From £20,000 contracts to multi-billion-pound frameworks, John’s Quantity Surveying career is reaching ever higher heights. For him, the world truly is your oyster if you have the skills, passion for learning and are willing to jump in at the deep end and test yourself.
How did you get into Quantity Surveying?
I went straight into Quantity Surveying from Sixth Form College. I had enrolled to do a full-time degree at university but having spoken to one large practice about what the role entails, I became aware you could do a degree and get practical work experience on day release. I was keen to get into work. To be able to earn and learn – without racking up student debts – was an ideal way forward for me.
Was the job what you expected?
I started working on the client-side of things on quite traditional buildings as an Assistant Quantity Surveyor. It didn’t really float my boat. What I thought was going to be quite an exciting job with the opportunity to be out on site seeing actual construction take place, ended up being desk based looking through documents. I was lucky enough to get some experience working on a chemical plant in Manchester, which was my first taste of the power and process industry. I really started to enjoy the work. I was wide-eyed looking at cranes, shiny metal structures and thinking to myself “this is why I wanted this career”.
How did your move to Solomons come about?
After 3 years working for a large practice, I’d learned loads and picked up a lot of onsite experience, but I was mostly self-taught. And I didn’t feel I’d had a lot of support when it came to next steps and Chartership. It felt very “glass ceiling” and that progression would be too slow. I became aware of Solomons and the message I got was very clear and completely different – your progression is whatever pace you go at and you’ll get support every step of the way. That’s pretty unique. It’s a great message for me, and the company, to give out to people. It really doesn’t matter how much experience you have. If you’ve got the right skills, attitude, and appetite to learn, you’ll be supported. It was the big attraction for me. And it is for most people who join us.
What are you working on at the moment?
I work with Sellafield and their partners on Programme and Project Partners (PPP), a £7bn framework of megaprojects. When I started out, I used to work on £20,000 frameworks for small schemes. But you obviously want to get stuck into large, highly technical frameworks like this, working alongside global construction companies, advising on the best way to procure, manage and deliver things. I’m very lucky to be at the top table of a big framework and being right at the front end of major project delivery.
What’s the best thing about being a Quantity Surveyor and working for Solomons?
It’s such a broad career. I’ve done a bit of everything. What I’m doing now is all about supply chain and commercial strategy – how do you get this right from the start and create a level playing field for small companies. Quantity Surveyor is such a misleading job title nowadays. A lot of people think its about working out a price for something and then seeing how much it comes in at. People I went to college with have gone on to be an expert witness working on big arbitrations, an Operation Director for nuclear contractors, as well as typical construction. I think that’s so unique compared to a lot of other careers where the road ahead is quite set and limited.
What advice do you have to aspiring Quantity Surveyors or those thinking of a career change?
If you’re willing to put the effort in, focus on the bits you enjoy, and consider your development routes, there’s massive opportunity for rapid career progression. The culture at Solomons is to support and encourage you all the way. More importantly it’s about doing something you enjoy. And it’s definitely open for those with transferrable skills and a passion for learning. Being honest, I’d say I haven’t used 75% of my Quantity Surveying degree. If I’d done a degree in Maths or Law, I’d probably have a similar foundation on which to build. If you’re good with numbers, you’ll enjoy the pricing and spreadsheet work. If you have a legal background, you’ll like the contractual side of things. It’s such a broad church that, regardless of your background, you’ll probably have a skill that will further your career in Quantity Surveying.
If John’s story has piqued your interest and you want to know more about joining a dynamic SME Quantity Surveying Practice that’s going places, check out our current vacancies by clicking here.