On-site with Agnieszka & Ellie

It’s not all about partner led involvement at exigere. Developing and coaching the right people is fundamentally key to achieving client’s expectations and delivering successful projects.

Two of those making the grade are Project Surveyor Agnieszka Supiya who was recruited from university and recently completed her APC, and Ellie Layton, a Senior Project Surveyor who joined exigere 12 months ago. We took a short walk to the Benjamin Street development for a project update and the discussion turned to the day to day life of a QS at exigere and forging careers in construction.

On-site at Benjamin Street

Ellie: The Benjamin Street development was the first project I worked on when I started at exigere so it’s close to my heart.

The previous building has been demolished, the basement and ground floor slabs have been cast and the contractors have nearly finished the building frame. It’s a mixed-use scheme with retail space, offices and five private apartments.

Ellie: I particularly like the on-site stage, it’s when you really start feel the project is coming to life. You can see something develop from a hole in the ground to a six-storey building. On a project like this you’re dealing with day to days costs, contractor led changes and balancing everything to ensure the client gets what they want. There’s never a dull moment and it’s great to see the transformation.

Agnieszka: Being on-site and seeing things develop is brilliant. When you’ve completed cost plans, tender and contract documents, and a building finally starts going up it makes you feel very proud. I love it.

There’s a variety of tasks and challenges at every stage of a projects development so it’s never boring.

New buildings aside, what’s the best bit about the industry?

Ellie: I’m working on a few different projects at various stages of development, from very early on cost plans through to some that have been on-site for a year, so there are a lot of varied tasks to do. It’s also good if you enjoy being sociable. There’s lots of meetings, events, seminars, conferences and networking opportunities. It’s a fun industry to be in.

At exigere the partners are keen for you to go out and build your own network, rather than being behind the scenes doing cost plans. They want you to meet new people in the industry and talk to clients, contractors and architects. You get the breathing space to manage that and I’m enjoying it.

Agnieszka: I also think that if you want to have a long career, construction is perfect. There’s such a breadth of different people from different clients to contractors, different teams or projects. Every day is different.

There’s also capacity to move and explore different opportunities within the industry. It’s both a nice and varied industry and a nice and varied job.

What was your journey into Quantity Surveying?

Agnieszka: I was working at a railway company managing track access with Network Rail. It was a busy role but it wasn’t fulfilling. I did some research on alternative careers and which might best utilise my skills.

Quantity Surveying stood out as an interesting option to me so I enrolled myself onto an MSc in Quantity Surveying. Towards the end of my course, my attention turned to finding a Quantity Surveying role.

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time as exigere had just placed an advert looking for a Graduate Quantity Surveyor.

Ellie: I completed a BSc Hons degree in Business and Property but when considering my career choice I wanted to explore construction further. The economy wasn’t in great shape for a surveying graduate in 2007, companies were making redundancies instead of recruiting, but I was keen to get into the construction industry anyway possible.

I found an opportunity as a receptionist in a small London QS firm and having got my foot in the door, I managed to side-step onto projects including the Stella McCartney fit-out at Harrods, Boodles expansion at New Bond Street and a number of high-end residential projects in Knightsbridge. I got stuck in and managed to complete my APC within two years.

Turning to the APC, congratulations Agnieszka!

Agnieszka: Thank you. I completed my APC last year which was a wonderful feeling. My colleagues at exigere were very supportive with the whole process, coaching me along and undertaking several ‘mock’ interviews which helped prepare me for the big day. It’s challenging to balance work and gain formal qualifications at the same time, but it comes down to how much you want to learn, develop and succeed.

What does the future have in store for you both?

Ellie: I’ve really enjoyed my first year here. The first few months were settling in and learning how we do things here at exigere but after that initial period, it’s about proving yourself.

I’m leading several projects, taking more responsibility and ownership and building up networks with clients and consultants. I don’t see any barriers to my career progressing here at exigere so for me the next step is to demonstrate that I’m on the path to becoming an associate.

Agnieszka: As a newly qualified Quantity Surveyor, in the short term for me it is about building on my experience across different projects and sectors.

We have both informal and formal opportunities to discuss and plan our careers with the Partners at exigere so together we will ensure that we get the right mix of experience to lead me on the path to becoming a Senior Project Surveyor. I’ll also be asking for my own size three pair of boots as they never seem to have on site!