Be Inspired Series
Founder and Managing Director
Look QS Ltd
Victoria has a degree in quantity surveying from University of Ulster Jordanstown and is a Chartered Member of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
What is your educational background?
I went to Regent House School in Newtownards. However, I left school before completing my A-Levels.
I later studied Quantity Surveying at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown on a part-time course and then went on to complete my work towards becoming a chartered surveyor with the RICS.
What made you decide to pursue your present career?
When I was at school I wanted to be an accountant, but after some work experience in an accountancy firm, I decided it wasn't for me.
That's when I started to do secretarial work as I wasn't sure were to go from there. I was working in a quantity surveying practice and decided that I should just go to university and study accountancy part-time as I wanted to push myself in some direction.
It was my boss at the time, Ronnie Davis, who suggested I study Quantity Surveying and he would train me. Before working in his firm, I didn't even know what a Quantity Surveyor was.
How long have you been in your current position?
I opened my own firm in January 2010 called Look QS and Project Management, having previously worked for other private quantity surveying firms, a building contractor and also with a property developer.
It's through the variety of work I have been involved in that I have been able to learn to also provide Project Management services alongside my core qualification of Quantity Surveying.
What does a typical working day involve?
I know everyone says it, but there really isn't a typical day. My day can quite often be spent in the office preparing pricing documents or preparing a business plan and funding documents for clients.
Other days can be spent on site or at other meetings with contractors and architects, either in the early stages of new projects when various ideas for design are being discussed and priced, or when projects are on site and I am carrying out valuations for payments to contractors or agreeing costs of variations.
What are your main responsibilities?
Everyone always describes a quantity surveyor's job as a 'brick counter'. In a way that is true, but your main responsibility is to manage the cost of any construction work, whether it be a new build office development, or a small house extension.
This starts with preparing all the documentation required in order to get comparable tenders from contractors, down to agreeing the cost of any changes that the client may request.
Throughout the entire project, I would be in constant contact with the designers and contractors to ensure that the works were continuing to meet the client's budget and keeping the client up-to-date on costs.
What projects are you involved with at the moment?
I am currently working on a great variety of projects including a number of house renovation/extension projects in Belfast, a new church hall, a new nightclub and a cool office fit-out for a large international technology company.
What's the best thing about your job?
The best thing is probably the variety of projects that I get involved in. These can range from a small house extension to a large apartment block, an office building, hotel or even a bar or nightclub, so my job is never boring.
In the past I've had the opportunity to work on some great projects including Milk Club, The Potthouse, The Advocate and The Four Corners Hotel.
What personal qualities does your job require?
You need to be focused, hard-working and also be very conscientious. Sometimes days can be manic because unexpected things crop up on site and they have to be dealt with there and then.
You also need to be friendly and good with people, as much of my time is spent dealing with others, whether it's clients, architects, contractors or even the bank. I'm communicating with many types of people throughout the day.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a similar career?
Working as a Quantity Surveyor can take you in many directions and can provide many opportunities to anyone. As a chartered surveyor you are governed by the RICS, which is a worldwide organisation, so your career could take you anywhere. And it's not just for the boys. When I first started, I rarely came across other women, but now I work with other women on a daily basis, both within contractors and surveying offices, and as clients.