Staff stories

My journey to property: Trudy Revell, Associate Project Manager

Sarah Gunn

Once on track to a fashion degree, Trudy Revell tells us why she’s glad to have changed course for a career in construction. Trudy has great advice for those who fear they won’t be accepted or reach their potential without falsifying their personas to meet expectations.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

What if I told you I had every intention to study fashion…?

BUT, that changed.

I decided I didn’t want to follow suit, I wanted to do something completely different; something that would challenge me on a daily basis. I was 16 at the time and we were in the midst of a recession; there were no jobs. Construction and property were in a state of disarray, but it’s where I wanted to be. So I took a leap of faith and enrolled in a construction course. A couple of years later, I made another rash decision and chose to study building surveying at university. 

To people’s surprise, I didn’t drop out. Once I’d graduated I decided to pursue a career in project management. 

Do I look back and wish I had done fashion after all?

Absolutely not.

That one decision has shaped a fantastic career and for that I say thanks to my younger naïve self!

Have you come across any particular challenges within your role/the industry ?

I knew what I was getting myself in to when I chose to pursue a career in property. I wanted to work in an industry where it would inevitably evolve. I wanted to be part of the change and hopefully inspire others along the way. 

Do you have any advice to give people who are considering going into the industry?

Just go for it! 

Don’t let the fears of what others think of you stand in your way. Be unique, be open-minded and be transparent. 

To females feeling overwhelmed: embrace being you. Don’t try and dress or act like your male counter parts. Diversity is key to a successful project/ business. 

If you could change the industry in any way, what would you change?

Rather than changing just one part of the industry, I’m looking forward to the day where we’re not having to talk about diversity and inclusion because it’s simply ingrained in every facet of our daily lives.

Click here to view Trudy’s LinkedIn page.

Click here to find out more about TFT’s Project Management service.

My journey to property: Geoffrey Chihuri, Graduate Building Surveyor

Sarah Gunn

Geoffrey Chihuri joined TFT this year having made the decision to be a building surveyor a bit later in life. With the wisdom and maturity that comes with age, he is able to see where the industry falls short for newcomers. We spoke to him about how his expectations fit the reality of the industry on a personal and a professional level.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

I was inspired from a young age to work with buildings having watched with a keen eye my parents build several properties. Fast forward several years with a sound engineering course behind me, I decided to speak to a careers advisor about suitable opportunities as well as having chats with numerous industry professionals. It was then that I realised that building surveying had my name written all over it and so I enrolled into the University of Central Lancashire to study building surveying and it has been an upward trajectory since!

I am currently undertaking my APC and aspire to become chartered as soon as possible. I look forward to serving the industry to the best of my ability!

Have you come across any particular challenges within your role/the industry?

Starting a new role in building surveying whilst we face COVID-19 has been rather different to what I experienced during my placement year. Social distancing means not seeing colleagues as frequently as I would usually, however the staff at TFT have been very supportive with my career progression.

The other conundrum I have faced is within myself. I had an expectation that I would come across certain challenges due to my ethnic background. This was mainly influenced by the feedback I got from my peers when I indicated that I was going to study building surveying.

Hand on heart though, throughout my placement year to present, I can say that I have not experienced exclusion of any form and I have not come across challenges within my role in the industry as a result of my ethnicity.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the industry?

My advice to anyone considering a career in the construction industry is to do plenty of research from the start! The industry is rather broad so it is pivotal to speak to career advisors and/or those within the industry before applying for college or university. Doing so will help align your career aspirations to a suitable discipline within the industry!

After identifying your suitable discipline, I would strongly recommend researching which body(s) governs your chosen discipline and apply for a course with an appropriate accreditation. I made the mistake of applying to a university that was not RICS-accredited however, I managed to transfer to a RICS-accredited university after completing my first year.

So…research, research, research!

If you could change the industry in any way, what would you change?

Having recently graduated, I feel that educational institutions and employers should collaborate better to offer more work experience opportunities to students. There seems to be a huge gap between academic and industry acumen. Doing so would give students the knowledge and experience of what to expect of the industry prior to starting in their first role.

Click here to view Geoffrey’s LinkedIn page.

Click here for the latest job opportunities at TFT.

My journey to property: Ellicia Perry, Undergraduate Building Surveyor

Sarah Gunn

Ellicia stepped into the property industry at one of its most challenging times. Not only is she getting to grips with TFT’s services but she’s getting to know her team in Birmingham more over video calls than in person. We had a chat with her about how she’s found this very unusual beginning to her journey in the industry.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

Since I was young, I have always had an interest in construction and made the decision years ago to go into the industry but had no idea how. Whilst studying a diploma in business at college, I undertook work experience at my local council building control department. A lot of the team there were building surveyors so this led me to research the role and attend university open days before deciding on the Building Surveying pathway.

