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How we helped a fine artist find her calling in the construction industry.

Sophie Hurst | Graduate Project Manager

13 May 2019

Transferable skills to the fore, Sophie proved that a non-technical background is no barrier to a career at Faithful+Gould, a member of the SNC-Lavalin group. Read how she went from a degree in Fine Art to an impressive career in Project Management.

My first love is art so it was a no brainer for me to do Fine Art at university. However, towards the end of a rewarding degree, I wasn’t so sure what I wanted to do next. I’d successfully sold all my final exhibition pieces but thinking ahead, didn’t see myself building a viable career as an artist. Keen to take my creative and problem-solving skills into a profession, I started to explore what I could do for work experience. I was fortunate to land a week’s placement with the graphic design team at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin group. Working at a construction-focused consultancy, I was exposed to exciting roles that would use my communication, teamwork and analytical skills.

My first brush with Project Management

I loved the friendly atmosphere at Atkins. So when my placement ended, I successfully applied for an internal position there as a project support officer. Working in this role I was introduced to the Project Manager profession! My line manager was supportive of my ambition and helped me expand my role to include more responsibility. Soon my duties included managing information flow between the client and the business – these were requests for service, offers, purchase orders, call-off agreements and change notes. I also managed the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database within the business unit, which meant capturing and managing everything from new opportunities, to requests for services through to live projects. I also produced monthly status reports for clients on projects and provided day to day general administrative support to senior Project Managers.

What do you say to a secondment opportunity? – YES!

I leapt at the chance to join Faithful+Gould as an assistant project manager. The secondment was working a project for a major university in Edinburgh. It was a dream come true. From the day I arrived I was hands on and began to learn everything about the property sector. Based at the site office, I provided support to experienced Project Managers and colleagues, liaised with contractors, set up documentation systems and organised meetings. In addition, I managed project cash flow, risk registers and projects schedules. Whilst I was there I also completed my NEC3 training, which means I’m able to draft all the different contracts needed to manage projects through their entire life cycle.

Project management on a major retail development

When I’d finished in Edinburgh I knew I was onto something I really enjoyed. I was soon off on a part time secondment in Manchester for 6 months. This time it was to work on a major development for a leading retail group. Simultaneously I began working on a major commercial development outside Manchester Airport which is ongoing, and I currently coordinate and support the Project Management Office. This involves issuing fortnightly Programme status reports by collating material from multiple projects across the development. I also maintain a central data room, which provides information management guidance and assurance to the development. I make sure all the risks, issues and actions are captured, organise board meetings, and monitor everything through to conclusion.

Providing the support at a major bank’s Programme

Another project I’m excited to be involved in is a critical compliance Programme for a major UK Bank. F+G are assisting the client in mitigating risk from their sublet portfolio, employees and operations from the risk of fire. I coordinate and distribute large amounts of data to consultants and various stakeholders across the Programme. I also maintain a central project inbox, which provides information management.

We caught up with Sophie’s client at the bank and this is what he said...

“Sophie has played a key role to successfully deliver the Bank’s Fire Safety Programme in 2018.  She has supported the development and delivery of an innovative dashboard reporting suite that has provided a robust platform to monitor progress on the Programme.

She has also developed a snap shot report that provides a tailored risk update into the Bank’s executive. Having initially supported the weekly progress meetings, she has developed and demonstrated collaborative behaviours throughout the year and now regularly chairs the Programme review meetings. She manages the Programme risk, issues and action registers proactively, effectively and with integrity.

Throughout this complicated Programme of work Sophie has demonstrated the highest level of project management skills. Her personal enthusiasm to drive things to completion, along with an engaging politeness and knowledge of all the stakeholder’s requirements has been reflected in the high esteem in which they all regard Sophie.”

Project Delivery Manager – Workplace Services

Inspired by Sophie’s story? Find out more about our Graduate opportunities on our Early Careers Pages.

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