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News & opinion

7 MAR 2019

Joanna Farnsworth: Transforming East London

Joanna Farnsworth MRICS, Commercial Manager at Galliford Try, describes her journey into the profession, which started at age 14 on a work experience placement at a quantity surveying practice.

First steps into infrastructure and construction

My journey into the construction sector started when I was still at school; as a 14-year-old work experience was looming and my father had suggested that I look for a placement that involved working both inside and outdoors. I spent two weeks doing just that, shadowing quantity surveyors and decided that this was the industry I wished to pursue a career within.

After completing my A level's, I was fortunate to gain a position as Trainee Surveyor at the construction firm and studied for my degree part-time whilst working, I have since worked for a main contractor and progressed my career whilst working on some exciting schemes such as conversion of the Grocers Hall at the Bank of England the refurbishment of Normanshaw House for the Palace of Westminster.

Regenerating East London

I am currently leading the commercial team on a regeneration scheme in East London adjacent to Royal Victoria Dock, delivering 975 mixed tenure apartments across five blocks, including an energy centre, commercial space and a 152-bedroom hotel. The scale of the project is immense, works started in 2018 and we have two and a half years left on site. To deliver this scheme we are utilising eight tower cranes, ten hoists and have a workforce of 800 tradespersons coming through the gates every day.

Joanna Farnsworth
Joanna Farnsworth on site in East London

Wise words for women entering the profession

My advice to other women considering a career in surveying or construction is to be yourself, don't try and fit in. A diverse workforce is representative of the communities and customers we work with and we should recognise and celebrate our differences as a positive. My advice to anyone at any level in the industry is question everything, a simple question can start a great conversation that could impact on the scheme or someone's wellbeing.

Advocating the profession

Being a Regional Board member of RICS has provided several great opportunities and a phenomenal support network. I have chaired the Regional CPD day and represented RICS at awards and events. I have attended seminars provided by Lionheart that have assisted with my personal development, given me tools and helped me gain confidence in presenting to a large audience.

More recently I have been involved in promoting and celebrating surveyors that may not have a platform through the Surveying Sisterhood, which evolved out of International Women's Day 2018. This has gathered pace seeing us set up a blog celebrating the role of surveyors and on social media.

A diverse workforce is representative of the communities and customers we work with and we should recognise and celebrate our differences as a positive.

The future

We will see more technical advances being utilised and buildings designed to maximise the use of off-site manufacture and pre-fabricated components. We are already taking advantage of 3D modelling to design our projects and data management software that assist us in management of operations. I am hope to see a more co-ordinated approach in the systems we use to maximise efficiencies; Artificial Intelligence will never fully replace traditional skills but we should use it to minimise and negate risk to the workforce, for example working at height and cutting on site.

Safety and the right skillset

My role is key to ensuring these projects are delivered on time, within budget and safely; nothing is so important that we do not take the time and spend the money to do it safely. It is crucial that the right methods, subcontractors and supply chain are engaged who can deliver and perform to meet the overall needs of the project. A lot of due diligence is carried out behind the scenes to ensure the risk of failure is minimised and that the labour-force has the right skill sets to produce a high-quality product.

Celebrating and supporting each other in the industry - creating a culture of care

I am fortunate to work for a contractor that underpins my personal values and focuses on creating a culture of care not only in business but to the communities that we work within and do this with our deeds not just words. Working in the sector can be challenging at times and by raising each other up we boost ourselves and others to see things in a better light to come up with dynamic and positive solutions. We learn from our mistakes and by allowing others to make their own mistakes is an effective way of developing them whilst supporting them in a safe environment. I am proud to be a surveyor, proud of my team and look forward to seeing those around me reach their full potential and shine.

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