People Profile: Chris Smedley, Senior Consultant

Chris Smedley, Senior Consultant, started his career as a quantity surveyor, working at some of the industry’s biggest UK contractors. After working his way up the ladder for ten years, he decided to take a leap from QS to construction claims. He now lives and works in Dubai with his young family.

Tell me about your background.

I’m a quantity surveyor by trade, and I’ve been qualified for about 13 years. Laing O’Rourke sponsored me through my degree at Northumbria University, and following the completion of my degree, I worked for them for five years throughout the North East of England.

During this time, I worked on some of Newcastle’s most iconic buildings, including The Sage, Gateshead, and the Royal Victoria Infirmary. I also completed their graduate management programme before an opportunity arose at Wilmott Dixon, where I spent the next five years of my career as a QS.

After ten years working as a QS, I felt like I needed a new challenge. This led me to explore the avenue of claims consulting. I secured a job at Hill International in 2015, and I’ve been here ever since, throughout the de-merger to HKA.

I’m currently working within the expert witness side of the business in Dubai and thoroughly enjoy it. Expert witness work is the perfect scenario for me as it allows me to continue to focus on the aspects of quantity surveying that most interest me, whilst enabling me to develop an even wider skill set.

What made you make the change from working with contractors to claims?

It wasn’t until I commenced my MSc in Construction Law that I really considered anything other than what I was doing. I soon found that the topics I was covering on the course had an appeal that I felt I needed to explore further, and it was then that I began to look at claims management and expert services.

Having never considered it previously, I had to do a lot of research and soon concluded that there was a viable option to make the move in the Middle East. This worked well for me because my wife and family were really enthusiastic about moving abroad. We made the decision to start applying for jobs in the Middle East, and within a couple of months, I had a few different offers on the table before choosing Hill International, which is now HKA.

What inspires you in your job?

I’ve always aspired to be the best in whatever I take on. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to work with many colleagues who have been exceptionally high performers. This has provided me with great inspiration and motivation to continue to develop and become the best that I can be.

I’ve done various qualifications over the past year and I’ve worked with many people at HKA who are fantastically qualified. It drives me to improve myself daily, and I have people all around me who I can aspire to emulate. I think one of the reasons this inspires me so much is that seeing your opinions valued in reports that are reviewed by some of the construction industry’s leading thinkers is extremely rewarding.

Describe a typical day in your role.

It sounds cliché, but there is no typical day. There may be some typical jobs when working on longer commissions, but after they’re complete, we’re always on to something entirely new.

I guess that is what I enjoy so much about my role within the Expert Witness team; every day really is a school day. Coming from a contractor to working within the Expert team has meant that my learning curve has been incredibly steep, and each day can be very different from the last.

What do you think has been the reason for your success?

I wouldn’t necessarily see myself as a success because I feel like I’ve got a lot more that I would like to achieve – I feel it’s a very relative term. However, if I were to name the reason behind my ‘success’, I would say it would be my peers. Working with them has helped me recognise a clear path of qualifications and behaviours, and I try to follow this path as best as I can.

In addition, I’ve never waited for an employer to tell me what further development and qualifications to obtain – essentially I feel you can get yourself out there and do it yourself.

2017 was a great year for you – can you talk through your successes and share any obstacles you overcame to achieve them?

It was a busy one! I managed to pass my Masters with a first in my dissertation. It was an intense two years of studying, which I had started before working at HKA. Luckily, the course and my role at HKA complimented each other well – it helped that I have been writing reports, so I was used to the high word counts!

The experience that comes with the job helped massively with my studies, putting into practice what I was learning, and I feel this has helped me retain the learning for the long run.
I was also accredited by the Academy of Experts and CIOB achieving both AMAE and MCIOB status respectively.

It’s been a challenge juggling work, studies and family life, but the rewards are more than worth it and I’m on a career path which is really suited to me!

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"I guess that is what I enjoy so much about my role within the Expert Witness team; every day really is a school day. Coming from a contractor to working within the Expert team has meant that my learning curve has been incredibly steep, and each day can be very different from the last."
Chris Smedley, Senior Consultant
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