let’s call him Simon, early thirties, not a surveyor) received a phone call on the pub’s land line…

Landlord: “Simon, it’s for you.”

Simon: “Hello? oh hello darling,” (pub goes a bit quiet, listening) “well, yes, about half an hour” (pub goes very quiet, listening intently by now), “oh alright then fifteen minutes.” Simon then replaces the receiver and announces to all listening “That ****** told her didn’t it?”

What is the best bit of survey technology you’ve used?


If you could give one bit of advice to your younger self it would be….

I left after A Levels because I wanted to get away from school. I should have had a “Gap” year to get the leaving school idea out of my system and gone to university.

What next – do you have any unfulfilled dreams or aims?

When I was ten years old, my parents emigrated to Canada. There was my mum and dad, two sisters and a brother and we spent an enjoyable Atlantic Crossing by Cunard liner to Montreal, then a train journey to Winnipeg, where my dad’s parents were, then a car trip across the rest of Canada to the west coast to settle in British Columbia near Vancouver. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for Dad, and we returned home after eight months but that’s another story. I intend to make a similar trip with my wife, driving to Vancouver, then driving south to California enjoying the views from the Pacific Coast Highway, then turn East to come back along Route 66 to Niagara Falls, then New York and home.

If you’d like to be a part of KOREC’s ’10 Questions’ series, drop us your name at: