My Surveying Story: Shyam Visavadia
Shyam Visavadia has made a career out of being a champion for young surveying professionals. Shyam was a finalist in the RICS Matrics Surveyor of the Year Awards and has gone on to found the Graduate Surveyors network, helping young surveyors through the early stages of their career. Here, we learn what his experience was like entering the industry and moving to the Middle East.
How did you first get interested in the property profession?
Most of what I enjoy today came from my upbringing and exposure to different people, opportunities and experiences. I was inquisitive and passionate about building things from a young age, and this stuck with me throughout my adolescence, both inside and outside academia.
I was fortunate to gain early exposure to the world of property through my family, who manage a successful joinery firm in London. Though involved in menial tasks, I took the initiative to speak to those around me: clients, developers and related trades. I feel this early interaction stimulated my thinking and provided some direction to a potential career in the profession.
What was your experience coming in to the industry as a non-cognate?
As a non-cognate (someone without a RICS accredited degree) I found it extremely difficult to secure a graduate position. At the time, my approach to careers was sporadic and unplanned. Looking back, I believe I sent more than 100 résumés and applied to more than 40 organisations, globally. My university careers service could not provide any significant help, and I couldn’t source any relevant information online.
I turned to social media to help build my network by contacting those who could potentially provide me with some guidance on careers in surveying; this is what started my journey into the profession. I contacted organisations, and on occasion directors or CEOs directly, to ask for their support and guidance. This led me to secure work experience positions at some of the most prominent property firms in London.
Although I wasn’t paid, what I learnt during this time helped me build a strong online brand, exposed me to new opportunities and allowed me to form trusted relationships with those who could help establish and accelerate my career. It was my passion, commitment and tenacity to challenge the status quo that has led me to succeed in building a successful career.
How are you preparing for the APC and how have you found the experience?
I started my APC back in Autumn 2014. I was keen, ready for the challenge and was eager to add “MRICS” after my name. At the beginning, I created a structured training plan and spent hours completing my diary, set targets to achieve my competencies, attended regional CPD events and scheduled regular meetings with my counsellor. I would complete this in no time.
However, due to increased exposure to my projects and increased workload from my distance learning postgraduate course, I found it extremely difficult to balance the expectations of the APC with all other commitments. My circumstances soon changed when I decided to relocate to the Middle East.
After spending a year settling into work life in the Middle East, I am now preparing to complete my APC. Even though it has taken me slightly longer, I feel that I am now more confident, prepared and comfortable about sitting my final assessment. I have also built a wealth of knowledge through formal education and exposure to different roles, sectors and projects across the world.
If you’re embarking on your APC, I offer three pieces of advice 1) remain confident 2) be committed and 3) be realistic about your development plan.
What is a typical working day like for you?
As a project manager, I am employed as a trusted advisor by my clients, helping to achieve successful outcomes. No two days are the same in my world. I could be chairing a progress meeting in the morning, followed by a site visit with a demolition contractor, and then sitting at my desk preparing tender documents or reports. By the afternoon, I could be contributing to a value engineering workshop or coordinating works on site.
My projects are diverse both in scale and value and this is something that excites me. Work life in the Middle East is very fast-paced, so you need to be assertive, confident and flexible to manage the expectations of the team and especially your client.
What have you found most surprising about working outside the UK?
Everything is a surprise when you take your career abroad! Traditions, cultures, languages, weather. Here in the Middle East we work Sunday to Thursday, so when your friends in London are coming home from a night out, you are likely to be on your way to work. Most consultancies work from 8am to 6pm, and having to adapt to these hours can be challenging. In the summer months the temperature can reach 50°C, and for some this can become unbearable.
Prayer calls are sounded five times a day, and for those who are not aware of the culture or tradition it can be a new experience – particularly in public areas such as malls. Dubai is very cosmopolitan, and the region is home to many expats from around the world.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been many highlights in my career. To name some: being featured in the Metro and Evening Standard; becoming the youngest member on the RICS Matrics UK Board; meeting past RICS presidents at the annual 1913 Wilderness Club Dinner; being shortlisted for the Duke of Gloucester’s Young Achievers Awards; being highly commended at the RICS Young Surveyor of the Year Award; travelling to Asia and Europe with EC Harris; relocating to the Middle East; and establishing Graduate Surveyors as a leading organisation helping young people working in property, construction and real estate.
What prompted you to form Graduate Surveyors?
Graduate Surveyors was created as a result of my own adversities in securing a job in the profession. The organisation offers a platform to support young people in realising their potential, and in doing so help them make informed decisions about their careers. We are a truly global organisation, with an extensive network across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas – this makes us very appealing to employers who are looking for the best young talent.
Graduate Surveyors bridges the information gap between what young people need to know and the opportunities available to them in the world of work. As a young organisation, we have a good understanding of what our generation want and give them personal, rational and up-to-date advice on how to get there. We understand what employers are looking for in a good candidate and this provides us with unparalleled competitive advantage.
We embrace technology and provide on-demand knowledge to simplify the process. We cultivate, nurture and develop the very best emerging talent and this is what makes us the ‘go to’ organisation, globally. We will continue to provide excellent services for our members and clients to ensure that we inspire the future generation.
Shyam will be leading a live Twitter chat to answer questions about finding a job in the surveying profession. Find out more and submit your questions here.