People Profile: Geraldine Fleming, Partner

Geraldine Fleming, Partner, has worked in the claims consulting business for over 20 years, starting out as a Quantity Surveyor. She is now in the senior team at HKA’s Warrington office, and specialises in providing contractual advice, including reviewing and writing terms and conditions, reviewing, preparing and defending claims, and presenting seminars.

Tell me about your background.

I completed work experience as a quantity surveyor (QS) with Alfred McAlpine in Wrexham, North Wales, during my A-levels.  Having enjoyed the work, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in the construction industry and train as a QS.

I enrolled on a degree in Quantity Surveying at Leeds Metropolitan University. I was very lucky to secure a summer placement with Balfour Beatty who subsequently sponsored my degree and also provided me with a year out placement in Manchester working on a very interesting façade retention project.

During my year out and post completion of my degree, achieving my RICS chartered status was a high priority for me, and I was able to put MRICS after my name just over a year after completing my degree.

I attained a first class honours degree in Quantity Surveying, and subsequently re-joined Balfour Beatty as a graduate surveyor.

I obtained an excellent grounding in quantity surveying at Balfour Beatty, but I was keen to progress into a more legal and contractual field. I had particularly enjoyed the legal aspects of my degree, which included studying contract and employment law. During my year out, I undertook an A-level in law at a local college and I also read articles written by Roger Knowles in Building magazine and CQS monthly – he really inspired me to make the move from working for a contractor into consulting.

When I saw that Knowles was advertising for consultancy staff, I applied and was successful.  I have no doubt that having a first class honours degree in Quantity Surveying and an A-level in Law definitely helped, along with already having achieved chartered status with the RICS.

For the last 20 years I have worked for Knowles and now HKA. I have worked on countless projects, from clients in marine development, buildings and industrial on projects of all sizes, both nationally and internationally.

What inspires you in your job?

Getting an excellent result for our clients and also working with a fantastic group of people in our Warrington office.

Describe a typical day in your role.

My days vary considerably, so it would be better to describe a typical week.

Normally, I spend a day a week lecturing. This could be to a single company in an in-house seminar, a trade association, or an external seminar that we host. The topics include contractual awareness, forms of contract such as NEC, JCT or FIDIC as well as bespoke forms.

I usually spend one to two days on office management, which could include recruitment, reviewing management accounts, and staff planning.  Further time is also spent in marketing, which may include attending events, or contacting clients.

The rest of the time is the fee-earning side, which includes giving contractual advice, reviewing contracts, drafting contracts and writing letters to and for clients. The number of clients I work with weekly can vary – some days I may work with around eight different clients.

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

Good luck and hard work. My luck came from Knowles looking to expand its business through employing junior staff at the time I was looking to further my career. The hard work was definitely when I was studying whilst working – there was plenty of juggling to manage the essays and working for clients.

Any advice for anyone looking to succeed in construction consulting?

Work hard to obtain your relevant professional qualifications at the earliest opportunity – I managed to qualify with RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) at Balfour Beatty, but not many other people do this early in their career. If you can get your qualifications as soon as possible, it really sets you apart from the competition.

 

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"Work hard to obtain your relevant professional qualifications at the earliest opportunity... If you can get your qualifications as soon as possible, it really sets you apart from the competition."
Geraldine Fleming, Partner
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