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People Profile: Suzanne Chinner

“Joining HKA, I was fortunate enough to work for and learn from a very talented Quantum Expert. These two individuals had a passion for mentoring and sharing their knowledge and they shaped my career as a QS and Claims Consultant.

I really appreciate the time and effort they invested in me and I would love to do this for other young people at HKA – build bridges between the senior and junior staff, and pass on the lessons I’ve learned over my career.”
Suzanne Chinner, Associate Director

Suzanne Chinner, an Associate Director at HKA Australia, has been with HKA for seven years; spending the first three years in Dubai before relocating to Australia. Here she discusses the importance of providing intelligence up front when setting up a new project, the impact mentoring has had on her career development.

What is your role at HKA?

I’m an Associate Director and work in the Claims and Expert stream, mainly on quantum matters.

With a background as a quantity surveyor (QS), what was the turning point to change?

I spent six years working as a QS on construction projects in Dubai before I moved into Claims and Expert work. As a QS I was very intrigued by the legal and contractual aspect of the work, so I decided to return to university to study a Masters in Construction Law & Arbitration (LLM). I joined HKA (formerly Hill International) in Dubai in the final year of my studies, which gave me the opportunity to continue my career in Claims and put the theoretical knowledge gained through the LLM into practice.

What have you found the difference to be between working in the Middle East and Australia?

The type of work is generally the same as I worked on projects around the world while based in Dubai, and this is still the case.

One difference, however, is the split between Claims and Expert work. In the Middle East HKA had the same amount of Claims and Expert work, whereas in Australia we do more Expert work than Claims. In Australia, some contractors prefer to do Claims in-house instead of through Claims Consultants.

The value HKA brings is the years of experience our Expert / specialist Claims Consultants have in preparing and assessing claims. We are more efficient and know exactly what to look for so clients really benefit from partnering with us early.

What’s a typical Claims or Expert project?

It depends on the size of project. It could just be myself working on a claim or assisting an Expert, or we can work as part of a team of 10+ consultants working from various locations.

The size of the dispute will usually dictate how many resources are required and for how long. At HKA, we can handle everything from small disputes requiring advice in short time-frames (e.g. for adjudications) to very large disputes that require our services over several months or years.

HKA provides Consulting and Expert services. What do you enjoy most?

I like to use my knowledge from Claims and Expert work and direct it into the early project life-cycle to avoid disputes. If we are involved early on a project, we can use our skills to avoid problems and disputes down the track.

I’ve found a common theme in projects that go wrong, and the disputes that arise, is due to ambiguous wording in contracts. HKA can easily identify these issues early if clients employ us before they sign the contract.

Spending a couple of weeks upfront can make a huge difference later on.

Looking at contracts with an expert eye, if you inherited a live project tomorrow what would you advise a contractor to do?

Good record-keeping is imperative for a project to run smoothly.

I’d also ensure the client invested in a proper Commercial Management system and that it was kept up to date. Without a proper system, clients can’t understand if and where money is being lost. HKA can provide Quantity Surveyors and Commercial Managers to set up projects with a correct system in tracking and managing cost.

Investing in good cost and commercial management resources is invaluable as it can increase profitability and significantly reduce overruns on projects.

What do you think is the HKA differentiator?

Our differentiator is the quality of work we produce and the significant experience of our staff.

HKA is a true global company. A lot of other companies have offices all over the world but don’t operate as one unit. At HKA we collaborate across our various offices to deliver the best results for our projects. On a current project, we are collaborating with HKA consultants from the UK, Middle East, Singapore and here in Australia. This sort of collaboration is typical for us.

Collaborating also enables HKA to work around the clock when faced with tight deadlines. For example, at the end of the day in Australia, we can pass work over to team members in other offices, such as the UK, where it will be the start of their working day. This enables us to get a lot done in short time-frames.

As HKA is based in 22 countries and 42 offices worldwide, we also have the opportunity to travel to and work from different locations around the world. It’s the variety that makes life interesting at HKA. We are exposed to a diverse range projects; I’ve had the opportunity to work on a golf course, numerous oil and gas projects and a hospital, to name just a few.

You are passionate about mentoring junior staff, how did that come about?

When I started out as a QS, I had one person who took me under his wing and taught me everything I know about good Quantity Surveying practice. Joining HKA, I was fortunate enough to work for and learn from a very talented Quantum Expert. These two individuals had a passion for mentoring and sharing their knowledge and they shaped my career as a QS and Claims Consultant. I really appreciate the time and effort they invested in me and I would love to do this for other young people at HKA – build bridges between the senior and junior staff, and pass on the lessons I’ve learned over my career.

 


Interested in a career at HKA?

Visit our Careers section to find out more.

Joining HKA, I was fortunate enough to work for and learn from a very talented Quantum Expert. These two individuals had a passion for mentoring and sharing their knowledge and they shaped my career as a QS and Claims Consultant.

I really appreciate the time and effort they invested in me and I would love to do this for other young people at HKA – build bridges between the senior and junior staff, and pass on the lessons I’ve learned over my career. ”
Suzanne Chinner, Associate Director
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