My name is Alice Alinafe Graham. I am a senior quantity surveyor. In my role, I undertake cost management of construction projects and look after commercial matters through the lifecycle of delivering projects. This entails a range of activities including helping the client set a budget, dealing with payments and monitoring costs to ensure the budget is not exceeded.
I was born in Malawi and moved to the UK, to Scotland when I was 10 years old. At school, I did various subjects and eventually focused on Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English, and Maths because I originally wanted to be a doctor. I also did Business Studies and Economics. I was quite good at economics, and I got the award for the best mark for the subject in our school when I completed my Scottish higher exam in my last year of school. These 2 subjects remain highly relevant to my role now as a quantity surveyor. From business studies, I learned the importance of being commercially aware of how the business I work in operates. From studying Economics, I understand the importance of following micro and macro economic trends that are impacting the global construction supply chains for example which has a significant impact on quantity surveyors and the advice we give to clients.
When I finished my Scottish Highers (A levels in England), I didn’t get the grades I needed to do medicine. Consequently, I needed to find an alternative plan for my future career. I picked quantity surveying because when I did my research, someone advised me that it provided global career prospects of being able to work anywhere in the world especially if I became a chartered surveyor with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Following on from this, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in quantity surveying by undertaking an RICS accredited quantity surveying BSc degree. I went to Heriot-Watt University in Scotland and studied quantity surveying for 4 years. During this time, I participated in various activities outside of the main curriculum. I had several work experience placements with quantity surveying firms to learn more about the working environment. I also had a 3-month work placement with a firm in Leeds working on local authority education projects. Whilst it may be difficult to get a placement, I would advise future candidates to invest in work experience during summers so they can have a competitive advantage over other graduates when applying for graduate roles.
When I graduated in 2018, I joined Faithful+Gould as a graduate quantity surveyor. During my time at Faithful+Gould, I have had the opportunity to work on some fantastic schemes in the private and public sectors. These have included a school refurbishment, a new build office as the lead quantity surveyor, a highways project, lab office and fit-out, and many others.
I have also had the opportunity to work on national programmes the biggest of which was working for a large UK bank and delivering work as a cost manager across their UK property portfolio which includes their branches offices and even ATMs.
In June 2021, I passed my Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) and became a chartered quantity surveyor and a member of the RICS. In April 2022, I was promoted to my current role as a senior surveyor. I have had immense support from various mentors and sponsors within my organisation and outside of it. Overall, I can say I have had a very positive experience in the profession and industry to allow me to progress in my career.
Outside of project work
Outside of my project work, I am a STEM Ambassador with the STEM ambassadors Programme. This aims to promote the uptake of science, technology, engineering, and math-related careers by young people. As part of this role, I participate in various activities where I talk about the quantity surveying profession.
I have also put a group together to help support other black women who are in or coming into the quantity surveying profession.
In recognition of my technical project work and my extracurricular activities, I have received recognition through various awards. In 2021, I was the Women in Construction and Engineering (WICE) awards winner of the best quantity surveyor. Furthermore, at the inaugural Black Professionals in Construction (BPIC) awards, I was the winner of the rising star award. Within my company, I also received the president’s award for the work that I have done in my career to date.
I am still learning and growing in my journey and excited for what the future holds. In terms of project work, I am excited to continue working on different projects and to grow my technical skills and abilities. For the extracurricular activities I do, I hope to continue contributing positively toward diversifying our industry’s talent pool. All that said, I have become more aware of the importance of prioritising my mental health and well-being as I pursue future endeavours. I would highly recommend for everyone to do the same, and to avoid burnout so you can enjoy a sustainable and fruitful career in the construction industry.