I am currently on my professional work placement for my sandwich degree at Coventry University and I know that the knowledge that I am gaining whilst working at TFT will be extremely useful in my final year!

Have you come across any particular challenges within the industry?

The biggest challenge at the moment for those who have just joined the industry is COVID-19. Starting a new job with a socially-distanced office or working from home is very different to what I envisaged for my sandwich year so adapting to the new way of work life has been a challenge.

Other than that, I have found that colleagues and clients are very supportive of women who are starting in the construction industry.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it/who are considering going into the industry?

My advice would be to try and get a placement at a construction-related company. This will give you an insight into the industry and whether you will be suited to it before you make the decision of choosing your career path.

Also, when you start working in the industry remember that nobody expects you to know everything and there is always somebody to ask for help. There is such a range of roles and projects out there so you never feel like you’re going to get stuck down one pathway!

Click here to view Ellicia’s LinkedIn page.

My journey to property: Louis Maycock, Senior Party Wall Surveyor

Sarah Gunn

Louis Maycock is TFT’s newest Party Wall & Neighbourly Matters specialist. Since joining, Louis has been asked to help the Pyramus & Thisbe Club (party wall surveyors club) with its inclusivity initiatives for the industry. With National Inclusion Week on our minds, he told us that the industry is headed in the right direction, but says there is a lot more to be done.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

I have always had an interest in property development (I blame the TV shows Homes Under the Hammer and Grand Designs for this!), so in the lead up to going to university, I wanted to find a degree course that would help me learn more about property development. The courses available at the time were not property development-specific, but were typically geared towards graduates becoming Building Surveyors. 

On the week I graduated, I flicked through the yellow pages (shows my age) and called up every local building surveying practice seeking employment. Two weeks later I was invited for an interview and landed a job with Simon Levy Associates.

Although I was being trained as a Building Surveyor, my boss was making some landmark developments in the party wall world and I took keen interest in understanding the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. After gradual exposure to party wall matters and a further post graduate study, I decided to focus all my energies into this service line and become a Party Wall Surveyor. 

Have you come across any particular challenges within your role/the industry ?

I have had a wonderful career to date; one full of opportunities. I think the industry has come a long way in terms of diversity and inclusion, but we still have lots of work to do.

Amongst the party wall world, which is typically white male-dominated, I know only of only handful of surveyors that are Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), and even less that are women. This does not mean that industry is non-inclusive, we just simply need to demonstrate better that there are a variety of attractive careers within it for everyone.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the industry?

First and foremost, never believe that your ethnic background, colour, or gender will be a limiting factor to your success in this industry. Yes, you may not see loads of people who look like you physically reflected in the industry, but that is ok, be a part of the changing of history. Also, diversity comes in many forms, a lot being non-physical. Make an effort to get to know your colleagues’ backgrounds and you will find that everyone has unique experiences to share.

Our industry is full of so many different roles and career paths. Have a look on the RICS website and get a feel for all that we do, or better yet, reach out to firms and professionals; ask questions!

Oh, and last point(!), in terms of study, do make sure that your course is RICS-accredited!

Click here to view Louis’ full profile.

My journey to property: Harry Thomas, Associate Project Manager

Sarah Gunn

Harry Thomas recently joined our Bristol office as Project Management specialist having spent two years doing a similar role in New Zealand. He has a keen interest in sustainability and hopes to drive its uptake across the industry.

How did you get into the industry and what led you to your current role?

I spent four years studying Geography at the University of Edinburgh then went to Malta and worked in security operations before heading to master the world of wine in London. My itchy young feet led me to travel to Hong Kong for two months where I had an internship in the air cargo terminal there before hopping over to Australia to pull pints! I wanted to throw myself into any opportunity that came my way, before finally settling on completing an MSc in Building Surveying.

When it came to getting a job, my lack of specific property experience wasn’t an issue; thankfully it’s an industry that places far greater value on you as a person and your wider skills and ambitions. I qualified as a Building Surveyor but have moved more towards project management over the last few years. I really enjoy the satisfaction of taking a project from an initial brief to the hand over of the keys. It’s a great journey!

What do you think is most exciting about the industry? 

I believe that there is huge scope to grow within the industry which is the most exciting aspect. My experience is that if you put yourself forward and show willingness to learn, opportunities tend come your way.

I am also passionate about sustainability and this is something that I am excited to develop within my role. I think that the importance of sustainability is becoming more and more acknowledged within the industry, as seen with the recent ‘Declare’ movement. Also, Project Managers are uniquely placed to influence clients and decisions in a positive manner from inception to completion.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the property industry?

