Meet our Managing Director, Paul McDonald

Paul McDonald has been the Managing Director of PWA for four years, and an engineer for twenty, so let us tell you more about him …

Paul McDonald graduated from Leeds University in 2004 with a Masters in Architectural Engineering. This intense course covered every aspect of building engineering and suited his flair for architectural design. He initially hoped to spend his sandwich year practising his French, but instead immersed himself in life at Pennsylvania State University in the USA.

Initially working for Hill Cannon consulting engineers in Harrogate, he joined PWA eighteen years ago when Paul Waite was Managing Director. During his first six months he began designing and delivering his own schemes, rapidly gaining in skills and confidence as a graduate engineer.

Staff changes reduced the number of senior engineers, and Paul saw an opportunity to take on more responsibility within the business. However, the rocky 2008 recession forced him to temporarily rein in these ambitions, so he concentrated on becoming professionally chartered, achieving membership of IStructE in 2013.

Performing a management role in structures, he eventually assumed joint control of both the civil and structural disciplines, as Paul Waite began planning his retirement. Over the next few years, he became fully equipped to lead the business, initially working closely with the Geotechnical manager until they jointly decided that a single leader would be the best succession strategy.

Paul had developed a strong sense of loyalty to the company, staff, and clients, and felt invested in increasing everyone’s success and happiness. He was keen to take on leadership and, by starting from such a solid base, he knew he could make a positive impact more quickly. He became Managing Director on 18th March 2020, and remains grateful to Paul Waite for trusting him with the reins.

Paul’s leadership style is to demonstrate a steady, consistent approach to problem-solving. He is clear-headed in pressured situations, stepping back to consider all options before offering the best solution. Difficult challenges will always arise, but he avoids a feisty, knee-jerk reaction that could lead to incorrect conclusions and the wrong solutions.

He believes our greatest value lies in helping clients develop a holistic site strategy at the start of a scheme. Although often an outsourced discipline, we don’t feel ground engineering should be an isolated piece of work, and we offer huge benefits by providing Geotechnical services in-house:

“We can evaluate a site’s investigation and development strategy in one go, mitigating and controlling risk by resolving issues creatively and more efficiently. We engage our other disciplines for every request, making it much easier to complete the next steps and secure the client’s desired end result. As we grow, we hope to introduce further efficiencies through greater collaboration with a network of remediation contractors.”

The biggest challenges we are tackling are mitigating climate change and providing cost-effective delivery; issues which have been exacerbated by Covid and rising interest rates. Our desire is to work with our industry colleagues to drive change and push boundaries:

“If we jointly face common obstacles around financial constraints and conflicting planning policies, we will find more creative opportunities to excel. Sites need space to breathe. Progress relies on developers investing in the client’s overall vision, and by more improvements to legislation governing site density, tenure mix, and truly sustainable drainage.”

Paul opened our Leeds city centre office in 2023, to help us serve clients geographically and create further opportunities for our expanding team to have long and successful careers. University costs can be a barrier to entering our industry, so we offer apprenticeships to invest in new talent and help address the current skills shortage. We attract people who feel driven to make positive changes in the design and construction industry.

Long-term, we want to build on our current strengths creating an expanding environment to allow our people to grow and take advantage of opportunities that we collectively create, continuing to excel  in the commercial and residential sectors, where we are successfully delivering housing developments, bespoke dwellings, and lower-rise residential/office blocks amongst many other areas, to help our clients and building users suceed and thrive. 

PWA Group continual aim is to create a world of opportunity in the industry.

If you would like to find out more about PWA Group or any of the other services please get in touch by calling 01535 633350 or emailing

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