On joining Solomons at the start of 2021 Stephen Mills was thrown in at the deep end working on a high pressure and demanding project for a new client in Cumbria. Recently promoted to Senior Quantity Surveyor, he’s now passing on his knowledge and experience to his team and empowering them to follow suit.
Stephen says: “When I came on board, I was working at a much more senior level than my Quantity Surveyor title. I had Jake Vallely in my team. He’s a Commercial and Planning Assistant and had some experience, but he needed bringing up on a number of things, such as NEC contracts, quantifying drawings, and other hands-on practical things that are part and parcel of this project and, more generally, what a Quantity Surveyor does. It was really a case of going through these various activities methodically – a mix of explaining things, taking questions, giving him tasks, and bringing it to life so he has the knowledge and confidence to tackle it himself.
“Jake’s just done an amazing job on quantifying and measuring a really big change in methodology for a project. We went through the contract and what it allowed us to do, looked at the NEC suite of contracts for guidance. He’s just priced up a £2.5m compensation event. He’s gone from not knowing about this, to being able to do a job like that after just 12 months! I’m really proud of him, he’s come a really long way in that short time.
“Because of that good work we were able to do for the client, we got our new apprentice George Duxbury on the team. He’s working with Jake at the minute. As with Jake, we’ve been going through the practical side of things. He’s keen as mustard. I can see him being a really good Quantity Surveyor in 2 or 3 years, maybe pushing for a senior role in 4 or 5. He’ll probably do it quicker than that! He’s got that appetite.”
For Jake, he’s now pushing on with his career while cascading down his newfound knowledge to George.
“I started my Quantity Surveyor career here and had no prior experience or knowledge to call on, but I feel like I’ve come on tremendously with the support and guidance of Stephen and Solomons,” he explains.
“His knowledge of NEC and contract law is incredible, and I’ve picked up huge amounts of information from Stephen from just having little chats and from watching and listening to him in meetings. At times it’s just been me and Stephen on the project and I’d like to think we have done a brilliant job while representing Solomons.
“Now I’m really enjoying working with George and helping him on his journey. The way the three of us work together and support each other really typifies the culture here at Solomons.”
George, who joined Stephen’s team in March, says: “I’m incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity.
“The more time I spend working the Stephen the more I realise that he holds a huge bank of knowledge. He can rattle off a structured and concise response to almost any commercial construction question that I throw at him – which is incredibly useful for someone like me with no Quantity Surveying background. It’s like having a Quantity Surveying Google Translate!
“Knowing where to look, who to ask, what to read, pros-cons, actions-reactions are all essential information for someone starting out on their career. Having consistent, knowledgeable, and willing mentors in Stephen and Jake makes all the difference.”
Reflecting on the progress so far, Stephen is proud of his team and where they’re heading. And while he has an unswerving commitment to helping develop new talent – something he’s done throughout his career – simply passing on his knowledge and experience isn’t the answer. Learning at work has to be a two-way thing.
“It’s taken me a lot of time and effort to gather up all the knowledge I have accumulated in my head and I’m not giving that away for free! I’ve had to earn it, so anyone who wants to get hold of it has to earn it too,” he says.
“All I’ve ever wanted is for people to show the right attitude, ability and have a real hunger to take on what they learn so they can go further. If they have that then I’ll gladly give up what I have. Jake and George have this in spades.”