Shortly after getting my degree I obtained my Civil Engineer license and started my professional career in the construction industry with a large housing developer when I was 22. While I enjoyed the site experience I discovered my passion for Maths runs deeper and my transition to becoming a Cost Engineer and subsequently, a Quantity Surveyor (QS), was a very organic and enjoyable journey. I have now been practicing as a QS for nearly 20 years and my love for Maths is still as big!
How did you get to where you are now? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I completed a post-graduate degree in Quantity Surveying in the College of Estate Management which was mostly done remotely. I completed while working full time and trying to start a family; I remember asking for an extension as I had to be confined in hospital due to a bleeding - I still submitted my assignment the following week though, and achieved high grades! Hardwork and commitment wasn’t just restricted to my work – I was also determined to be a chartered QS and so sacrificed all of my social life during my RICS APC journey. My husband was a huge support system to me too.
And while I didn’t practice much as a civil engineer, my Civil Engineering degree provided me with the solid foundation to understand building systems and solutions and this definitely helps me in my QS role, enabling me to have a holistic understanding of what I am assessing, from the theoretical to the practical to the numerical.
It’s important to know your core values and your purpose. My family and faith are my core, and my purpose is to let others stand on my shoulders so that they can be outstanding leaders and allies.”
My name is Michelle Miranda and I am currently a Regional Director for a global company providing quantity surveying, project management and other construction consultancy services. I am based in our Cambridge office in the UK.
I originated from the Philippines and graduated with a Civil Engineering degree from the University of the Philippines at a time when female engineering students were considerably outnumbered by our male counterparts – I was also the first female President of the Civil Engineering Executive Organization.
What made you want to step up into the role as a Regional Director?
Prior to migrating to the UK with my husband Ben, I was already delivering middle-management QS responsibilities but I accepted an Assistant QS role as I appreciated that there will be numerous and significant UK-based practices and knowledge that I will need to learn and develop first – job titles therefore for me is not always about the status and benefits but rather the responsibility my capability of adding value while fulfilling that role. My progression from Assistant QS, to a qualified QS when I achieved my RICS chartership, and to being a Regional Director now was therefore less of me deciding this path, but more of a professional advancement and personal growth through perseverance, dedication and most importantly helping those around me fulfil their potential as well.
What does your Senior Role Title actually involve?
As a Regional Director, I co-lead the Cost Management team in our Cambridge office and also lead a number of project teams, with the largest one currently being the Cambridgeshire County Council team where I oversee at least 20 accounts. As part of the senior leadership management of the team, my responsibilities include authorising client reports and valuations, ensuring there are sufficient resources for projects, managing projects’ P&L accounts, and of course safeguarding the welfare and supporting career progression of the team.
I still enjoy being a QS and so I also still get involved in QS tasks and deliverables where my support is needed, including agreeing contract sums, collating contract documentations, preparing cost plans and even visiting site for valuations!
I am currently also part of my company’s Cost Management Technical Leadership Group which aims to ensure a standardised high level of quality in the services we provide through QS templates and ways of working which are consistent, effective and always accessible.
What is it like being a woman in a Senior position and how does it feel? Especially as overall, the Construction Industry is still male dominated in senior/boardroom positions…
I remember during my graduation ceremony, there was audible gasp from the audience (mostly parents) when the Civil Engineering students were asked to stand up and there were a number of us girls – back then engineering was still pretty much for boys as the jobs following University were domineered by men, so why should a female want to study engineering if she will not follow through with a job made for a male anyway? I don’t think I was deliberately rebelling against this principle, but what I am sure of is that since I was child, I have always had the mindset of problem solving and this means accomplishing my aims and ambitions regardless of my gender.
As I progressed in my career and as an ethnic minority female migrant, I was subjected gender bias, racism, micro-aggressions and just unsupportive people who treated me like a second class citizen; however I also experienced allyship, inspiring line managers and leaders, and most importantly the chance to nurture early career colleagues and mentor fellow ethnic minority females myself. My mindset was enhanced by all these experiences – good and bad – in that I learned when solving problems, I shouldn’t just look at the final outcome, but rather I should also help ensure the people working with me feels fulfilled in the process as well.
"Being a woman in a Senior position therefore comes with a feeling of empowerment, responsibility and humility."
I deal with the challenges of my role by always with professionalism – as a member of the RICS, we commit to always acting with integrity and in a way that promotes trust in our profession, and this is something that I take to heart 24/7. I tell the people I manage that I just imagine a hovering camera following me around – if I come across a difficult or stressful situation, is the way I am about to react something that I will be proud to show my peers and my children? If the answer is no then surely I can do better. Having a collaborative approach always help too; falling out and being unprofessional with a main contractor for example never benefits anyone – the both of you has the same objective of building a fantastic school so working together to optimise the end result of providing an excellent educational facility is much more effective.
To stay motivated and to keep going everyday, It’s important to know your core values and your purpose. My family and faith are my core, and my purpose is to let others stand on my shoulders so that they can be outstanding leaders and allies. I find fulfilment when I add value, and this is regardless if the situation is enjoyable or challenging.
"The best thing I like about my role is 100% the people. My team and their welfare, personal development and career progressions are very important to me."
What advice would you give a young woman aspiring to progress to senior level in the industry?
Consider the construction industry! Build your inner resilience, always be effective and persevere; grow in a career that makes you feel fulfilled, and find a good mentor. The more you progress, help people under you progress too. And above all, don’t forget to look after your own welfare – selfcare is not selfish.
BWEng was formed in 2020 out of a desire to increase visibility and support the advancement and retention of black women working in engineering across the globe while inspiring the next generation of young black girls into engineering.
Michelle Miranda MRICS