Graduates in Construction: Project Management

Karamvir Panesar
I’ve taken a roundabout way into project management – but my experience along the way has been very valuable.

After an art and design foundation course, I did a three-year architecture degree at the University of Nottingham, then two years with architectural practices. But I discovered that architecture just wasn’t for me. Too much time in the office and at the computer! That might have changed eventually, but when I met project managers in my work I found myself really interested in what they were doing. I was drawn towards the variety and the people management aspect.

I decided to take the plunge and look for project management opportunities. I'd met Atkins engineers in my job and when I started looking at the company in more depth I discovered Faithful+Gould. I decided to apply for the graduate development programme for project management.

I joined the London office in September 2012 and at the same time I started an MSc in project management at the University of Greenwich. Because my first degree is in a different subject, I need to get the MSc before I can do my Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). I work four days a week and attend university on the other day.

Faithful+Gould is open to employing people from different backgrounds – non-cognate graduates join the programme too...

Faithful+Gould is open to employing people from different backgrounds – non-cognate graduates join the programme too, so you don’t have to have a degree in a building-related subject – so long as you can prove an interest in construction and an ability to develop it and qualify.

The job has absolutely lived up to my expectations. I'm in a team of five to six project managers, looking after a client in the financial and banking sector. I've had several roles on this national contract and I’m currently working on the client’s cyclical asset investment programme, where we manage the ongoing needs of approximately 250 buildings in the London and South East portfolio. Faithful+Gould’s building surveying and health & safety teams also work on this contract, as well as project managers from our other regions.

I'm out of the office most days – anything between one and four meetings or site visits.

I'm out of the office most days – anything between one and four meetings or site visits. Sometimes I’m involved with less common tasks, like factory acceptance tests, checking equipment for the client's facilities. I try to go beyond expectations – recently I’ve done a weekend night shift and I also went to look at crane lifts during a weekend. The variety is exactly what I wanted.

I went from assisting to managing a project quite quickly. I get the opportunity to use my initiative, and I feel the business trusts me. I have good support from the rest of my team and from our wider community – this office has more than 35 project managers, so an amazing level of knowledge.

One of the hardest things to learn, after my first degree, was that you can't plan your day and stick to it. Things happen, that's the nature of construction, and a project manager has to adapt yet keep all the balls in the air. You develop ways of dealing with the fact that you can’t control everything, and you learn to manage risk.

You develop ways of dealing with the fact that you can’t control everything, and you learn to manage risk.

Studying has become a way of life but I’m relieved that my MSc exams are now over. For my dissertation, I’m researching Building Information Modelling (BIM) and its effect on competition in the market. BIM is a hot topic at Faithful+Gould so I hope my dissertation will be useful.

It’s tough to study while working, but I’ve become better at setting boundaries and prioritising. Sometimes that means arranging for colleagues to cover work if I’m at university. At first I found that hard, as I wanted to be available to my client all the time, but I’ve got a responsibility to get my MSc – it’s part of the conditions of my job offer.

Our London office has a lot of APC candidates and we meet to pool our knowledge and practice questions.

The APC is my next hurdle and I’m aiming for November 2015. I’ve been recording my APC diary for a year now and doing anything I can to get a head start. I’ll probably be working on some different contracts in the autumn, to cover the required APC competencies.

Our London office has a lot of APC candidates and we meet to pool our knowledge and practice questions. The office is really friendly, with various staff activities including quizzes, Faithful+Gould Football University (FAGFU), and our annual summer and Christmas social events. London itself is an exciting place to work, with the buzz of a capital city and fast-paced building projects all around you.

I’m ambitious and I feel I’m with the right employer as Faithful+Gould pushes you to progress up the career ladder. I’m hoping to get on the management programme and join the senior team by 2017 and I’d like to be an associate director not too long after that.

Written by