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31 OCT 2020

What does being Chartered mean to you? Meet Riffath Hussain

Meet Riffath Hussain MRICS, Quantity Surveyor, Blue Stone Management 

As a first-year undergraduate, Riffath first heard about RICS and its membership — fuelling aspirations of becoming a Chartered Surveyor.

With experience in Sri Lanka, Qatar and now Australia, Riffath has witnessed the recognition and demand for RICS members first-hand.

We caught up with Riffath to learn more about the process of becoming Chartered and opportunities this provides.

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

Riffath Hussain MRICS, Quantity Surveyor, Blue Stone Management

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

I was a first-year undergraduate when I first heard about RICS and its membership. Ever since then, I always wanted to become a Chartered Quantity Surveyor. RICS’ global recognition is one of the main reasons I decided to pursue my APC and become chartered. Your membership is a global passport. With my experience in Sri Lanka, Qatar and now Australia, I have witnessed the recognition and demand for RICS members first-hand.

Another key reason I wanted to become chartered is due to the high standards maintained by RICS. My personal experience with members of RICS like my lecturers, line managers, mentors and other professionals — all displayed exceptional knowledge, understanding and experience in their relevant fields. As a budding Quantity Surveyor, I wanted to be part of this elite class of professionals.

Your accomplishments do not cease when you complete a degree or secure a managerial position. The world is ever-evolving and you need to stay current if you still want to be in the game. I wanted to become chartered because RICS offers access to up-to-date publications, guidance, news and training.

To me, attaining charter not only exhibits competence, professionalism and employability, but also boosts client trust and confidence. This I believe, is the stepping stone to client satisfaction — something all professionals strive for. Achieving MRICS gives you a head start.

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

I learned to be clear, concise and well organised throughout my APC process. As a preliminary APC candidate, I had to list specific and up-to-date experience from projects I worked on while sticking to the word limit. Striking a balance between the above factors was a learning curve that I believe will benefit my future career.

When you are an APC candidate, you always need to be market aware. I was constantly aware of new research and development in the construction industry thanks to isurv, the RICS website and local RICS CPDs and training. The habit of being in touch with new developments is something that will continue to benefit me as my career evolves.

The APC process has also helped me become more disciplined in terms of time management. Your target should be to complete your summary of experience and case study as early as possible, and work on fine-tuning them before the submission deadline. While you continue to do this, you also need to focus on other activities in the background such as CPDs, taking the RICS ethics test and preparing the final presentation. This would be an arduous task with your full-time job, if not for efficient time management.

What was the greatest challenge you faced during your APC?

Managing time was the greatest challenge I faced during my APC. Filling the summary of experience and case study while being employed full-time can be strenuous. I had to sacrifice most of my weekends for the past year in order to find quality time to draft up my submission. Do I regret sacrificing my free time? Absolutely not! I always considered it a momentary sacrifice. When you do it right, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

As an APC candidate, you are also expected to attend and log CPDs, familiarise yourself with RICS’ global and ethical standards, guidelines and rules of conduct. Although the process sounds onerous, it is pretty simple and can be easily achieved by managing time efficiently. I used a flip chart to map my targets with their practically achievable timelines. This gave me the rough timespan I needed to prepare for my final submission. This process also helped me track my development on a weekly basis.

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

Since the APC process, I have learned to become extra disciplined in my line of work. My knowledge and understanding of built and natural environment has expanded. I took up the habit of reading journals, articles and attended various CPDs and trainings as part of my preparation for the APC and final interview.

I believe that the title ‘Chartered’ gives clients a sense of trust and confidence in me and my organisation, knowing that I am governed by professional standards set by RICS — an organisation renown for promoting and enforcing the highest professional qualifications and standards.

What was a highlight for you going through the APC process?

Mock interviews were a key highlight in going through my APC process. Your last hurdle to achieving charter is the final interview. I wanted to ace it! I set up several mock interviews with my counsellor, Blue Stone Management, other colleagues and family. I received numerous feedback on my presentation and all sorts of questions which led me to be well-prepared and confident. I recorded the mock interviews and constantly went through them. I picked up areas which needed brushing-up such as body language, grammar, tone, approach and closing remarks.

How did you compose yourself in the interview?

Feeling nervous is perfectly normal. I felt the same. Luckily, it did not last long. The interview chairperson made me feel comfortable from the very beginning.

I believe that your ability to ace the final interview entirely depends on how hard you prepare and practice. Mock interviews helped me a great deal.

During the interview, I paid full attention to questions, took a few seconds to process my answers and then replied. Remember that you can also request the panel to rephrase a question if you do not understand parts of it.

Throughout the interview, I was positive, confident and enjoyed myself. And I never forgot to wear my best smile at all times.

How did your employer support your APC?

Blue Stone Management - Australia has been a key pillar of my success. The director and manager were keen on my professional progression. I was given enough opportunities to cover a wide range of experience that helped me fill my summary of competencies. The Australian team arranged several mock interviews which helped boost my self-confidence and motivation.

On choosing the case study

It is a common myth that all candidates need to gain experience on a flashy, multi-million-dollar project in order to draft up a case study. On the contrary, my case study was a medium-scale school expansion project where my role was client-side Quantity Surveyor.

Whether you work for a client, consultant, main contractor, sub-contractor or supplier, your experience ultimately needs to be narrowed down to the key issues you encountered during your involvement in a project. It’s simple as that! Avoid trying to capture the wider scope of the project. You have a limited word count of 3000 words. Focus on the specific issues and your role in rectifying them- how you arrived to the solution/s, what advice you gave your client and the final outcome.

Keep in mind that there will be a 10-minute presentation of your case study during your final interview. Pick a project that you will be confident and enjoy presenting.

Riffath's advice for built environment professionals

Knowledge is Power - Read as many guidance notes, articles and journals as possible. And make sure they are current. Last thing you want is to quote an outdated Act or law in your submission or interview.

Be organised - Make sure your summary of experience and case study is very well structured.

Know your submission - Know it like the back of your hand. Read, reread your submission before and after your preliminary submission.

Mocks interviews - Organise several mock interviews with your work colleagues/managers, counsellor, supervisor, mates and family. You need all the questions and positive criticism you can get. This helps build confidence.

Be tech-savvy - The Assessment Resource Centre, CPDs and now the final interview have all moved to digital platform. Make sure you are accustomed to them.

Take your time - If you feel pressured and cannot meet the submission deadline, know that there’s always a next window. Just make sure you come back extra-prepared and stronger than ever.