Open and close mobile menu


Insights 6 key career lessons for women in quantity surveying

Colleen works in AtkinsRéalis' Project and Programme Services team in Scotland. She started with us as a graduate and is now an Assistant Quantity Surveyor. Colleen works on projects transforming local communities and programmes helping to make national corporations fit for the future. In her blog, she shares 6 lessons she's learned starting her career in construction.

Photo of Colleen smiling towards the camera

1. Be willing to consider different career paths

I'm originally from Belfast, Ireland, and came to Edinburgh, Scotland, to study for a degree in Psychology. While the degree was interesting, it left me with more questions than answers. I did an inventory of my life skills and worked out that I wanted to do something more Maths-related. I researched potential careers and found quantity surveying. I liked the idea of being able to represent the 12% of women in the construction industry. So, I did my Masters in Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying.

2. Develop resilience to overcome setbacks

In 2019, I joined the Project and Programme Services graduate scheme. I really enjoyed putting the theory I had learned at university into practice. However, during the COVID pandemic, I was made redundant but kept in touch. I re-skilled as a Fiber To The Premises (FTTP) Surveyor and in December 2021, Glasgow Director Barry called and talked to me about opportunities at AtkinsRéalis. I really admired and aspired to be like some of my former AtkinsRéalis colleagues. After thinking it through and speaking with the team, I returned!

"When I returned to work at AtkinsRéalis, I noticed a positive change in the culture and new ways of doing things, such as more hybrid working and flexibility."
—Colleen, Assistant Quantity Surveyor

3. Find yourself a supportive workplace

Photo of Colleen smiling towards the camera

I value my colleagues the most. There are so many brilliant, admirable people in the organization. Despite the pressures of the role everyone usually has a smile on their face or a joke to tell. I really appreciate the work ethic of everyone I work with. AtkinsRéalis acknowledges our great work and shows their appreciation by being good to their employees. We have a lot of fun at work through inclusive events, training, and nights out to say thank you or well done.

"I'm doing a lot of pre-contract work on schools at the minute and really enjoying learning something new each day."
—Colleen, Assistant Quantity Surveyor

4. Get a mentor to boost your career development

I have the most knowledgeable mentor and counselor for my Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). They both take so much time to help me get prepared for my pre-qualification. AtkinsRéalis has taken a keen interest in supporting me throughout my role. For example, I approached my managers and directors to discuss ways to progress my career. They've provided excellent advice and constructive feedback from peers, managers, and directors who all want to see me succeed. I'm encouraged to network and promote myself, and I recently attended a presentation workshop for women in property.

"I've learned so much working on the National Banking account for the last two years and have watched my skills and confidence grow."
—Colleen, Assistant Quantity Surveyor

5. There's a learning opportunity in every opportunity

When I joined, I put my hand up for an internal role as Reverse Mentoring Lead for Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland Property and Complex Infrastructure, and helped take it national. This programme entails a junior member of staff mentoring a senior member. I absolutely love how it joins people from all over the UK who wouldn't have crossed each other's paths in any other way. The feedback from the previous two years has been outstanding, and we're recruiting more pairs to the programme each year. It has helped me to be more confident, especially in leading presentations.

6. You need flexible working and wellbeing

I worked in the company before hybrid working was introduced and I can see how it has made a massive difference to the team. Not having to commute to the office daily is helpful, as I have an American Akita named Bear who loves to wreck my house when I'm not home. In the office, there's always a bit of craic - for those outside Ireland, that's enjoyable time spent with other people - and I really appreciate being there.

Explore quantity surveying roles with us.