Hannah Brennen

Hannah is a Senior Quantity Surveyor BSc (Hons) MSc MRICS at MDA Consulting‘s Leicester office.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I respond to emails, work up valuations after site visits and issue change requests and variations. I would then update cost and briefing reports so that the client is up to date in terms of the changes to the project and the cost implications of these changes. I tend to be out on site once or twice a week with various other meetings in between, I usually have at least one or two full days in the office each week to catch up on paperwork.

What did you want to be growing up?

I wanted to be a bin lady! I am very particular about things and I like everything being neat and tidy, which it is after the bins have been collected. I was fascinated and used to stand at the edge of the road and watch the lorry each week.

Who was your biggest inspiration growing up?

My Mum. She was very career driven and paved a way for herself in the job that she did, she was very well respected in the industry and was one of few women in a senior position.

What is your proudest moment?

Passing the RICS APC and becoming a Chartered Quantity Surveyor. It is something I had been working at for what seemed like forever, especially as I was unsuccessful first time which took a big chunk out of my confidence. I was so pleased that all my hard work had paid off and I had finally achieved this goal, which I had set my eyes on as soon as I decided to quit my job and retrain as a Quantity Surveyor.

What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever been given?

Make the most of the opportunities you are given. 

Best career advice you received and why?

If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, then find something different to do. I hated my old job and it took me a while to build up the courage to quit and go back to university to train as a Quantity Surveyor. However it is the best decision I have ever made, I don’t regret it one bit, even when I have had a horrible day and everything is going wrong, it is still so much better than my old job where I was going nowhere.

How can networking and support organisations help the next generation of surveyors on their way up?

I am chair of a steering group which organises networking events for junior people in the Property and Construction industry, through this I have got to meet lots of new people who have similar interests to me. Networking isn’t just talking about work, you get to talk to these people about normal things which you find interesting! I always find these events hard as I am naturally very quiet and find talking to new people difficult. One method of making it a bit easier is to go and talk to someone else who is on their own or sit next to someone and then you can introduce yourself and ask them what they do as a way in. Always remember to connect with the people you meet afterwards for example connect with them on LinkedIn. As you progress the idea is that you can call on these people to help you out, for example if someone asked me if I knew of an engineering firm who may be able to design the M&E for a new building, I could email a mechanical engineer that I know (and see regularly at events) and ask her if she would be interested and if her company might like to quote for the work. It’s the relationships with the people you meet which is important. It’s also nice to go to a meeting about a new job and find someone there who you met at an event a few months ago.

Top advice to those starting out?

It does get more interesting with time! At first my job was a bit boring but after a few months I got to leave the office more and accompany my seniors to site meetings etc. Now I largely go to meetings alone and sometimes get to take work experience students with me.

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the work you do as a Quantity Surveyor.

I work Client side, Quantity Surveyors can work for the Client or the Contractor although the roles are quite different. We work in a range of sectors, private housing, student accommodation, hotels, education, warehousing, heritage etc. In the office where I work I am the only female employee, so it’s just me and the eight guys when we are all in, although it is very unusual for us all to be in at once.

As a Quantity Surveyor we prepare tender and contract documents, conduct monthly valuations, issue instructions, variations and change requests, produce cost reports and chair site progress meetings to name a few of the things that we do!

What is your advice to other women in your position?

It’s tough being in the minority and I think it means that you have to try a bit harder. However as there are less of us, there is also more opportunity to stand out. Try and get to know some of the other women in the industry e.g. at networking events, we know exactly what it feels like and I find other women are really supportive, not that the men aren’t! There are lots of women in construction events that you can target if you are nervous about meeting new people.

What advice do you have for developing self-belief and confidence?

You can’t get everything right, I worry lots when I get things wrong and over think things, but it is just part of life, when I talk to my seniors they don’t stress like I do because they have had more practice than me at learning what needs to be worried about and what doesn’t. It’s more important to admit that a mistake has been made and then try and do something about it rather than just worrying, plus you rarely make the same mistake twice!

Twitter: @MDAtoday  

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/hannahbrennen