Alex Smith epitomises the theme of this year’s Learning at Work Week – “Create the Future”. The Coronavirus pandemic proved to be the catalyst for a much-needed career change. Happier than ever and with big ambitions, the Intermediate Quantity Surveyor’s focus is now firmly fixed on a bright future.
Tell us about your early career
I’m a Geologist by trade. I worked for a couple of specialist ground, environmental, structural and design businesses before I fell out of love with Geology (I’m not sure I was ever in love with it really!). I was trying to find an angle to change my career at the last company I worked for and got offered a job as an Estimator. It was right up my street and loved it.
How did your career change come about?
I was put on Furlough leave and ‘let go’ once the Government grants ended. At that time, I decided to move from Nottingham to Liverpool and looked for Estimating jobs. A lot of businesses were asking for a Quantity Surveying degree. For me, going into Quantity Surveying was an extension of what I’d been doing. So, it seemed like the perfect time to make that career change and enrolled on a Quantity Surveying Masters degree at Liverpool John Moores University. The situation during the pandemic meant I had no distractions whatsoever, so I put my head down, worked really hard and also got a part-time job. I was so proud to get a Distinction and high average grades – it was way better than I’d expected.
How did you find the move into Quantity Surveying and life at Solomons?
About three quarters of the way through the degree I got offered a role at Solomons. I was welcomed with open arms and felt relaxed and at ease straight away. Everyone feels like your friend, not a colleague, especially my Director Clare White. The first few months were focused on getting me ready for a client position and I’ve had real success working with my current client Carnell. The transition to Quantity Surveying was nice and smooth. Yes, I’ve found some things challenging, but they’ve been nice challenges rather than difficult ones! That’s been largely down to the support I’ve had from team members here.
What does that support network look like and how has it helped you to grow and develop?
Clare’s been absolutely brilliant. She’s got a real knack of surrounding me with good and knowledgeable people. For example, Rob Branwood, gave me a great insight into client systems and the intricacies of my client role, while James Peacock is just a professional in every way and a real bank of knowledge. Clare brings us together regularly to work in “pods”. This allows you to bounce ideas around and discuss challenges with others who have got experience working with different contracts and clients. I can take the learning and experience back to the client to help them succeed and grow. The support network here feels like a huge web. It’s an interesting dynamic and I massively feel part of the bigger Solomons picture of driving positive change in our profession and the construction industry.
How are things going now and what’s your big ambitions for the future?
I was saying to Clare and Dawn Powell just the other day that in the last few months I’ve never been happier both professionally and personally. I can be over ambitious sometimes but now I’m setting more realistic goals. I feel I’m well on the path to achieving them and constantly making progress. Solomons is constantly pushing me (in a good way!) and helping me to make that progress. It really is an exciting time. Getting Chartered within the next five years is a big goal of mine. I’d like to be a Senior Quantity Surveyor and manage a team. I’m really interested in people and the dynamics of successful teams, so I’d love that opportunity.