Name: Neil Schwanethal
Degree and university: LLP law degree, University of Kent at Canterbury
Work Title: Quantity Surveyor, Balfour Beatty
What do you actually do? I am Quantity Surveyor with Balfour Beatty Management; I am currently working as part of the commercial team on the Electricity Alliance (East), where my role means I undertake most parts of the traditional QS role with on site measurement and record keeping, pricing and agreement of variations with sub-contractors, Labour and Plant costing and reporting, sub-contract valuations and management, and Internal Cost / Value reconciliation reports.
Why did you decide to go into the built environment? The decision to go into the built environment was a result more out of not wanting to enter the legal profession when leaving university – thinking back I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to stay within the sector – but after being in the industry now for a few more years, the challenge that the role provides, with the factors that influence the design and construction, and the impact that the built environment has on people and communities, shows how different it is to the legal industry. We are delivering something of value to people.
Would you undertake further training to further your career? As part of my membership with the Institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors we are required to keep a CPD plan, this outlines future training requirements. This continuous development in the built environment is obligatory, not just for career enhancement, but also to keep up with the innovation and advances of the sector.
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides? I enjoy that the commercial aspects themselves are varied and challenging covering design, procurement, installation, and commissioning of not only civil works but also mechanical and electrical works. Working on an alliance contract is also giving me a good experience at working in an environment that does promote open and honest working practices, but still all work to the key challenge of any scheme…successful delivery.
Sometimes there is a lack of opportunities. I have been fortunate to have worked on diverse projects, however from speaking with a few graduates, the schemes they are involved in focus too much on cost collation rather than the wider role that a Quantity Surveyor can play in the built environment. I feel it is important that all graduates push to get involved in the wider role we do play.
What do you think are the most important skills/strengths you needed to make a success of what you did? A Quantity Surveyor needs to be methodical, with keen ears that listen to everything that is going on around you; its amazing what you pick up when you are sat in open plan offices, you have to be good with people, generally you need information from people and in a busy project environment, which is just focused on delivery, you need to ensure a good rapport with operational colleagues.