My Journey: From a Principal Contractor in the UK to an International Consultancy in Riyadh

Saeed Riaz
Working with an international consultancy in KSA is very different to my previous role in a contractor environment.

I arrived in Riyadh in early 2016, having previously lived on the outskirts of Manchester. I’d spent the best part of 10 years in a principal contractor environment, so it was an exciting change to find myself in an international project, programme and cost management consultancy.

Providing a World Class Service

This new setting has been a learning curve. My contractor experience is an advantage in terms of technical knowledge, and I’ve now added higher-level client-facing experience to my skill-set. An international consultancy makes good use of all the skills a quantity surveyor can develop — commercial management, contract administration, cost planning, contract negotiation and many other commercial aspects of a project.

Positive Employer Culture

As soon as I arrived, I felt that Faithful+Gould came across as a very organised, reputable and innovative organisation. The company values are focused on innovation, meeting client expectations and always looking to add value to the client. There’s inevitably more emphasis on quality in the consultancy environment, rather than the more commercial approach in contracting. However, my earlier experience is very useful in helping me deal with contractors and understand their ways of working and communicating — this is a definite advantage when I’m administering contracts and aiming for the best results for my clients.

There’s inevitably more emphasis on quality in the consultancy environment, rather than the more commercial approach in contracting.

I’ve now embarked on the journey to become chartered, with great support from Faithful+Gould. My contracting background didn’t place much emphasis on professional qualifications, but in the consultancy arena it’s very important.

More Exciting Projects

In the UK I worked on hospitals, schools, commercial towers, listed buildings and housing, and I would be deployed on one project from inception to completion. Sometimes that felt a bit restrictive for my career progress. Since coming to KSA, I’ve diversified into new areas and I work on multiple projects – at the moment I’m working on a super-regional mall, a tall tower and a nationwide infrastructure programme. I enjoy the multiple project exposure and in time I’m hoping to further diversify my experience.

Day-to-day Work

As a senior QS, my role falls into several stages. Initially I’m developing and finalising the subcontract agreement on a new project. I have to ensure our commercial and technical proposals are incorporated into the agreement. Once the subcontract agreement has been finalised, I will be carrying out a similar contract administration role on other projects. I’ll then provide commercial management duties as part of a PMO team which controls, reports and supports the client on all commercial deliverables and requirements.

A Cultural Education

Faithful+Gould’s Riyadh office is open plan, with the commercial services and project management teams working alongside — I prefer this to a stand-alone commercial environment as I get more rounded experience. In my contractor job, I was based on site, so my interactions were with subcontractors rather than clients, and I dealt with internal reporting, not client guidance. Now I have at least two client meetings a week.

Since coming to KSA, I’ve diversified into new areas and I work on multiple projects...

It took a bit of time to get used to the external working environment, as there are cultural differences and communication barriers. Once I’d adapted to my clients’ way of thinking, and developed a better understanding of their requirements, my job felt much easier. I didn’t feel out of my depth though — our directors Spencer Wylie and Ian Hawkes have a lot of ME experience, and have taught me how to deal with the differences in attitudes and cultures.

Life Outside Work

I rent a one bed apartment on a western compound with pools, gym, tennis courts and beautiful gardens, all on the doorstep. I walk to work, a big change from spending two-and-a half-hours in traffic.

Work-life balance is good and I have more free time than in the UK. There’s plenty to do here. I like to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah every six weeks, which gives me something to look forward to, and, with such cheap flights and accommodation, it’s a no-brainer. A four-hour drive, with car hire around £25 per day, allows you to enjoy the beaches and different cultures of Bahrain, Dammam and al Khobar

Broadening the Mind

The experiences that I’m gaining working overseas are fantastic and it’s certainly not something I just put up with to save money. It’s about learning new cultures, visiting different places and working with local people. It broadens your perspective and makes you more open-minded, grounded and reflective. I’m thoroughly enjoying it thus far!