Lisa Tudor is a chartered quantity surveyor at Jones Bros Civil Engineering, based in North Wales. Here she describes what it takes to do her job.
Describe your job.
Quantity surveyors manage all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures. An important feature of the role is minimising the costs of a project and ensuring that everyone involved is working as efficiently as possible.
What do you most look forward to on a Monday morning?
I never dread it, that’s for sure. I look forward to planning my week as I spend a portion of my time on site and some in the office. Doing this job effectively requires being super-organised so that is where I tend to focus on a Monday morning.
Why does your job matter so much?
I believe that quantity surveyors are crucial to the success of any civil engineering company as they help to ensure that projects are cost effective and are carried out as efficiently as possible. This has resonance with Jones Bros as we have developed considerable expertise in renewables; particularly balance of plant for wind farm development. Quantity surveyors act as conduits between a wide range of people and organisations during a project and the ability to develop effective relationships is crucial.
What specific skills have you learned through the job?
I’ve improved my multi-tasking skills, which is really important as I’m often juggling several tasks at once. I’ve also learned to prioritise and organise my time effectively. I’ve trained myself to keep a cool head when the pressure is on and have really developed my communication and negotiation skills.
There is a perception that all quantity surveyors do is count bricks.
Lisa Tudor, Jones Bros Civil Engineering
What stands out as the most interesting project you’ve worked on?
Definitely the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project in south Wales. When operational, the 76-turbine development will be the largest onshore wind farm in England and Wales, generating enough electricity to power around 140,000 homes.
We’ve been working on it in a joint venture with Balfour Beatty for client Vattenfall and I’ve been involved with it right from the beginning, helping to negotiate contracts to closing the final accounts. The joint venture’s work is almost complete, with the project now moving into the turbine erection and commissioning phase. The overall Pen y Cymoedd project is scheduled for completion in Spring 2017.
During the past two years I’ve spent 50 per cent of my time on site and it has been fantastic to see such a large, high profile project come together.
How does your role impact on the built environment?
It has a major impact, particularly with wind farms that I have mainly focused on during my time at Jones Bros. I am involved from the very early stages such as pricing the job and negotiating contracts, through to the closure of the project. Seeing the wind farms up and running and creating renewable energy is incredibly rewarding.
How do you explain what you do to your friends and family?
There is a perception that all quantity surveyors do is count bricks and I’m always keen to put this right by explaining how quantity surveyors need to have knowledge about every aspect of a civil engineering project from the legal aspects of a contract to the figures. You need to have the expertise of a lawyer, an accountant and a professional negotiator, while having a good understanding of the technical aspects and challenges of the job.
What was your career route into quantity surveying?
I completed a degree in mathematics, statistics and operational research at Cardiff University and considered my career path and what options might be open to me. My cousin, who works as a civil engineer at Jones Bros, suggested I try quantity surveying. I did some work experience on a trial basis and really enjoyed it so I was offered a traineeship and that was eight years ago. I’ve since undertaken an MSc in Quantity Surveying at Salford University and have achieved chartered status.
How far removed from the traditional role of the civil engineer do you think your job is?
My role is quite far removed from a civil engineer, though our roles complement each other and I work very closely with civil engineers, assisting them with the financial and contractual side of the business. They assist me with the technical details as I may be asked to price a job that has particular challenges that will be explained to me by a civil engineer so I can take these factors into account and price it accordingly.
What is the logical career progression for you?
During the next few years I would like to gain expertise in other sectors that Jones Bros works in, including highways and flood defence development. I’d also like to be involved in the expansion of the commercial department at Jones Bros.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a quantity surveyor?
I would say go for it as it offers a terrific opportunity for a varied career, where no two days are ever the same. You work with a wide variety of people, while playing a crucial role in exciting civil engineering projects. I would advise anyone who enters the profession to seize every opportunity that comes his or her way. They should offer to help out where they can, health and safety permitting, to increase their knowledge base. I would also like to encourage more women into quantity surveying and fully support the national campaign ‘Your Life,’ which aims to inspire more young people, particularly girls, to study maths and physics, leading to careers in science, technology and engineering.
What would you be if you weren’t in this role?
I think probably a maths teacher, an accountant or banker.