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From Holiday Rep to Nuclear Business Development Manager

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

How I Fell into the Nuclear Industry: James Rudd, Business Development Manager, NSG Environmental Ltd

I grew up in the small, sleepy, picture-postcard village of Thornton-le-Dale, which is nestled on the southern edge of the North York Moors. It’s a great place to grow up, but there is very little in the way of major employers other than farming, small businesses and tourism.


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At school, I was reasonably bright, but certainly, no genius compared to some of my more studious and academic peers. Whilst there, I found that it took me a long time to write anything down, so my interests tended towards the STEM subjects, where it was possible to get away with writing a lot less and using numbers. I did reasonably well with my GCSEs, but I did not really have a career or my future planned at that stage. I enjoyed school, so I decided to stay on and do my A levels.

I had an older brother who studied Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A level, so I elected to do the same — I thought all I had to do was get higher grades than him and my parents would be content.

Thornton-le-Dale, North York Moors

Again, during my A level years, my choice of a career needed to be considered. I explored a few career options through short placements and research, and eventually narrowed it down to Mechanical Engineering — probably, again, as this was the subject that my older brother had selected and I thought I could get away with achieving a higher grade than him!

My university decision was based on the following criteria:

  1. It had to be far enough away that I was escaping from my parents’ influence

  2. It was close enough that my parents could drive me and my stuff there

  3. It had to have some of the best sporting facilities in the region

Taking my criteria into account, Sheffield Hallam was selected as my best option and it turned out to be a good choice, as it was a good university that provided me with a good grounding in engineering. I enjoyed the first two years studying and in the third year I elected to take a placement year working at McCain Foods in the maintenance team.

My time there was fun, but the real fun was combining nine months of engineering with another six months of working abroad as a holiday rep in France. After I completed my degree, I made the only sensible choice: I went back out to work as a holiday rep in France for another long hot summer. Unfortunately, the summer holidays only last a season and I returned to England knowing that I finally had to try and get a ‘proper’ job.

Labman Automation

Looking for work was something I had never done before, so I did not know how to do it. I, therefore, took the only logical approach I could think of and did some research into all the interesting engineering companies in my local(ish) area. I then went about writing letters to them all. This process took a while; in two weeks I had sent four letters to engineering companies and also wrote four letters to winter holiday skiing companies (as a backup plan).

Luckily, one of the engineering companies wrote back and within two weeks I was employed as a Project Engineer with a robotics company called Labman Automation. My role was to help build robotic systems for pharmaceutical R&D. I enjoyed this work, but my line managers soon realised that my skills at machining and manufacturing components were not as strong as my ability to understand technical details and relay them to clients.

After a year, as part of an expansion programme, my customer interfacing skills were recognised and I was offered, and subsequently jumped at, the chance to move to America and open up an office to explore the potential for growth in the US pharmaceutical automation market. This was a fantastic opportunity for a 23-year-old and I travelled around many pharmaceutical sites in the US and successfully sold two large robotic systems.

After a year and a half in the US, the 9/11 disaster occurred and one of the knock-on effects was a pause in pharmaceutical investment funding. Shortly after, Labman reviewed their investment decision to carry on with the US office and I was made redundant.

After a few months of looking around and several interviews, I was lucky enough to be given a job working for an engineering company that provided equipment and services to the pharmaceutical industry as an Internal Sales Engineer at Extract Technology. My responsibilities included working with clients around the world and providing them with solutions and proposals for powder handling challenges.

Extract Technology

After a couple of years working there, I recognised that their market position had changed and they were struggling to find new orders, so I posted my CV on an online recruitment website. Within a couple of months, my CV was picked up by a recruitment agency and subsequently passed on as a potential candidate to fill a potential new position at NSG Environmental Ltd. At the time, I knew very little about the company, but I dutifully did some research and became more intrigued.

When I went for the interview with NSG, the company was based out of a few portable cabins and an old workshop that used to be part of the British Leyland production works. During my first visit to the facility and through discussions with staff, I could see NSG’s potential. Although they were a small company operating in a niche market, they appeared to have great longevity of work. After a series of interviews, I was lucky to be offered the position of Commercial Engineer. Without any plan, I had fallen into the nuclear industry, at a period of time when it was going through a lot of change and growth with the formation of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Over the 17 years, I have been with NSG, my role has matured and developed as the business has grown. I am now one of the company’s Business Development Managers and part of a successful team that look for new work in the nuclear waste management, decommissioning and site services market. Over that time, NSG has grown from a company turning over £3m and employing 20 staff to a company turning over nearly £40 million and employing nearly 300 staff.


During my time in the industry, I have become increasingly involved in a number of nuclear programmes and I can see great opportunities for others to make the jump and get involved in the industry. Although I fell into nuclear by accident, I would definitely recommend a career in the industry. It has certainly been one of the best decisions I have ever made.


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