Rhiann discusses her background as a Quantity Surveyor and her experiences in Australia, as well as sharing the reasons behind her success and what inspires her today. Rhiann also explains the importance of The Lighthouse Club charity and her involvement in it.
Tell us about your background.
I initially studied Law with French but decided to go travelling and working abroad before I settled down in a career. When I came back, I re-trained as a Quantity Surveyor (QS) and started work at a consultancy which specialised in dispute resolution in order to use both of my qualifications.
What made you make the change from working with contractors to claims?
Technically, I never changed at all. When first I started work, I was subbed out as in-house resource to both contractors and clients, I still had exposure to the claims side of things and could apply my legal knowledge to contracts I worked on.
When I went to Australia, I worked for a multi-disciplinary company and had a lot of varied roles, I worked as PQS on a variety of projects out there, including hospitals, airports and even a ski-jump in a sports complex. I also worked in-house with contractors and subcontractors and developed my expertise in the claims and expert witness side of the business.
What inspires you in your job?
For me, the people I work with are the biggest inspiration. People make projects and ensure the often stressful process of creating them is a pleasure to be a part of. I also love being involved in complex projects that showcase the wonderful engineering and architecture our industry is capable of.
Describe a typical day in your role.
I’m not sure there is a ‘typical’ day, as it depends on what the job is, what deadlines there are and what meetings or calls need to be taken.
At the moment I am working on a number of projects: doing ad-hoc contract and claims management for a contractor on a number of UK projects. I have an Australian adjudication to decide and am also working within an international team to provide a package of documents to a ‘clean expert’ for evidence in an international arbitration.
I usually attend various industry events in the evenings.
An advantage of working on projects with my Australian colleagues is that we can effectively have a continuous work cycle between us, I work through their night and they work through my day. This is especially useful when meeting deadlines!
How does work differ between the UK and Australia?
There are always going to be idiosyncrasies with every country, industry, market, sector and office that need to be adapted to, but in the essentials, work is not too dissimilar wherever you are – you need to work hard and get the job done and one thing is clear the world over. You will never please all of the people for even a fraction of the time in relation to office heating or cooling!
I have been very lucky in my career to work for companies with great cultures and working environments and with such a lot of wonderful people. Great people, whether colleagues or clients, make coming to work enjoyable, as does the challenge of dealing a variety of different problems and idiosyncrasies in whatever environment or country you are in.
What do you think has been the reason for your success?
There are a few reasons, but if I had to pick one key ingredient to success it is being willing to work hard at whatever you are doing. I have always worked hard in any job I’ve ever had, from dishwashing to expert work. If you have the right attitude you can’t go wrong and you will gain the respect of your peers as you go.
Hard work is essential, but you also need encouragement, opportunity and willingness to take the opportunities. Having good mentors and role models is crucial and having the opportunity to work with people who are passionate and great at what they do can inspire you to do something you wouldn’t necessarily have thought of before.
My manager in Australia was an adjudicator whom I shadowed on a lot of decisions. This led to me realising (with a bit of mentoring) that I could do that, so I got qualified. Now I decide my own adjudications.
I like to keep learning new things and I think it is important to continually challenge yourself and set new goals. I have been very lucky to have had managers who have been very supportive and who encouraged me to take the next career step – whatever that was – whether getting chartered, becoming an adjudicator, or developing my skills in different areas of the business.
Tell us about your work with The Lighthouse Club.
Considering it was founded in the UK in 1956, the Lighthouse Club is still relatively unknown here. I first heard about the charity when I was in Australia and got involved there, helping to run the Australian branch. Once I got back to the UK, I wanted to stay involved, and when I learnt that the Lighthouse Club Midlands committee had disbanded, I helped to re-form it.
The charity was initially set up in order to help construction workers and their families who fell on hard times. It is the only charity that financially and emotionally supports the construction community and there is now a heavy focus on mental health as the construction industry has the worst mental health statistics in the UK and Ireland.
We hope the Lighthouse Club Midlands will become the biggest and the best networking group in the region, raising money and awareness of the issues facing our industry.
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