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Career Spotlight: Laura Johns - Associate Director/Quantity Surveyor

​1.What do you love about your job/profession?

The thing I love most about my job as a Quantity Surveyor is the variety of the projects I work on and the people I work with across those projects. It’s a cliché that many people love about their job, but it is so true that variety is what keeps everything fresh and interesting. One day I am messing about with spreadsheets (which I really love to do for some completely inexplicable reason), trying to locate that missing $9 (why is it always $9?) and the next I’m in a meeting with the client, the contractor, the ETC and three legal teams trying to agree an issue before it goes to court. There are also the necessary site visits to review Payment Claims and variation submissions, where I invariably learn something new at every one, even if it’s what time the morning break is on that site.

2.What is it like to work at RDT Pacific?

I joined RDT from a large global multi-disciplinary consultancy, and honestly, it couldn’t have been more different. Although I was in NZ with my previous employer, the move from there to RDT felt more pronounced and a different way of working than the move from the UK to my previous employer.

RDT Pacific is my extended whanau and being part of the RDT team is another thing I love about my job. The team includes people from all around the world and with expertise from all areas of the construction industry and wider; through luck (not judgement) we have a very diverse and inclusive team.

Although we all work hard, we also play hard, with many social activities throughout the year as well as the traditional Friday drinks around the pool table.

Our approachable, “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” team is a safe and open environment for everyone to continually learn and develop at their own pace with support for developing individual interests within the wider construction industry.

3.Are you in the role you thought you would be in when you started your career?

My main goal at 18 when I left sixth form in the UK was to not saddle myself with university debt for the next umpteen years. I couldn’t say why now, but at the time, it seemed like a terrible idea to be starting my adult life in the negative as it were. Perhaps this previously un-realised caring about my own finances was an omen for the path my career was going to take.

Anyway, my plan was that I was going to work full-time at the DIY store I had been working weekends at since I was 16, ideally targeting management training as I didn’t really want to work on the customer services desk every day, as I had for two days a week for over two years.

However, my parents were not thrilled with that idea and explained that there were other options out there that would make more use of my strengths and perhaps be more interesting long-term. This was followed up with the presentation of an advert in the local paper for a vacancy for a trainee QS. Long story short, I didn’t get that job (thankfully as it turned out), but I did get one with a consultancy firm in a nearby big city after I looked into what a QS actually did and realised that it would be a great career for me as so many things I enjoyed would be called upon. The bonus of this option was that I could do a 5-year 1 day a week part time degree and work the other 4 days; with the degree paid by my employer, there was no debt!

Since then, I have been a QS, progressing through the usual career milestones including RICS chartership and yes, I am pretty much exactly where I thought I would be, albeit in NZ, which was not really part of the plan when I was setting out in the UK, although I did always have working overseas in the back of my mind.

One thing that is different to where I thought I would be is the addition of the RDT Auckland Manager role to my QS delivery role. It has created more personal challenges, for example, managing Project Managers is somewhat different to managing QSs and the balancing of client delivery with internal business requirements is a daily occurrence, along with adding even more variety to my working day.

4.What advice would you give to those entering the profession if you knew what you know now?

Don’t let talk of industry prejudice stop you from doing what you want to do, whatever it is. From my experience, there are lots of issues still to be worked through, but it is getting better and isn’t as bad as it is sometimes made out to be by those outside of the industry. There is no doubt that there are some barriers and some areas where the “boys club” remains in place, but the more great people there are challenging those instances, the more they will become outdated and out of place.

Having said the piece that I feel any relatively senior woman in the industry would perhaps be expected to say, my main advice is to find something that you enjoy and the second you start to dread coming to work, or any element of your job, change it. The only person that can do that is you.

Finally, as a small bonus, my golden rule is to never burn any bridges. You never know where someone might head to next or when you might bump into them again.