Case study

Project quantity surveyor — Laura Zumbe

Laura graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a Building Surveying BSc (Hons) degree. Discover how she secured a job at the one of the country's leading national housebuilders

How did you get your job?

After completing my BSc in Building Surveying at Nottingham Trent University, I started working as an assistant quantity surveyor for another national housebuilder, before moving to Edinburgh to take up my current role with Miller Homes.

What's a typical day like as a quantity surveyor?

I handle budgets, cost reporting and payments for some of our developments in the Scotland East area. When Miller Homes sets up a new development, I'm responsible for procuring the sub-contractors and managing the costs and budgets. Once the development is complete, I then ensure all the final accounts have been agreed with our sub-contractors.

While our work is mainly office-based, I usually make a visit to our developments around twice a week. On-site, I'm in charge of checking the build progress, keeping up-to-date with any unforeseen issues that the site managers may come across and meeting with the sub-contractors to discuss accounts. Overall, I am part of a team of ten buyers and surveyors who work together to manage budgets across the region.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I like watching the progression of the developments. It's always nice to go back to a site and see how far its come and how many people are enjoying living in their new home. One of my favourite projects so far involved refurbishing an old school into apartments because it produced a lot of interesting challenges, especially around the design of the new layout.

Generally, I really enjoy the variety the job brings as we're constantly working on so many different projects at once.

What are the challenges?

The nature of construction means that many tasks have a quick turnaround time and I often find that I'm working to very tight deadlines. Managing your workload is therefore very important but this also keeps work interesting and exciting.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Even though not everything I learned at university is directly relevant to my current role, it gave me a good foundation for a career in the industry. From understanding how buildings are constructed to the technical language used.

How has your role developed?

Starting as an assistant surveyor, I have worked on a range of projects including houses, apartments and refurbishments, which have helped me to expand my knowledge and secure a promotion to quantity surveyor.

When I first started at university, I never considered a career as a quantity surveyor. It was by chance that I got into the profession after I applied for the role in another company, but I'm really glad it happened - it's something I find exciting and challenging.

Is the role of women in construction changing?

Over the years I have noticed that the industry is far less male-dominated than it once was and it is definitely becoming more diverse. There were only five women on my course when I was studying, but now I have seen more females getting into surveying, which is really positive.

How do I get into quantity surveying?

First, do your research and find out if the company you are interested in offers training schemes that can help you hit the ground running.

Second, learn how the industry works by undertaking work experience placements and do your best to impress as soon as possible - this may help you to secure an assistant role when one comes up.

Finally, be persistent. If you are not successful, ask for feedback and see where you can make improvements so you can be sure of a win next time.

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