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From constructing to consulting

From constructing to consulting

2023 marks my three-year anniversary with Driver Trett and now feels like a fitting time to reflect upon my move from project surveying into consultancy.

Rewind to 2019 and my working life was considerably different to today. Clipboard in hand and hardhat on head, I would happily wander the site as a Contractor’s QS, taking progress photos, updating the current month's valuation, or measuring the latest fanciful subcontractor variation. It was an environment in which I felt comfortable, but, as time wore on, I grew disillusioned with project surveying and felt that my skills could be better utilised in an alternative role.

Author: George Dibble, Consultant, Driver Trett UK | Bristol

The last project I worked on had exposed me to the ins and outs of contractual provisions and, as a result, I became much more involved in how a contract was administered. It was an unfamiliar battleground, something I had studied but not experienced as a Contractor’s QS - contracts, after all, are best left in the bottom drawer; aren't they?! The project was challenging, and an interest in solid contract management and understanding was cemented by a particularly proficient Project Manager, who had a forensic understanding of the conditions of the NEC.

Much to my dismay, this Project Manager’s aptitude in contract administration enabled him to run rings around our commercial team in a manner akin to a figure skater at a penguin march. Although initially resentful of his contractual choreography, an admission of defeat in this battle and a desire to win the war allowed me to step back for a moment and admire his artful mastery of the contract.

This project was meant to be my making as a surveyor, but the summer months on that project were among the most stressful I faced as a Contractor’s QS. On reflection, this experience was a formative one, although not in the way I had initially hoped for or envisaged. The frustration of working opposite this Project Manager allowed me to reflect on and identify the gaps in my knowledge.

Into the final months of 2019, disenchantment grew within my day-to-day role, and I found myself seduced by a hidden urge to fold my hand and do something different. A clean break from the company could be all but guaranteed as I had already secured a three-month sabbatical following the Christmas break, and so I began to consider other options.

The world of dispute resolution was an area that had already captured my interest, having worked closely with claims consultants on a particularly problematic final account a year or so previously. The same consultancy had also been engaged to deliver various training seminars during my tenure in contracting, so it seemed a fitting place to begin. This company was, of course, Driver Trett.

Two interviews and some career planning later, an offer from Driver Trett was graciously received and eagerly accepted. This did mean, however, that I would be required to start from the beginning, returning to university to get a Master’s degree. The next chapter would thankfully be eased by my new peers, learning from people who had been working in all different sectors of the industry for many years. I hadn’t envisaged the mental toll that drafting a resignation letter takes, but, after submitting it with a heavy heart, I closed my old laptop lid down for the final time, sad to be saying goodbye but optimistic about the future.

One short but sunny sabbatical later, I was keen to get into the office and make a fresh start in an alien world, but little did any of us know, a monster loomed. Like most workplaces in March 2020, barely an hour would go by without someone uttering the phrase that we had all come to dread... COVID-19 was rampant, and a mere two weeks after receiving my induction we were informed that the offices would be closing and everyone would be required to work from home.

...consultancy has been a steep learning curve, one which required a change of mindset from profit margins to client value.

This period of stagnation did, however, enable me to focus on my studies towards my LLM, and while those long days and restless nights almost exhausted my capacity to type another sentence or draft another email, I dug deep and graduated with Distinction.

Professional life since starting in consultancy has been a steep learning curve, one which required a change of mindset from profit margins to client value. Builders sell buildings, consultancies sell people. Where the product was once paramount, acting in a heightened ideal of competence and professionalism has driven me to strive for a level of expertise which was formerly of secondary importance.

Whilst my focus is now on integrity and expertise, the ability to close my eyes and think like a contractor is a valuable trait to possess. My days are still filled with pivot tables, preliminaries, and prolongation costs, and my fond memories of site camaraderie will stay with me until I decide to hang up my scale rule, but for now, I feel that it is a (Yo Ho) Consultant’s life for me.

This article was written for issue 25 of the Driver Trett Digest. To view the publication, please visit: www.driver-group.com/digest-issue-25



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