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News & opinion

6 MAR 2019

Haidee Gonsalves: Part of the change

Haidee Gonsalves MRICS is Associate Director (Hi-Tech and Manufacturing) at Turner and Townsend (T&T). Having studied Law, Haidee's career path to a quantity surveying in infrastructure began as a graduate non-cognate Assistant Cost Manager.

My journey into infrastructure

When completing my GCSE's and A-Levels, my career path was unclear, and I found the available careers advice wasn't very helpful – suggestions from a career assessment tool at the time included "fishmonger" and "funeral director"! I researched the industry and the graduate opportunity sounded exciting and suited my skillset and interests. I put in my application, went through a series of interviews and was offered the role.

I was pleased to find that 90% of the graduate intake had non-cognate backgrounds, all of whom are still excelling in their careers. I began in the Mechanical and Electrical (M&E) team at T&T - although it was a steep learning curve at the time, I've never looked back. A highlight was the opportunity to work on the Francis Crick building in St. Pancras for three and a half years.

Five and a half years later, I joined RLB and worked across a range of sectors from sports to heritage to education and I worked on the Royal Mail's Mount Pleasant sorting and delivery office refurbishment (a great learning opportunity). I also led the M&E pre-contract commercial delivery with a major data centre client across a number of phases of works and sites.

Six and a half years on and I'm back where I started at T&T. I am currently Lead for the Commercial Remote Team based in London, supporting our on-site colleagues for a major (confidential) data centre client. It's exciting being involved on major projects like this and part of a dynamic team.

RICS and me

I'm at the point in my career where I am very aware of what it was like starting out, and I am keen to ensure that those new to the career are supported to realise their full potential. I am learning how to develop as a confident leader.

Haidee Gonsalves

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I've learned a lot (and continue to do so) from my colleagues as well as peers. You are surrounded by a lot of knowledge, so soak it up.

Going through the APC process and achieving my Chartership has ensured that I have had the extensive practical experience that I need as a professional quantity surveyor. Additionally, being part of the RICS Women of the Future network has given me the forum to share ideas with some real forward-thinkers in the industry. The change in demographic in the Governing Council has given me new hope for the future of this industry and a progressive move into the future.

Find out more about RICS Assessment of Professional Competence

Advice for newcomers to the industry?

Don't be put off by perceptions of the industry - and don't change your character to "fit in better". A diverse range of individuals are needed.

Don't be scared to ask questions if you are unclear of anything - I've learned that even those who appear to be the most confident can be scared to ask questions for fear of losing face. I've learned a lot (and continue to do so) from my colleagues as well as peers. You are surrounded by a lot of knowledge, so soak it up. Remember to keep your focus on what you want to achieve and that should keep you on track.

Finally, find yourself a supporting network where you can mutually benefit from shared advice and experience - these have been a game-changer for me.

Hopes for the future of the profession

My ambitions are to constantly be developing my skills and knowledge. I want to be a respected and trusted leader within my field and want to inspire the future of our industry. I would like to see all demographics covered across the profession and a move away from the "traditional" look of construction. We have a massive skills shortage so we need to widen the pool of people that we are tempting into the industry. We need to be more flexible and accepting to accommodate those with flexible work requirements as well.

Technology and the quantity surveying of the future

The development and use of technology will enable the role of the QS / Cost Manager to evolve, providing valuable advice, assessment and knowledge. T&T has made a key investment to digitally transform the traditional way of working and this will be vital to developing our services and efficiency. My personal interests in the sector are around data centres and I'm a keen advocate of networking and collaboration as well - people make the industry, and we shouldn't underestimate the power of having the right connections to reach out to, at different points in your career. Don't ever be afraid to do this!