Keep updated on Built Environment industry insights and thoughts from UCEM Principal: Ashley Wheaton.
My working life: Guest blog by Peter Escreet, UCEM Programme Leader for MBA Construction and Real Estate
Posted on: 17 January, 2018
Education has had a vast influence on my life. Despite early success at the 11+, I really struggled in my teenage years but managed to get through my A levels sufficiently to get into Loughborough University to study Sociology and Economics. I think I surprised everyone.
One book that made a difference was ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’’ by Michael Young which saw intelligence and merit becoming the central tenet of society. The message I took from that was that hard work and tenacity could make a difference to how my future education and career developed.
Despite my careers advisor suggesting I become a Catholic priest (I apparently had all the right qualities) it is not a path I followed… or have I?
I started working in Leeds Market when I was 12 which gave a very useful lesson in communicating with a wide demographic of people. This lasted about five years.
Whilst at Loughborough University, I was also working freelance for a number of music publications which involved interviewing groups, reviewing concerts, etc. It didn’t pay much but it did provide some valuable experience. The best thing I gained from this though was developing my writing skills.
My first real career was after University as a trainee wine merchant with International Distillers and Vintners which I did for several years. One thing I learned was always drink some wine before you cook with it. Nothing to do with flavour – it just numbs the fear of cooking.
I then moved into telecommunications as a network forecaster and planner. My initial role was modernising the network to become digital and this developed into planning all of the ISDN2 and ISDN30 (now called broadband) for households and businesses across London and the South East. Believe it or not but people didn’t want it as much as we expected!
My next move was becoming Regulatory Affairs Manager in Head Office in London liaising with OFTEL (now OFCOM) to help negotiate and agree regulatory changes as well as hosting tours for their staff to enhance their skills. One example of the type of visit was to Adastral Park where BT’s global research and development occurs, such as pioneering work in optical technologies and digital switching, through to advancements in software engineering.
I next became Communications and Marketing Manager where I edited internal communications and project-managed the launch of BT’s new website.
I moved to a role within the Shareholder Services section in Corporate Governance which included managing shareholder dealings, organising AGMs, charity events in the BT Tower, etc.
Whilst in telecommunications, I was lucky to be sponsored for an MBA with the Open University which provided fresh insight into how businesses actually operate. This distance learning was completed over four years, and ideal, as I could continue with my day job.
To diversify my career still further, I decided to move into consultancy work with some local authorities, local building companies (dealing with planning applications) and became significantly focused on surveying as a possible new career.
I applied to CEM and was a student with the College about 10 years ago completing a PG Diploma in Building Surveying.
Having now gained a position with a building consultancy, I then decided to complete an MSc in Building Surveying whilst working as a general practice Building Surveyor. This involved a wide disparity of disciplines across residential and commercial sectors including: quantity surveying, pathology, tender formulation, CAD work, land surveying, stock condition surveying, asbestos surveying, completing EPCs, valuations, schedule of rates, procurement and grounds maintenance. Everyone else wanted to specialise but I chose to take on all the disparate jobs to gain more knowledge and experience.
Between these two qualifications, with CEM, I became an Associate Tutor which I continued for several years whilst still working full-time in surveying.
My roles in the last four or so years with UCEM have also covered a range of options: designing modules across Level 3 Apprenticeships, and BSc and Postgraduate Levels, Module Tutor at Foundation, BSc and MBA level, Module Leader and currently Programme Leader on the MBA Construction and Real Estate programme.
Over a number of years, I have been involved in helping out in local care centres for disabled people.
I also used to be a mentor in a number of local schools helping young adults with career choices, providing advice on CV writing, amongst other things, and have been involved with Samaritans, dealing with a diverse range of people in times of trouble.
UCEM’s MBA Construction and Real Estate programme, accredited by the CMI, CIOB, RICS and CABE is a leading specialist MBA that focuses on business and management principles within the international construction and real estate sectors.
Students engage with subject experts in modules covering key subjects that blend technical knowledge in property and construction subjects with core management disciplines such as organisational leadership, strategic management of change, finance and marketing. They also can create networks alongside fellow students whilst studying but also become part of the UCEM alumni thus retaining that learning community.
Ultimately, students gain a qualification from a well-respected international institution. But it’s more than that…
It is beneficial in improving their leadership skills through strategic management and reaching more senior positions enhanced by developing critical thinking, evaluation and analysis – key essentials of success.
It can also be a moment in time when there is an opportunity in someone’s career to change the way they think – a period of reflection, an interweaving of knowledge – and everyday work – which should help to create and enhance understanding within both construction and real estate environments.
Why is this important? The constantly evolving requirements of employers and the potentially revolutionary changes affecting businesses – for example, artificial intelligence and the use of algorithms – mean that businesses need senior managers and leaders to be knowledgeable, experienced and adaptable. Thus, more practical leadership and management skills – that is, the softer skillsets, the real concept of leadership, the ability to work with others and through others and to execute actions –add value to an organisation.
Whilst an MBA qualification has many benefits, perhaps the greatest is the benefits it can have on your career. So, is it any coincidence that about 40% of CEOs of the Fortune top 100 companies hold an MBA?
Most recently, apprenticeships have become more prominent and in March 2018, we will see our first cohort on the MBA programme. This is a really exciting time for UCEM, employers and their employees to embrace this.
It is no surprise that graduates of the programme enhance their employability, work in diverse professions and become masters of their own destiny.
Personally, I’ve gained a valuable range of benefits from working within the Built Environment. For me, no two days are the same and the range of responsibilities is varied, but it’s the collaboration and support from colleagues across the institution which helps us all perform better for the benefit of our students. One key aspect is the interaction with students.
I also really want to know how we operate and so have become involved in several boards and committees: Academic Board, Academic Review Committee, Mitigating Circumstances Committee, Awards and Results Boards, amongst others.
Working at UCEM has actually made me realise that what I do is actually rather like being a priest: I provide support and pastoral care, I have a great deal of empathy and a desire to help people. So maybe my careers advisor was right all along!
Peter has more than 40 years’ work experience in a diverse range of careers and industries. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Manager Institute (CMI) and a chartered building surveyor (CIOB). For more about the MBA Construction and Real Estate programme, please click here.