08 Aug 2017
What would you do after being rejected for a place on your dream project management postgraduate course? How about enrol on a quantity surveying course, get a job with AECOM, move to Canada and oversee the management, design and construction of petrol stations in one of the biggest countries in the world? Kerhys Sterling describes her inspirational journey into surveying.
A twist of fate – from project management to quantity surveying
A spell of work experience with my local council told me that town planning wasn’t my calling. However, all was not lost as I did meet a surveyor which led to me doing further research into what surveying was and what the possible career opportunities were.
While studying geography at the University of Birmingham, I spent many hours on RICS’ website, learning more about the different surveying disciplines. When I’d completed my undergraduate degree, I had applied for my Masters in project management at London Southbank University.
Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in my application, but the university auto-enrolled me on the quantity surveying course and I just went with the flow. This was the best thing that happened to me – I’m incredibly happy with my career and the opportunities which have arisen.
From 0 to 60 - surveying in the fast lane
I’m currently working as a Cost Manager within a team which provides services for Shell Retail EPCM Group in Canada. We manage the design and construction of Shell petrol stations in Western and Central Canada.
I’m responsible for managing all of our project costs; providing early cost estimations of the projects to determine feasibility, and managing the project costs from design to final cost submission.
Our projects can range from store refurbishments, to tank replacements and brand new sites. Every day is different - I can find myself working on a feasibility cost one day and conducting a tender analysis the next.
The work environment is incredibly fast paced as projects can go from 0-60mph in the blink of an eye, so my organisational skills are regularly tested, but we have a great team and we all work together to make sure that all our deliverables are met.
Throwing paper planes in offices around the world
I love working for AECOM, an organisation that’s well established and known across the globe. They’ve been fantastic in creating opportunities for individuals such as myself, to spread their wings and practice further afield.
The team spirit in the offices I’ve worked in is impressive – you spend more time with your colleagues than with your family, so a vibrant working environment is essential for me. I can sometimes have a mischievous streak, so when managers are comfortable enough to get involved when you start a paper aeroplane fight; you know you’re in a good place.
A unique set of skills
The highlight in my career to date has been the opportunity to work outside of the UK. I’ve come to realise very quickly that as quantity surveyors, we have an incredibly unique set of skills and not every market is structured to take advantage of the training and experience we have to offer.
That said, it is then down to you to make the most of your potential by finding new ways of implementing your skills across the globe. I’ll be honest, at times it has been incredibly challenging – there’s security in the familiar – however, it definitely makes for an exciting adventure and you pick up some great stories along the way.
A world of possibility
I definitely want gain the MRICS status, after that, I have no idea what comes next, but I am open to all possibilities. It would definitely be exciting to work somewhere a little warmer, Canada has taught me a lot about construction within colder climates, so it would be interesting to experience the other side of the spectrum and expand my knowledge.
I’d also like to gain enough experience to mentor individuals who’re starting their surveying career. I wouldn’t be where I am today if others’ hadn’t have done the same for me, so I’d love the opportunity to “pass it on”.
I’m learning that life is full of unexpected surprises, so who knows where I’ll be in the next few years. I guess we’ll all just have to watch this space.
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