I don’t think people are aware of the enormous range of sectors within the industry: there’s something for everyone! No two days are the same and you can be highly specialised in a specific field or undertaking ten different roles on ten different instructions. It’s also truly global and can take you anywhere – I’ve just returned to the UK after two years working for a Project Management firm in New Zealand! Life is what you make it!

Click here to view Harry’s LinkedIn page.

My journey to property: Vanessa Rothon

Sarah Gunn

Ahead of her APC, we spoke to one of our regional graduates, Vanessa, who is based in our Queen Square office in Bristol, about her experience as a young surveyor so far and what she hopes the next generation of the industry will look like.

Why did you choose to work in the property industry?

One of my main aims in getting a degree was ensuring that once I graduated I could start progressing into a career straight away. I initially wanted to become a civil engineer, however upon further research, I discovered the world of building surveying and was drawn to the large variety of opportunities that the role brings.

I also was attracted to the option for site and office based work, avoiding the sedentary lifestyle!

How did you choose the right company to work for?

I wanted to have a wide variety of projects whilst also having the support and guidance to undertake these from the get-go. Since starting at TFT in 2018, I am sure that I am in the best hands to help my career flourish!

What future challenges does a role in surveying face?

Interestingly, for my university dissertation, I looked at the barriers faced by women entering or those currently in the construction industry. I found that whilst there have been major improvements in the industry in recent years, there is still plenty of room for improvement!

One of the main issues is attracting more young people into the role, both male and female. During my school years, I had no encouragement to pursue a career in the construction industry nor did I know anyone within it, so it is just down to luck that I have found the career that I enjoy. It is also surprising how few people outside the industry actually know what the role of a building surveyor entails

So how do you think this could be improved?

I think that more information should be made available to young people on the large variety of roles that are available in the construction industry. I feel many people especially women may be sceptical to enter the industry due to several issues: stereotypes of what construction is (men working on site), flexible working, pay gaps etc. Whilst these issues are often mentioned and talked about, a message needs to be sent out that diversity and equality is the best it has ever been in property and continues to improve, so there is no reason why women shouldn’t enjoy a successful career within the industry.

What aspirations do you have for your professional future?

My first aim in the near future is to become a chartered surveyor. I would also love to get involved in more events encouraging young women into the industry of course!

My journey to property: Jordan Molloy, Graduate Building Surveyor and Royal Navy Reservist

Sarah Gunn

What is your role at TFT?

I am a Graduate Building Surveyor but I am also a Communications Information Systems Specialist within the Royal Navy Reserves.

What drew you to property, and to TFT in particular?

One of my main focuses is career progression and finding ways to broaden my knowledge of the building surveying practice. However, whilst at my previous consultancies, I found it very difficult to achieve either mainly down to the fact that my ex-work colleagues were from a generation where you would ‘learn on your own accord’.

It was very clear that this was not the case at TFT. Everyone is more than happy to assist with career progression and additional learning which is absolutely great! Another key reason I choose TFT was because they fully supported my role within the Royal Naval Reserves and the charity events that I participate in throughout the year.

And what does that reservist role involve?

The role is typically front line and involves the use of specialist equipment (global radio, satellite communications and military IT systems etc.) to guarantee the secure exchange of mission-critical, and often top-secret information.

Do you feel your role in property benefits from the skills you learn in the Royal Navy and vice versa?

You may not think so on the face of it, but I’ve found many of my CIS Specialist skills come in handy through my role at TFT, for instance: attention to detail, communications, respect and care for equipment, and proper handling of sensitive information.

The subject matter might be quite different, but I’ve found plenty of crossover between my roles in the office, on site and on deployment.

What support does TFT offer you to balance your work and reservist duties?

My role in the Royal Navy means that I am required to commit 26 days a year to conduct training to ensure that I remain at trained strength ‘deployable’. TFT has allowed me to start my working day earlier so that I can have more time in the evenings to continue revising for my APC as well as undertake any reservist duties.

Any challenges with being in the ‘zone’ of each role?

Not overly, I am able to switch on and off in between quite easily. Although, I do have a habit of speaking navy talk (Jack speak) without realising and may sometimes say words without realising such as ‘scran’ (food), ‘heads’ (toilets) or ‘gash bag’ (bin bag). Sometimes I do have to explain what I mean with some of the terminology especially the latter jack word!

What do you think are the biggest challenges to finding the right career?

I think that a number of people falsely believe that only one perfect career exists for each person, but really there are many career possibilities which share similar characteristics. Instead of seeking one career that seems like an ideal fit, I would strongly recommend investigating a number of options that have features in common.

