Case study

Graduate construction manager — Ryan Burnham

From managing contractors to satisfying customers, Ryan describes how strong communication skills are vital to finding success as a construction manager

How did you get your job in construction?

I received an email about the job from a graduate jobs website and the hands-on, practical nature of the role appealed to me. I was invited to a group assessment day and then a one-to-one interview, at which I received a job offer.

What's a typical working day like in your role as a construction manager?

I work for a UK housebuilding company and spend all day on site. The sites vary in location - I can spend up to two hours travelling every day.

I check my emails when I arrive at 7.30am, then take a site walk to check where trades are working and to chase any outstanding work. While out on site I encounter many issues, often highlighted by contractors, and I work both on site and in the site office to resolve this. These issues are varied and can include technical problems, plan checking, project and site programming, production reports, health and safety documentation, snagging, quality control and customer care.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I particularly enjoy being outdoors and being able to manage my own day and time - although certain jobs always need doing, I can choose the order in which to do them. I enjoy having a varied day, tackling challenges and working with different people.

What are the challenges?

Working with contractors can be challenging. Because they're not direct employees, it can be difficult to instruct them how to work. A balance of management skills is required to generate the best output from the contractors while maintaining good relationships.

How relevant is your degree?

I studied a degree in architecture, and this taught me to view details; I can see problems before and after they arise, which makes them easier to solve. The technical understanding I gained throughout my degree enables me to easily read drawings and present my thoughts to those I work with.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I am currently progressing from my graduate role to that of assistant site manager. I aim to advance through the business into contracts management.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into construction management?

The job is based outside and not in an office. It's important that you're happy to work in all weather conditions and enjoy a balance of practical and office-based work.

Good communication is key to getting the most from contractors, and to giving the best quality service to customers who buy the buildings we produce.

Finally, it's extremely helpful to be organised in the office as this makes working out on site more efficient. This is even more important when ordering materials and managing site activity.

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