“So, what is it that you do every day, do you do a lot of Maths?”
Lottie’s first question when I picked her up was quite a familiar question really. When I began my training within the construction industry, I was nervous that I’d considered myself ‘a bit rubbish’ at maths. In fact, it’d been quite a few years since I’d been at school, and I didn’t have much confidence back then either.
But perception and reality are very different things. Learning maths at school seemed hard, and I was forever thinking I was getting things wrong and that I’d never use it in later life anyway. I loved music, I loved creating and playing beautiful tunes – what would it matter if I couldn’t excel in maths?
However here I was as a Senior Commercial Manager, excited about the job that I carried out every day, and about to show Lottie just what I did. Hopefully even, to inspire her to join the ranks of Civil Engineering surveyors, Commercial Managers, Quantity Surveyors and Contract Administrators.
First things first, I explained to Lottie, that it doesn’t matter what role you carry out within Construction, Health & Safety is something we all have to complete. I asked her to sign in to the office register and made her aware of the fire evacuation procedures, showed her the facilities including first aid provision, and issued her with a visitors pass. I was her nominated escort for the day, so I made sure that I kept a close eye on her.
Onto the first order of the day, it was measurement.
“I see – so this is how we find out just how big the final plant works will be?” Lottie said thoughtfully. I nodded, and explained that if we know how big something will be, we can also work out how much it is also likely to cost. This particular work took a few hours, so I guided Lottie carefully through the detail, and showed her the principles of scale drawings and basic use of digital programmes such as AutoCAD.
In the afternoon, I had some contracts to put together.
“I didn’t realise you had to deal with legal things?” Lottie said, raising her eyebrow as she flicked through the contract sitting on my desk. A Commercial Manager deals with a number of different areas in their daily work, and I described that some days, I would be dealing with estimates, payment applications, and valuing works on site. To other days, where we’d be working out how to purchase future works, and in this case, putting a contract together in order to form an agreement with a Contractor to carry out a project.
After a busy day we headed home, and I suggested she do some important reading on Civil Engineering Surveying, and also on Personal Protective Equipment. In the morning Lottie would be accompanying a colleague’s daughter to her primary school, to chat about her present work experience, and about future careers in construction.
“Can I wear my PPE please?” Lottie asked – and of course, I advised she could. She especially liked her hard hat and steel toe capped shoes. In fact, she chose to wear the shoes for the entire work experience visit, which I couldn’t blame her for really.
After a busy morning answering questions on her experience so far, Lottie rejoined me for a meeting with colleagues on project progress, and allocation of work going forward. As a team leader, I’m responsible for ensuring my team has appropriate workload, and that they have the correct support to do the work as required.
After the meeting, Lottie looked out the window and spotted a construction site next to the office.
“That’s amazing!!! Look how much you can see!” She exclaimed.
I had to admit, that it was a lucky spot, it’s not often you get such a fantastic birds-eye view of works as they progress.
For our final afternoon, it was time to put some of the maths that Lottie had asked me about the day before, into action. I was currently working on the monthly forecasting of future works for my project, and I thought that she might enjoy helping me complete the task.
“There are lots of big numbers here – how do you keep track of everything?” Lottie frowned as she stared at the computer.
I explained that spreadsheets help a great deal with complex maths calculations, but everything makes sense once you take a step at a time, and don’t rush through the process. Most importantly, if something doesn’t make sense, or you don’t understand, is to always ask. There’s never a silly question, there’s only ever opportunities to learn.
As Lottie signed out of the office and I escorted her to her next host, she turned to me and said;
“I understand now – you do use some maths, but you do a lot of other things too. Each new project has its own challenges, and you definitely don’t do the same thing every day. There’s always something new to learn – and so many opportunities to be involved with, and also to get to know the local communities you work in.”
And she was right. As she waved goodbye, I reflected on the legacy of my surveying career to date and how much I loved the job I did. Then I realised with a smile, that perhaps I wasn’t so rubbish at maths after all.