Obituary for Karl Soar – Paving Sales Manager for Leica Geosystems

Karl Soar, an inspirational member of the machine control team at Leica Geosystems and world class specialist in his field, was known, liked and respected by professionals across the globe.

Colleagues, customers and friends were shocked and saddened to hear of Karl’s sudden and early death at home, at the age of 45. Many of them travelled to the UK from the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway to attend his funeral in Staffordshire.

During a 14 year career with Leica Geosystems Karl’s contribution and impact in a number of senior roles in machine control, was significant. Based in the UK, Holland, and also at the manufacturing base in Heerbrugg, Switzerland, he worked on numerous major civil engineering projects around the world.

These include: the Channel Tunnel Rail Link; Terminal 5 at Heathrow; the Perpignan-Figueres high speed rail link between France and Spain, and road and rail tunnels from the Russian Winter Olympic town of Sochi to the airport on the Black Sea coast.

Mark Concannon, President, EMEA Hexagon Geosystems said, “Karl’s passion, drive and practical understanding of the market was instrumental to the development and success of Leica’s concrete paving solutions and bulldozer guidance and grader systems. He had a rare ability to relate to people at all levels in the construction world, from bulldozer drivers to technicians, to company owners. He was adaptable and thrived on finding solutions to technical challenges”.
A civil engineering graduate, with an MSc in computer science from Manchester University, Karl joined Leica Geosystems in 1999 as Applications Developer and Engineer for Geodesy/GPS.

Prior to this appointment his PhD research at Sheffield Hallam University had ignited his ambition for a career that combined IT with engineering.

His study had centred on the investigation and preliminary development of a novel, real-time 3D site positioning system using a Leica motorised total station. This would allow construction plant to be driven on site directly from ‘as built’ topographic CAD models. Karl had already spotted that IT provision in the field of construction and surveying had massive potential and was largely undeveloped.

Overcoming the technical challenges in order to design and develop innovative products was Karl’s forte and he wore his professionalism with a jovial, approachable and likeable face.

In 2003 he was offered a position at Leica Geosystems in Switzerland to begin a 3 year secondment as Machine Automation Service and Support Manager. He moved his family to Heerbrugg where his expertise was channelled into product development and management. His specifications for new hardware and software for concrete paving solutions gave him an international platform and business relationships with key customers and machine manufacturers, including Gomeco and Wirtgen, soon followed.

He returned to the UK to join the management team of the Machine Control Division in 2008.

Neil Williams, Engineering and Infrastructure Segment Manager said, “In his specialist area he was a guru, but with the ability to be informative and clear. He was meticulous in preparing presentations that were tailored to his audience. He knew our products inside out but he didn’t just sell products, he offered solutions and people respected him for that. Quite simply, he cared.”

Karl is survived by his partner Zoe and their three children to whom he was devoted. He frequently spoke with pride to colleagues about his family and his weekends were dedicated to spending quality time with them.

His interests outside work included motorcycling and overseas travel. He enjoyed real ales and had also worked as a lighting designer, technician and rigger for individual bands, live music venues and theatres.

Matthias Fritz, Machine Control Manager for Wirtgen GmbH, worked with Karl on several projects, most recently in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia where they visited a site together.

Matthias Fritz recalls, “We spent several days on the jobsite but in the evening we were both desperate to see a live kangaroo in the wild. We even asked the locals for the best spots to see them and we waited for hours, without success. At some point we agreed to stop the roo hunt and go to the pub for a good pint of beer. We were very good friends. We both shared a passion for our work and I will miss him dearly”.