Projects That Shaped Me: Sophia O’Grady

Growing up I attended a school in Salisbury and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my career but I had always had a keen interest in development and property.

Once I left school, I began work with an agricultural estate agency where we primarily dealt with agricultural buildings being sold at auction for further development. This experience really sparked a  passion for development and encouraged me to  further my career in the construction industry.

In my early 20’s, after relocating to Australia. I had my first introduction to the wonderful world of Quantity Surveying I quickly realised that this much-misunderstood profession was where I saw my future career, so I packed my bags and decided to move home to the UK to start a degree course and took up a surveying role with a large housing developer. It was in this first role that I gained some of the most fundamental and critical skills in Quantity Surveying, that I carry with me to this day.

Although the projects I worked on weren’t hugely varied, the nature of the training enabled me  to experience the workings of a variety of departments. This taught me so much and gave me fantastic insights into the function and interconnectivity between each division and discipline. I was able to experience a project in a whole new way from the point of land exchange, through to planning and design and finally when construction starts on site.

The project I was primarily involved in was one of the developer’s largest sites at the time. I was lucky enough to be involved at every stage, which was an incredible opportunity for me and certainly put my skills and training to the test.

I was involved at the tendering stage and by tendering the site and phases, I developed a thorough understanding of the plots and the design of the site. I was able to work with a range of different trades and suppliers on their prices and established an awareness of what the pricing can be for labour and materials.

Volume housebuilders are very much driven by budget, there is often little room for extended build programs, variations out of measured works, or any other potential budget increases. These additional costs frequently arise, but it is the role of a quantity surveyor to think creatively and to explore other options prior to writing any money into these budgets.

By procuring, valuing and helping to project manage a scheme from start to finish I had an amazing overview of the build process allowing me to examine each and every detail. By working with the different teams and disciplines, including external trades and site management strengthened my appreciation for the level and ranges of skills required to successfully deliver a project.

I was working in a fast-paced environment, delivering hundreds of homes a year, which involved millions of pounds worth of investment. Each project taught me something new, from meticulous time management and delivery in high-pressure environments to developing long-lasting working relationships.

Looking back to the days when I was in school and not knowing what I wanted to do with my career I am so proud of the path I have taken. I have developed skills I didn’t know I could and now have a good understanding of the complexities of the construction and surveying industry. But this is just the start. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. My role at Ward Williams Associates allows me to work on a wider variety of projects and broaden my experience.

Being a quantity surveyor is so much more than just developing and managing budgets, it’s encouraging creativity within constraints, learning to be adaptable to ever-changing circumstances and expanding my knowledge of the built environment on a daily basis.

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