Sitting in her varsity lecturing halls more than three decades ago, Lydia Carroll was one of less than a handful of young women there aiming to become a quantity surveyor. These days, she says, the industry is much more balanced - a good thing, given that she believes it is a “wonderful” career path for women.
Career spanning more than three decades
Lydia, a professional quantity surveyor with 36 years of experience, is currently a director in Capital Projects and Infrastructure at PwC Advisory. She has led a number of construction projects throughout her career. She handled construction contract claims and negotiations from both the Employer’s and the Contractor’s perspectives, providing project assurance, serving as a NEC adjudicator, and providing expert testimony in several disputes. She also delivered strategic guidance across multidisciplinary projects. She has worked in the public and private sectors, gaining experience in the industries of power and utilities, paper, oil and gas, mining, infrastructure engineering, water, building, industrial, and recreation.
From mentee to mentor
Lydia claims that despite being in the minority as a woman when she first entered the field, she hardly ever experienced discrimination. “I grew up with just brothers. So I was never intimidated by men,” she explains. “And I had only been in the industry for a very short time when I began working for Anglo. I mostly performed engineering and mining projects at the time, when it was a completely male-dominated industry. Yet I never felt threatened and men treated me with respect. The only times I did experience some unease was when I had to go down the mines, and some of the more traditionalist men on site were clearly not too comfortable with the idea!” she recalls in good humour.
Lydia credits her two mentors, Kevin Spence and the late dr. Corné de Leeuw, as having a big influence on her career success. “I would therefore also advise young women in the profession to make sure they have mentors,” she says. “Find someone that you aspire to be like, and spend time with them. You don’t have to work with them - simply listen to them, learn, and gather wisdom. Your life may be changed by it.”
In the same vein, she consistently makes an effort to be accessible to younger quantity surveyors who ask her for guidance. “I believe one should not be afraid to ask. Sometimes the youngsters seem to think they have to be experts right from the start. And if they can’t google it, then they fear there’s something wrong. But you are not supposed to know everything!”
She notes that many of her former employees still phone her to ask for advice. “And why not? Rather ask for help, than doing it wrong and putting your client at risk.”
‘Challenges also present opportunities’
Despite the current challenges of loadshedding and the slow pace at which government projects are getting off the ground, Lydia says she is still excited about the future of the quantity surveying industry in South Africa.
”After all, difficulties also present opportunities. Many private industries are now looking at energy alternatives as a result of the electricity crisis. That’s a huge opportunity for somebody in the construction field,” she explains. “So even while I’m not going to pretend everything is sunshine and roses, I do think there are still enough local chances that make this industry an exciting one to be in.”
*Lydia Carroll has been both a member and board member of the ASAQS.
MEDIA CONTACT: Stephné du Toit, email@example.com, 084 587 9933, www.atthatpoint.co.za
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