That said, I think the pressure to find a career that you’ll thrive and progress quickly in is really present throughout all educational and early working stages of our lives, not to mention financial pressure from our peers and perhaps even parents who we want to impress. These are so common though and I think it would be unnatural not to feel them!

Any advice for people stuck on the fence between a career in property and something else?

The only advice that I would give is to ask yourself the question ‘what do I want from my career?’.

If the answer is along the lines of, ‘a career that’s extremely challenging, in an ever-growing and friendly field where your skills are always valued and in-demand‘, then construction would be a sector for you!

If you are seriously on the fence then I would suggest pursuing a career within the construction industry and supplement this with lots of hobbies or like me, becoming a Reservist in the Armed Forces (best of both worlds – trust me!).

Sarah Gunn

My journey to property: Kit Lu, Graduate Project Manager

Sarah Gunn

Why did you choose to work at TFT?

I chose to work at TFT as I wanted to work for a company that not only values greatly its employees, but also one that provides significant support both personally and professionally. In addition, TFT provides the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, but most of all, I like how approachable everyone at TFT is.

Would you recommend a career in this industry? If so, for which aspects?

I think a career in property and construction is a great industry in which to embark a career, especially for those who like variety as no two buildings or projects are ever the same.  I also think there is wide range of professions to suit anyone, from architecture and design to surveying and property management, not to mention supporting services such as marketing etc. 

Have you encountered any challenges during your career to date, and if so, how have you overcome them?

Originally, I started out as a Graduate Building Surveyor, but have since changed paths towards a project management role. Initially, I found this new role to be challenging, mainly as a result of the scale and complexity of the projects I began working on compared to previous experience I had. Moreover, there was a lot to the PM role of which I did not have any previous knowledge nor experience. I believe that I have since overcome this by undertaking additional reading and study around the subjects that I did not understand. I also never hesitated asking my TFT colleagues for help when I needed it, not only from the senior Project Managers but also from the wider team.  

What are you most proud of to date in your career?

Whilst I am still at the beginning of my career, I am proud to have been a part of and contribute to a wide range of interesting and exciting projects so far during my time at TFT. 

What would you like to see more and less of in the industry?

I would like to see the industry being promoted further in more schools as a viable career for young people of any background or gender to consider. It would be great to have a more diverse influx of talent entering the industry throughout the next decade.

My journey to property: Pardip Kaur, Business Data Manager

Lastly, we speak to Pardip Kaur, Business Data Manager, to learn a bit about her journey to TFT and why she encourages more women to continue pushing boundaries and add something unique to the property industry!

How did you get into the industry and your role?

I started working in the property industry 20 years ago at RICS within their events department. I was at the RICS for 6.5 years. When I joined RICS, the events were heavily attended by male surveyors, but by the time I left, I was working with females who were on the professional working groups for building surveying and building control.

My profession means I can work within a variety of industries, but it’s because of the wonderful people I have met through the years that I have remained in property circle (some of these are now my close friends!).

Have you come across any particular challenges within it? 

I’ve not really found any challenges within the industry. This might be due to the type of roles I have had and my strong personality. 

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the industry?  

My experience within the industry has always been a positive one. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it had not have been for the people I met throughout my career. The industry is very open and approachable.  

My journey to property: Jennifer Hobart, Senior Building Surveyor

Here we speak to Jennifer Hobart, Senior Building Surveyor, to learn a bit about her journey to TFT and why she encourages more women to fight stereotypes and continue pushing boundaries in their work and career.

How did you get into the industry and your role?

I went down the standard route of applying to university as an encouraged next step after 6th form but very quickly realised I did not enjoy studying Classics as much I thought I might. As a result, I dropped out and went home. However, I’d always found the architectural part of Classics interesting and somehow found a very tenuous link to surveying.

Surveying as a career seemed to fit with how I saw my work- life going. I didn’t always want to be in the office so getting out and about to see buildings sounded interesting. Though I was quite disappointed when I found out that using the tripods you see on the sides of roads would not be part of the job!

Have you come across any particular challenges within it?

Not really. Though I do recall being told early on that this might not be the career for me… Luckily, I’m stubborn and it spurred me on!

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it/who are considering going into the industry?

Do your research and ask current professionals about the job – there are so many directions you can go in. When I first started at university, I only really envisaged surveying houses for homebuyers, it didn’t even occur to me that there were commercial routes, valuation, general practice etc. Make sure the university you apply to is RICS accredited.

Lastly, always have your phone on your person on site, you never know when you might accidentally lock yourself in a cupboard!