Graduates in Construction: Enjoying Innovation in Rail Cost Management

Emma-Kate Ryan
In June 2014 I became a graduate quantity surveyor in Faithful+Gould’s London office. I was assigned to our 47-strong infrastructure cost management team, with a focus on railways.

I originally studied architecture for three years at University College Cork, then spent a year travelling in Australia. I began to realise that my skill-set was more suited to project management – I consider myself a people person and I like to lead, collaborate and get things done. So I returned to studying, this time at the University of Limerick. My construction management and engineering degree gave me a broad overview that incorporated project management, engineering and quantity surveying. I was one of four women on the course, in a cohort of 31.

I spent nine months on placement as a site engineer in Omagh, County Tyrone, where my boss suggested I’d be good in a consultancy role. The placement was useful experience and convinced me to pursue a career in UK construction. I’d always wanted to move to London, so in 2014, my final year at university, I applied for quantity surveyor jobs with UK firms.

The Faithful+Gould selection process was thorough, but the graduate recruitment team were helpful and accommodating...

The Faithful+Gould selection process was thorough, but the graduate recruitment team were helpful and accommodating, providing flights and a hotel, and to me this spoke volumes about how the business treated its staff. After a phone interview, I attended an assessment centre alongside five other candidates and three of us were offered jobs.

I was delighted to succeed and in June 2014 I became a graduate quantity surveyor in Faithful+Gould’s London office. I was assigned to our 47-strong infrastructure cost management team, with a focus on railways. Although I’d not thought much about rail beforehand, I find it a very interesting area – there are so many new advancements and technical developments, and I get huge satisfaction from keeping on top of those.

After a few months, I went on a six-month secondment to London Underground. This was great experience, working out of a client’s office and seeing how a client operates, and I learned a lot.

Although I’d not thought much about rail beforehand, I find it a very interesting area...

Back at my Euston Tower base, I’m enjoying contributing to a strategic study of signalling operations for the Digital Railway. We’re working to develop a solution to unlock capacity on the Wessex mainline route, and I love working on estimates that include such innovations in technology. A lot of our estimating is theoretical – previous examples don’t exist yet. So it’s challenging and demands an ability to assess the technical side. We meet with engineers to improve our understanding and knowledge.

Faithful+Gould encourages graduates to get involved in different aspects of the business. I’ve been the charity representative for our Euston Tower team, helping influence our corporate charity spend.

I’ve also been encouraged to pursue my love of writing. I’m the youngest member of the RICS Construction Journal Advisory Panel, attending monthly editorial meetings, and having an input into content selection. I’ve co-written an article on the value of holistic cost information systems in infrastructure, published in the June-July 2015 edition. An eight-page spread of my own content will appear in September.

I’ve now embarked on yet more studying. As quantity surveying wasn’t the main focus of my course, I need an RICS-recognised qualification. I’m doing a two-year day release quantity surveying masters at Kingston University. Luckily I can study for my APC simultaneously – I’m aiming for a 2017 sitting. Balancing my time is hard, but on the whole I enjoy the mix of working and studying.

Faithful+Gould couldn’t be more supportive of my APC. My line manager ensures I get the necessary experience.

Faithful+Gould couldn’t be more supportive of my APC. My line manager ensures I get the necessary experience. I participate in monthly study sessions for London and South East’s graduate cohort, and we run our own rail-based sessions in our team. There’s good cross-disciplinary collaboration, which enriches our learning. It’s not all hard work – we regularly meet up socially.

So it’s a busy life, but a rewarding one. Looking back, I feel that Faithful+Gould’s recruitment process was excellent. Since joining, I’ve found that while we have a diverse body of employees, there is a common ethos of mutual respect, positivity and a collaborative attitude.

Looking ahead, I’ll need to rotate sectors to get the right APC experience. But I especially enjoy working on strategic high level estimates against a technological background, so my future may lie in this area.

I’m one of the 2014 industry entrants being followed by Building Magazine. They’re tracking our progress, to see if our views change once we’ve encountered the reality of the industry - and, ultimately, whether we’ll decide construction was the right choice. So far, I feel confident that I made the right decision!