Careers in Construction: Life After APC

Alex Pope
Having completed my degree in 2011, my APC in 2013 and more recently our management development programme, I am keen to progress my career with Faithful+Gould.

Learning on the job and absorbing lessons learned when managing challenging projects is a key part of my development. One such project I recently completed was Harlow Pathfinder, a challenging commission, with multiple stakeholders to be delivered in tight timescales. By far the biggest challenge for me was taking the lead on the project part-way through to aid my development. Whilst I was eager for the challenge and felt ready to take the reins, I didn’t want to disappoint the client or let the team down, especially knowing the significance of the project which could determine the future of similar projects led by Harlow Council.

The last time Harlow Council delivered a scheme of this nature was in excess of 20 years ago. 

The last time Harlow Council delivered a scheme of this nature was in excess of 20 years ago. One of the key challenges my team faced was advising Harlow Council on what was, to them, a very unique project. This type of scheme was new to the council. They therefore required advice on their responsibilities which included planning permission, utility service provision, working with a broad contractual team, registration of new properties and compliance with building regulations to name a few. Whilst my manager led these discussions in the first year, gradually I took these over and took on more responsibility on behalf of the council. I became the main point of contact for the council’s regeneration team, the contractor and site team.

As my role developed throughout the life of the project, so did I, under the guidance of my manager. During 2014 and towards the end of the design stage of the project I became the key contact for the client and was responsible for the entire design team’s performance. I understood the importance of stretching myself both for my personal development and on learning how to manage future projects. How can you learn new skills and advance in a career if you are unwilling to adapt to new roles and environments?

The responsibility to protect our client’s best interests lay with me as I was their representative at progress meetings. I quickly learnt to interrogate each of the design & construction issues and record a summary focusing on four areas; cost, time, quality and risk. This then laid the foundations for reporting comprehensively but concisely with our client, reducing their time required to spend on the project each month. It was a transparent record of all activity which was gratefully received by the client.

The responsibility to protect our client’s best interests lay with me as I was their representative at progress meetings. 

In my experience it can be common for people in our industry to become stressed. The lifecycle of many construction projects and unique challenges is sometimes one of uncertainty and risk. During the two years I spent on this commission, I did have to learn how to manage stress and the potential it can have to impact performance.

For me, not wanting to let our client or my manager down was one of the main factors that contributed to my stress levels. There were situations, where I felt I could not influence the design team to solve challenges quickly, I felt frustrated and that I had little control over some of the design team.

Part of my learning curve was to realise that regardless of which project manager is leading the scheme, the production of design information takes a certain amount of time to ensure it is comprehensive and accurate. I came to realise that I could manage the situation and associated levels of stress by managing our client’s expectation as well as my own high expectations.

The theme of transparency meant that on the whole, there was ‘no-surprises’ throughout the development of design and construction. In a very practical sense, developing and correctly managing a risk register is the best way I was able to record this information and discuss with our client the implications.

Overcoming the Challenges

The relationship between Harlow Council and Faithful+Gould has been reinforced throughout the duration of this project with regular feedback meetings chaired by my manager, myself and the client. I believe Faithful+Gould’s relationship is so positive now as a direct result of the way we approached solving the challenges presented to local government specifically around targets for new homes, solving the challenge of new affordable housing targets for local authorities in a way that Harlow Council could appreciate and deliver on.

Knowing that support was never far away, provided comfort, but more than that, it allowed me the time and freedom to grow...

My manager has been very supportive throughout this project. Right from the very beginning I was involved in all project meetings, site inspections and contractual discussions. As such when I did take over I knew the entire team and had a full history of the project and understood all the issues that had arisen up until now which was a great advantage over someone coming in new to the project.

Upon handover my manager didn’t just disappear. He always made sure that if I needed help or was not sure about something, he would be there. But he didn’t do it all for me he was good at helping me work out my own approach and my way of managing the project team, rather than just being told how to do it. Knowing that support was never far away, provided comfort, but more than that, it allowed me the time and freedom to grow in to the role and a define my senior position within the team at Faithful+Gould.

Next Steps

Very recently I have been given an exciting opportunity to lead the building surveying service stream in our Cambridge office. I look forward to the challenges there for me, including managing a new client for Faithful+Gould and expanding our building surveying offering.

My relationship with Harlow Council will remain as we continue to support them to meet and exceed the various challenges set out in local government. I am also becoming involved in business management activities for Faithful+Gould. I lead the building surveying element of our regional APC training programme, and I’ve recently become part of the UK Pensions Governance team. This is a relatively new role and something I am enjoying. Working alongside our Chief Executive Officer and our Finance Director is a fantastic opportunity for me.

Looking further in to the future, I am not sure which way my career will go, but given the last five years I am confident that with Faithful+Gould, it will be a great ride.

The immediate future looks very promising for me at Faithful+Gould; 2016 will be all about the transition to Cambridge and the exciting plans we have to grow our client base and our building surveying team in the East Anglia region. Looking further in to the future, I am not sure which way my career will go, but given the last five years I am confident that with Faithful+Gould, it will be a great ride.

Why Faithful+Gould?

The construction industry is vast and can offer anyone a great range of experiences, chances to develop and opportunities to travel. In my short career to date the industry, moreover Faithful+Gould, has been very rewarding across each of those aspects. Leaving university, completing my Chartership, both landmark achievements within anyone’s career but some say, what next? Faithful+Gould offers you a wide range of projects and sectors that enhance the opportunity for you to develop. This inevitably leaves you well rounded and informed to make important decisions around your career.

The team that I am a part of, Euston Tower as an office and London South East as a region, is full of talented, friendly, engaging people. Colleagues that support you and managers that develop you and plenty of opportunities. Personal development does not stop after the APC and here at Faithful+Gould it is clear that neither does the support, opportunity and success.

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