In his 19 years as CEO of NIRAS, Carsten Toft Boesen has seen the business grow from 509 to 2,355 employees. He has headed the company’s development from a predominantly Danish consultancy to becoming a significant player on the international market. On Saturday 27 April 2019, he turns 60.
“I can find my way to work in my sleep.” That is Carsten Toft Boesen’s reply when asked what it is like to have been in the same workplace for 34 years. He has made the trip from his home in Roskilde to NIRAS for more than three decades now. And in all that time, the man and the engineering consultancy have gone every step of the way together.
For the first 15 years, the technical side of things was the focal point of his work. As a specialist and a project manager, Carsten Toft Boesen worked particularly with water resources and groundwater chemistry. But gradually the management side of things took over: First in 1992, when he became head of the water and environmental division, and then later in 2000 when he was appointed CEO of NIRAS.
“Looking back on NIRAS’s development fills me with satisfaction,” says Carsten Toft Boesen when asked to take a retrospective look at his 19 years as a top-level executive. “In retrospect, some decisions proved to be milestones in NIRAS’s development, and I’m especially proud of those today,” he says.
“We chose to invest in development aid instead of shutting it down as many of our competitors did in the 2000s. That decision contributed to making sustainability part of NIRAS’s DNA, and it’s an agenda that will be essential in the future,” says Carsten Toft Boesen.
Furthermore, he emphasises NIRAS’s focus on cross-sectoral cooperation, a fundamental restructuring of the company in 2010 and the merger with ALECTIA in 2017 as significant turning points, laying the foundation for developing the market leadership and binding, strategic partnerships which characterise NIRAS today.
In October 1985, 26-year-old Carsten Toft Boesen had his first working day. As a recently qualified geologist, he considered staying in the academic world as a researcher, and he also applied for a position as an oil geologist with Maersk Oil. But instead, he ended up becoming a hydrogeologist with the water and environmental consultancy Terraqua, which had become part of NIRAS a few years earlier.
On the windowsill in Carsten’s office sits a 20-kilo ingot of lead-zinc ore from the Black Angel Mine in Greenland. It serves as a reminder of both his and the company’s roots. He makes no secret of the fact that he sometimes longs to go back to where he started.
“I actually sometimes miss the ‘craft’, and I love listening to project managers and specialists who go into detail with what they’re working on. You don’t belong in a place like NIRAS if you’re not a big fan of engineering projects and technical challenges,” he says.
On 27 April 2019, Carsten Toft Boesen turns 60. In his spare time, he still needs to ‘burn calories’ two or three times a week. Previously, he used running as a way to work up a sweat and clear his head. Today, he uses his racing bike. He is definitely not considering gearing down, neither personally nor professionally:
“Personally, I’ve never really had a long-term career plan. Now I’m turning 60, and people are asking me when I plan on retiring. But I could actually very well see myself doing this job for maybe five years still. We haven’t fixed a date yet, but when the board or I decide that it’s time, I hope there’s another position for me at NIRAS,” says Carsten Toft Boesen.
NIRAS’s CEO really values and cherishes his personal life. Carsten is married and has three adult children and a grandchild. He does not wear a tie at home – there, he is not a top-level executive.
“I’m pretty good at relaxing and staying offline when I’m on holiday. Then I’m not at work, and I’m not a CEO. I really don’t believe that my neighbours see me as the ‘CEO of NIRAS’. I really appreciate the anonymity,” says Carsten Toft Boesen.