What made you want to become a Quantity Surveyor? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
Not initially, I have always been interested in Property but never really understood what opportunities were available. During my first year of university, I began looking for Summer Internships and I was fortunate enough to have been given the chance to work at a Boutique Estate agency in Canary Wharf, London. Here I took on the day-to-day responsibilities of an estate agent/ property manager. When I returned to University, I continued to peruse Property Management internships/ Grad roles… I was unsuccessful.
When I got to third year, I came across a graduate scheme at one of London’s leading real estate and investment management firms, I got to the assessment Centre and was unsuccessful. I was devastated and lost a lot of hope, but a few days passed and I began my job search again. That is when I came across a cost management role at Turner & Townsend. They were offering a great training programme and would also sponsor a master’s degree for non-cognate graduates like myself, so I went for it even though I was still very much unaware of what a ‘Quantity Surveyor’ was at the time. All I knew is that it was in real estate, so I was sold! I got the job and here we are!
What route did you take to becoming a Quantity Surveyor?
I took a fairly standard route. I finished school and went to college to do my A-Levels. I studied ICT, Sociology, English Language and Religion and Philosophy. From there I went to university, I studied Business Management then once I’d started my grad role, I completed a Master’s in Quantity Surveying. In terms of work experience, between my first and second year of under-grad I did a summer internship at an estate agency.
How does your work affect people’s lives and the world around us?
I would say that the work of a Quantity Surveyor affects the lives of many people in a unique way because what we do isn’t necessarily as ‘visible’ as other construction related roles. It is our responsibility to ensure that construction projects are delivered on-time, on budget and to a high standard. As someone currently working within the Health Science and Education sector, work for our clients essentially means that how we manage costs will have a direct impact on stakeholders associated with the education system (i.e., school students, teachers, and carers), health (i.e., hospitals, patients and professionals), and science (i.e., medical researchers and students) To a certain extent, unless you play a key role in a construction project there is a likelihood that you will not see/ understand just how crucial our role is; however, what we do is very important and does have a major impact on the success of a project.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My workday varies depending on what project I am working on. Currently a typical Monday for me will start around 8:45am where I get settled and prepare for a weekly team meeting at 9:15am, this is where we discuss deliverables and resources for the week ahead. From there I will check in with the Project Manager’s to discuss upcoming deliverables.
Throughout the day I will be doing key procurement tasks such as attending design team meetings, reviewing tender returns, preparing reports and putting together contract packs as most of my projects are currently at the pre-contract stage.
Around 5:30pm I will start winding down by prepping for the next day then I will leave the office for my commute home.
Aside from the obvious difficulties that come with being black and a woman in an industry heavily concentrated by men, I have faced a number of challenges at work. I find that generally most of the projects that I work on are very fast paced which means that there is a lot of work that needs to be completed in short periods of time. It can be challenging to stay on top of multiple projects/ deliverables but it is something that has to be done in order to deliver successful projects and to ensure that our clients are happy.
What are some main skills you’ve picked up within your role/work experience?
Some of the main skills I picked up whilst working in my role would definitely be:
1. Organisation: In this role it's vital that you're able to manage your time effectively in order to ensure that you’re delivering what's required on each of your projects.
2.Communication: having the ability to speak and write in a way that is clear, conscience and easy to digest is a necessary skill required to be a Quantity Surveyor as we correspond with a variety of different people as well as producing a number of written reports and legal documents.
3.Leadership: as a cost manager it is my responsibility to ensure that I am managing various day to day responsibilities. This means that I have to plan ahead, be assertive, communicate effectively and be accountable which I feel are all necessary components to being a great leader.
"Seeing projects come to life is the best thing about my role. I find it especially rewarding when projects serve a purpose i.e. SEN Schools that provide tailored learning areas to children with specific educational needs."
The most exciting project I've been involved in so far is Project Standard AZ. This project in particular was a 2-storey Cat-B fit-out for AstraZeneca (based in St. Pancras). I say this project because it came at such a pivotal time, I joined the scheme in early 2021 which was a crucial time for research in the UK as we were all still very much affected by the Corona Virus. Having the opportunity to be a part of this project was proud moment for me. The finished office space for the project was completed to an extremely high standard which meant that I was able to help deliver as fantastic workspace for our Client.
“We essentially are a part of shaping our surroundings and the surroundings of future generations.”
Hey, my name is Jade Robinson-Okonyia, Quantity Surveyor (Cost Manager) at Turner & Townsend Limited and I’ve been in the industry for 3 years 10 months (4 years in September).
How do people react when you tell them your job role?
This is an interesting question because I get quite mixed responses.
Some people who aren’t familiar with the role of a quantity surveyor will see me and ask me to tell them more about exactly what it is that I do and others sometimes seem quite surprised because it’s not as common to see women, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds in the role that I’m in.
I think that quantity surveying can be considered a niche career path, often unless a person has a relative, close family member/ friend or just a genuine interest in the profession it can be quite unlikely that they’ll be aware of the opportunities available.
"Being a woman in my profession doesn't really have a huge impact on my day-to-day (personally), as I have become familiar with those who I work with regularly."
Although, I would say that when joining new projects, some external project members seem to have had preconceived ideas and expectations of me; however, I’ve found that overtime a lot of those initial reservations have slipped away. Of course there are other blindingly obvious realities such as going to site and getting the odd stare but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it.
For any young women wanting to pursue a career in the Construction Industry, just do it! The opportunities are endless, the industry needs more women especially women from diverse backgrounds and I think that above all else it is a great industry to be a part of.
We essentially are a part of shaping our surroundings and the surroundings of future generations.
Apart from your day job, do you have a passion projects?
I do. I run a mental health and wellbeing platform called MyMental which I created back in 2020 to help connect Black, Asian and minority ethnic people to licensed therapists at affordable rates.
I am also currently in the process of purchasing my first investment property, one day I will be a successful property investor providing affordable homes to as many people as possible.