What initially attracted you to the property industry?
I grew up in Dundalk, a coastal town close to the border with Northern Ireland and halfway between Belfast and Dublin. From a young age I was surrounded by family and friends involved in the construction industry and during the summer holidays, I worked as a labourer on building sites. These early years planted the seed and inspired an interest in building and construction. I was always interested in how the buildings were assembled and loved watching them evolve from the ground up.
In 2000, I enrolled in the Building Surveying course at Dundalk Institute of Technology, which provided a great introduction to all aspects of construction. After completing the degree, I felt drawn to the commercial side of construction and joined a Quantity Surveying firm in Dublin and gradually worked my way into the role of Senior Quantity Surveyor.
What pathway did you take to become a Chartered Surveyor?
I commenced the RICS structured training soon after starting my new job with the intention of completing the final interview assessment 24 months later. The process took a little longer than 24 months, however with the support of company and family along the way, I passed the interview. The qualification is a prestigious and personal achievement, which I am particularly proud of. The RICS competency framework ensures those applying for the RICS qualification are competent to practice and meet the highest standards of professionalism required by RICS.
Why did you decide to move to Australia?
After 8 years in Dublin, I decided that moving abroad would be a great opportunity both professionally and personally. The recession had hit in Ireland and the variety and size of construction projects had reduced significantly. Australia was the obvious choice for me given that the construction industry was booming and I had several family and friends already living there. I moved to Australia with my then girlfriend, now wife, originally saying we would give it a go for 6-12 months. 7 years later, we now have a 1-year old Australian born daughter with an incredibly mixed up accent! Moving to Australia has been a great decision and we both love the work and lifestyle.
What differences have you noticed about working in the property industry in Australia compared to the Ireland?
In many ways the property industry in Ireland and Australia are quite similar, however I found the biggest difference is that the variety, size and scale of projects in Australia is greater. I have been lucky enough to be involved in some major infrastructure projects primarily in the health sector, such as Westmead Hospital, Randwick Hospital and Tweed Valley Hospital, all of which are greater than $500m.
Another difference is the actual size of country compared to Ireland. Australia is more than 100 times and NSW is more than ten times larger than Ireland. The cost of labour and materials in regional/rural areas can vary significantly and, in some instances, can be as much as 50% higher than the metropolitan areas. This can have a major impact on the overall construction costs and must be taken into consideration when preparing estimates.
What is a typical working day like for you?
As an Associate at Altus Group I manage my own team, projects and revenue stream. I spend the morning getting myself and my team organised. I find it easier to complete reports in the morning when my mind is fresh and in the afternoon I spend most of my time in meetings or on the phone talking to clients and contractors. Visiting project sites and seeing a design evolve from concept to completion is the most satisfying aspect of my role.
What has been a career highlight for you?
I now specialise in healthcare and working on the $1 billion redevelopment of Westmead Hospital in Sydney has been a highlight. This landmark project will be one of the largest hospital projects in NSW and Australia. The new hospital building, to open in 2020, will include two new emergency departments along with state-of-the-art operating theatres, inpatient beds and clinical support services, providing improved health services, outcomes and experiences for patients and families. I consider it a privilege to be involved in this once in a lifetime project and take pride in knowing that it will continue to deliver high-quality healthcare to patients for decades to come.
What advice would you give to young surveyors considering moving to Australia?
Quantity Surveyors are in high demand in Australia, and those from the UK and Ireland are highly regarded especially those with an RICS accreditation. Keep a record of your experience and skills for the APC up to date, as it looks favourable when applying for jobs and sets a level of expertise that is recognised everywhere. Whenever possible use your contact network to secure an interview or even just an introduction.
It’s important to do your homework and align yourself with the right organisation who will support you through the process of relocation and provide you with training and opportunities for career progression. Altus Group have been extremely helpful in this regard and provide an unbeatable culture and work life balance.