If you have only ever worked for a surveying practice maybe it’s time to look again. We meet two surveyors who have done just that.
One is a former residential agency surveyor who joined Britain’s electricity and gas network operator to “make a difference”. The other is an experienced surveyor with a string of major real estate firms on his CV, who left to chase his dream.
Tim Skuse MRICS, Regional Land Manager at National Grid
Tim joined National Grid over a decade ago, tempted by the energy supplier's promise to help him complete his APC. “I liked the idea of going into rural surveying but the career support was also a tick in the box. That’s something you see more client-side, where you’re a tangible investment for a company that wants you to grow.”
He insists the move away from more traditional urban environment surveying has been a “breath of fresh air”. “The profession as a whole is a little blinkered when it comes to rural surveying,” he says. "But it’s good to get an understanding of a different market. National Grid helps surveyors put their skills to a different use in a more specialised and slightly niche area.
“The portfolio of work our surveyors look after is varied and that appeals to a lot of people. It can range from commercial and regeneration to more project-based work.”
Remediation is also increasingly important as the organisation works on more environmentally-led projects. That is part of its mission to operate sustainably and work towards operating a zero-carbon electricity system by 2025.
Tim adds: “We have a large portfolio covering the usual commercial property, regeneration, remediation and workplace services, as well as facilities management roles. Surveyors in that team acquire the necessary land rights not only to maintain existing assets but also for the development of new infrastructure such as the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station Connection Project in Somerset.”
The forefront of climate change
It’s the extra work alongside what Tim calls the ‘business as usual’ duties that offers surveyors seeking a new challenge a chance to specialise.
He says: “We are committed to being at the forefront of climate change in what we do as a responsible energy supplier. Moving forward there will be opportunities to work on projects like Electric Vehicle charging that require land or leasing land. We’re always looking to the future as a business so it’s an exciting place to be.”
Big infrastructure project opportunities
Proof comes in the shape of a new joint venture between National Grid and St William Homes to transform 350 acres of brownfield land in the southeast to build 17,500 new homes on former gas work sites.
“That will ensure that our land formerly occupied by huge gas holders is put to the best use while protecting the environment and regenerating land and communities,” he says. “We also deal with remediation, contaminated land and planning consents needed for big infrastructure projects.
“Moving client-side lets you make a big difference.”
Nick Knight, Owner, Eco-Cycle
Nick Knight has a wealth of experience working for some of the world’s best known real estate firms but hankered for something more. After 20 years working in commercial property as a development consultant on some prestigious projects, he moved client-side… by becoming the client himself.
“I wanted to incorporate innovative cycle parking into the design of new buildings to give commuters and residents convenient and secure parking, offering an efficient solution to the growing need for more bike spaces,” he says.
He concedes he may have been “five or six years too early” with his Eco-Cycle automated bike parking venture, despite widespread plaudits.
Carbon neutral travel
Inspired by a Japanese model to maximise city space and embrace a carbon-neutral travel vision, his solution is to securely store bikes below or above ground in a minimal footprint, with a retrieval time as rapid as eight seconds using a personalised access card.
The MRICS surveyor is adamant the time will come when his dream becomes reality: “Space in cities and within buildings is increasingly at a premium. Traditional parking does little to address theft, shortage of space or convenience. But it’s currently a chicken and egg situation where we need developers to look to the future. When they do, the rest will follow.”
Nick has no regrets about departing the traditional surveying employment route. He says: “If you have a genuine passion for what you’re doing, that makes the job even more interesting. My experience as a surveyor has been invaluable in establishing this venture.
“Going client-side brings new opportunities. To find a specialism you love, to work on something you truly believe in and to channel previously learned expertise into something that will make a real difference is energising.”
He adds: “When you’re working client-side you have to truly believe in the overall objective. If you do and have a defined goal, it broadens your skill-sets because you work beyond your surveying expertise to overcome problems.”
Other pros of making the switch are:
- A chance to develop your skillset by working on projects in their entirety.
- The opportunity to be the main decision-maker and earn experience managing external consultants.
- Potential to specialise in a particular area.
- Capacity to manage and develop your employer’s owned assets.
- Financial reward and bonus potential, which are often good.