My Hustle is a new feature on the BBU Blog where we ask inspirational and trailblazing people in construction to share their career story. Read on about the amazing Emmanuel Owusu, a Building Surveyor.
Tell us about your career, how did you get started in construction?
I studied Art, Economic and Physics at A’ Level achieving A*, A, C respectively. I applied to a number of universities to read Architecture. I got an offer from UCL, Bartlett and Kent School of Architecture (KSA). I did not get into my first choice of the Bartlett due to not achieving the required grade in Physics. I proceeded to study at KSA. I attained a First Class Honour’s degree whilst winning numerous awards in the process. I practised in architecture for 3 years before deciding not to study for my MSc. I studied the PGDip/MSc Building Surveying at London South Bank and I have been practising for 2 years as a building surveyor to date.
You haven’t taken the typical career route so what inspired you to change?
The change was inspired by taking a period of time out of work due to an illness. This enabled me to reflect and question my career route in more detail. The architecture course was rather long and the financial rewards were not as good as building surveying. I also enjoyed more of the science behind a building which is what building surveying offers.
What is a typical day like for you as a surveyor?
This has varied because I have worked for 2 consultancies as a surveyor. In my old job, I used to conduct a lot of roof inspections and checking telecoms systems for British Telecom. I also focused more on the professional services as a surveyor, specializing in party walls and dilapidations. My present job involves contract administration, otherwise known as project management. This involves frequent meetings with contractors, writing a schedule of works for refurbishments and decorations to the external and internal parts of residential buildings in London. I also still work on party wall projects. Furthermore, I use my architectural skills to also do design work in my current role.
What gives you energy? How do you motivate yourself?
Hope gives me energy. Hope is looking forward to something. I enjoy working in construction and problem-solving. I enjoy seeing my designs and schedule of works come to life. I like learning and having the skills to construct things.
You’re doing amazing work to highlight mental health issues. Please, can you tell us more about this and the work you do?
I deliver open-lectures at various universities sharing my research about how buildings affect the mental well-being of the occupants. I focus on office buildings and ways we can improve these. I am an Ambassador of 2 charities that raise awareness of mental health issues in society. I have published four books on mental health to help to eradicate the stigma. I consult for the NHS about designing better mental health and dementia care buildings in Liverpool, as part of the Merseycare NHS Design Board. I consult for RIBA where I deliver lectures, and workshops in universities and workplaces about understanding and managing stress and anxiety.
Why do you think we need to encourage more diversity in the construction sector?
- To encourage our children to know that they can also work in the sector – so they see diverse people in these positions.
- We need as many people working in the construction sector as possible - we are very busy.
- The more diverse people working in the industry, the more our economy will grow as a nation, due to increase employment – higher disposable incomes in homes and in turn an increase in GDP
Many people say that there are particular challenges for diverse candidates, have you experienced this and if so, how have you navigated them?
Not particularly. Yes, there are fewer ‘BAME’ candidates in architecture and even less in Building Surveying. However, I have not ever encountered any challenges specifically, the only difficulty was financing during my studies. I am the first generation in my family to go to university, architecture was expensive so I was unable to attend many trips abroad. Nonetheless, this did not stop me from having a successful career in the industry.
I find inspiration in…
Being kind and loving others.
My advice to anyone wishing to work in construction is…
- Seek internships. Send emails, make phone calls and visit practices to enquire whether opportunities are available. I managed to get jobs with companies at various stages of my career by making a phone call and sending emails when they were not looking.
- Remain persistent and resilient throughout the challenges life brings.
- READ! READ! READ!
What is coming up next for you?
I am working towards becoming a chartered surveyor in 2019. After that, I will gain more experience and eventually move into lecturing about surveying in various universities. I will also continue to write more books about various subjects in construction and continue raising awareness about mental health issues in society.
Emmanuel Owusu is an author and works as a building surveyor with a background in architecture.
He has also published 4 books about mental health and lectures in universities in the UK about the relationship between the built environment and mental health. He is an ambassador of 2 charities and consults for the RIBA and the NHS about their wellbeing agendas.