Shaynesia Byfield MSc is an Assistant Commercial Manager at Transport for London.
How did you enter the industry?
My entry into #Construction was accidental. In fact, I was a science girl through and through; even graduated with a Biology degree in 2014 and BAM, fell right into the industry working for a maintenance contractor as a scheduler planner. Using my time wisely, I shadowed building surveyors and assisted with diagnosing repairs for residential properties of the housing association that we were in partnership with. It was recommended that I look into a career as a #QuantitySurveyor. Joining TfL as a #graduatequantitysurveyor in 2016, I gained an MSc in Construction Management & Economics as well as the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) whilst working full time.
How would you describe your role, what valuable skills have you picked up and any top tips?
As a hybrid QS and PM, I would describe my role as an amalgamation of law, maths and engineering (the perfect blend of STEM).
At the beginning of my career as a QS, I learned how to takeoff – the process by which you can use construction blueprints – either manually or electronically, to measure the materials and labour to prepare an estimate for a construction project. Estimating in general has helped with quantifying costs, especially when working for a client such as TfL when incoming quotations need be understood and challenged where necessary to ensure that we are getting value for money. It is also a good skill to harness when looking for cost saving areas. I must admit, it was also an opportunity for me to indulge in my love for colourful stationary LOL. I also still enjoy running around with my laser measuring device. It’s literally a life saver! I could not imagine relying on a measuring tape, plus what if I need to measure something that exceeds 50m? – Total nightmare!
Administering the contract that ties the client to the contractor is an integral part of the role. QS or PM, it effectively dictates how the project in which you’re working on, should be managed. Series of clauses detail general terms, responsibilities, time, testing and defects, payment, compensation events, title, risk and insurance and termination. NEC3, JCT, PFI – the contract in which you work with, will ultimately become your bread and butter.
My top tips are:
1) Being able to see the bigger picture is key. The whole project life cycle needs to be taken into account and the QS/PM needs to be the type of individual to champion the progression; right from early initial estimate, procurement, start on site, final snagging and handover.
2) Being open and honest as a QS/PM is important as you have to provide the facts with complimentary evidence as there is no disguising it, especially when reporting costs.
3) Being a confident communicator is essential. In the early stages of a project, the QS/PM will provides the stepping stones for decisions about scope, duration, cost and feasibility, which ultimately build the project and will therefore dictate project success or failure (although we will avoid the latter by force). The QS/PM has to be good at communicating in an array of formats to suit all; including internal and external stakeholders so that buy-in is achieved. For myself, this is crucial as I am dyslexic, so I appreciate a good presentation, poster or flow chart to cater to my needs.
What projects have you enjoyed?
I have worked across the business in departments such as London Underground, Surface Transport and Commercial Development. One of my favourite projects was in London Underground, within the Earthworks team, where I was responsible for the procurement for earth structures and re-stabilisation packages along the Metropolitan line (Rickmansworth to Chorleywood) and Central line (Roding Valley to Chigwell) costing c. £2bn in total. I had no clue on what piling was to begin with. I was thrown into the deep end but I really needed that because I was able to learn from mistakes. I was also able to see projects from start to finish, so I had to keep up with BAU QS duties, as I was held accountable.
More recently, over the past year I have taken on a hybrid role of QS and PM in Commercial Development; the side of TfL that not many are familiar with. TfL is not just about buses and railway systems; TfL is also a landowner with a property portfolio ranging from commercial and in-station retail units, to disused arches in various pockets of London. It is pretty cool to see the transformation, as they can be turned into anything; literally unlocking hidden gems!
I have a great appreciation for brickwork now. Although it has its’ issues with water ingress and spalling, brickwork is fascinating. Bricks are energy efficient because they can absorb heat which can make our internal environment cooler in summer and warmer in winter #SUSTAINABILITY
I am a #STEM and #Construction Ambassador and have been shortlisted as a #UKCW2019 #ConstructionRoleModel. Next month, I will be at #LondonBuild as a #DiversityinConstructionAmbassador.
‘Diversity should not be used as a fantastical buzzword; without the inclusion, it does not work! Diversity should enable us all to have a SEAT at the table and inclusion should ask us to EAT from said table. If I can inspire just one person, I have accomplished my goal. We all have the power to shine in this industry!’
Any outside of work endeavours?
Apart from surveying units and arches in London, I also survey plants. YES PLANTS, including fruit and vegetables and all of the infrastructure that makes up the 7 acres of land in which I am helping to run in my local borough.
I am on the board of directors for a co-operative called London Grown, with the appointed role of Finance and Infrastructure lead. We are transforming acres of derelict land into productive space for the community – improving facilities and access to fresh produce. To date, we have installed a composting toilet, which I am still in awe of. We are in the process of installing solar panels and a polytunnel, as well as design and build of a playground complete with a treehouse.
I already had a significant interest in sustainability and community regeneration as there is a great need (probably more than ever) for appropriate design and build of infrastructure that can cope with our ageing population within the constraints of climate changes; gentrification as well as scientific. I joined London Grown not just to give back, but to be part of change; as like #buildings, #communityspace (and lack thereof) has a profound effect on our daily lives. It is about making these spaces better for now and generations to come.
Surveying as a discipline has opened up my eyes to so much! I definitely chose the right path to go down and I cannot wait to discover what else awaits me. Next step = #CHARTERSHIP
I have contributed towards GoConstruct’s blog as part of International Womens Day: https://www.goconstruct.org/construction-today/blog-events/inspirational-women-in-construction/
I have also contributed towards #Surveyorhood’s blog, where I discussed the importance of using social media to attract new talent into the industry: https://surveyorhood.com/2019/05/04/attracting-talent-into-the-construction-industry-using-social-media-by-shaynesia-byfield/