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27 JAN 2021

Becoming chartered 'felt like making the journey home'

Andy Huang MRICS,
Quantity Surveyor
Leighs Construction Limited

Focusing on time management and overall quality of the submission were key pillars of Andy's successful navigation of the APC process.

We caught up with Andy to find out more about his journey to becoming chartered and learn how the qualification has helped Andy in his career so far.

Read our in-depth Q&A with Andy below.

Andy Huang MRICS

Why did you decide to pursue your APC and become chartered by RICS?

Growing up in China my parents were both involved in the construction industry. My mother was a cost estimator and my father was a consultant for a Services Engineer company. One project in my hometown required a Quantity Surveyor because of the complexity of the project. It was two tower blocks with a mix of retail, office space and apartments. A Quantity Surveyor from Hong Kong was appointed to supervise the project, and I remember discussions at home about him being a member of RICS.

It wasn’t until I started working in the construction industry myself I realised the significance of the organisation and its influence.

To me, RICS represents professionalism, standards and integrity. I thought, "I wanted to be part of that". Since I have heard of it for so long, making the decision to become an MRICS felt like deciding to make the journey home.

What did you learn during the APC process that you think will benefit you as your career evolves?

I approached completing the APC process as if I were managing a project. To manage this project successfully I was mindful of the triple constraints theory of project management – time, cost, quality. In this case the constraint of cost was not present and so I was able to focus on time and most importantly the quality of my APC submission.

To achieve the level of quality required for the APC, I had to pay attention to many aspects of the project that were not immediately part of my day to day responsibilities. Investigating factors on the project that related to my case study gave me a broader understanding of the many areas of a project that impact the role of Quantity Surveyor. Recording these in my APC diary was an important part of the learning – documenting events for referencing at a later date is an important skill to develop.

No true knowledge is developed in one encounter or in one day. The APC process requires you to be patient and diligent, recording experience and knowledge in increments over time. The reward at the end of the process is recognising how much you learn through this.

What was the greatest challenge you faced during your APC?

I thought that the greatest challenge would be choosing a project or topic for my case study. However that was the easy part as I was lucky to be working on a very unique and challenging project. There were many aspects of the project that would have made an impressive presentation but I had to choose a topic where I could demonstrate my day to day involvement in identifying a risk and helping to provide a solution.

The temptation of making a full documentary of my chosen case study was so great that by the time my first draft reached 5000 words I felt I had just started. Yet not all the highlights had direct contribution from me. So I had to learn how to be concise. I had to choose the most relevant aspects that can reflect my professional growth.

By keeping the end goal in mind I was able to make the connection between my role, the project and the focus of my analysis for my case study and confine the story telling within the word limit.

Choosing the case study – any tips you have for others?

There are always three focal points of an APC case study. The first is the project, the second is the candidate, the third is the connection. Normally the connection between the project and the candidate is the challenge or the story. The effectiveness of the case study lies with deciding the balance amongst these three focal points. Do not make the mistake of spending too many words on describing the project.

The recommendations I have are in regard to maintaining this balance.

Firstly, find the balance point. The best project for case study is a project that has a nice balance of complexity, challenge and candidate involvement. This will make the story telling easier.

Secondly, tell a story that clearly shows the link between your work and the project. Take time to identify and describe your professional growth over time. Highlight the difficulty of the challenge and the outcome and how you developed over the course of the project.

How did you compose yourself in the interview?

It sounds a little cliché but “practice makes perfect” is the tried and true.

I have been a member at local Toastmaster club for over five years. So I have had a lot practice speaking in front of an audience. A panel of judges is no different. During the COVID-19 lockdown period, we also had plenty of online sessions which helped me prepare.

If you are not part of a public speaking group, make sure you take advantage of the mock interview. This is the best tool to give you confidence and identify your weak points.

It’s important to remember that the judges are friends. They are not there to make your life hard. What I mean by this is, once you are confident with your case study and your APC material, theoretically, you are already competent. The judges are just there to confirm your knowledge and make your membership official. Imagine if you were already a member, isn’t this then just a conversation with friends?

How did your employer support your APC?

Working with Leighs Construction gave me the opportunity to work on a project that on completion won international awards for the unique aspects of the building.

Due to the challenging nature of the build several senior managers worked closely with the project team and I was lucky to have amazing support from this group including Matt Hindle, the Operations Manager and Dave Hunter advising on the technical and engineering aspects of the project. Dean Velenski, the National QS Manager was also available to provide advice and guidance. These managers fully supported my RICS application and were available to provide advice and support whenever needed.

The Commercial Manager, John Redahan has been an MRICS for over thirty years and his first-hand knowledge of the RICS and the requirements helped to get me over the finish line. He also provided advice and support as I prepared for my interview.

Learning and development is very important at Leighs Construction and Cecelia Murray the Learning & Development Manager was always available to provide advice as I put my case study together.

Do you think the APC process helped you to grow in your current role?

Yes. The APC process gave me a wider view of quantity surveying as a profession. Though I have completed the required competencies, by no means I am a master of them all. The APC process helped me to see where I am on this journey. The RICS membership will give clients confidence in my skill level and therefore my recommendations, and that they are working with someone who is competent and also knows his limit.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the interview process.

From the preparation stage, I had help from Phil Hall (Associate Director of Colliers International New Zealand Limited) and James Douglas (Associated Director of Cuesko Limited) who organized mock interviews for me which really prepared me to get a sense of rhythm of the process.

Because of this, I was able to relax during the actual interview. The judges were very friendly and encouraging and in the end it did not feel like an interview at all. It was more of a structured conversation which flew by so quickly that I did not want the conversation to end.

The disruptions COVID-19 has caused present many risks and opportunities. We can’t help much with the disruptions but we can make sure not to waste the opportunities. I can already sense many great case studies coming up. Use patience and persistence, believe you can and seize the moment to become MRICS.