From Quantity Surveyor to Co-founder of Rapidly Growing Tech Startup

posted in: Articles | 0

The author of this article is Gari Nickson, Co-Founder and CMO of GenieBelt, a construction management software and mobile app which empowers communication between the site and the office.

Why I Chose Quantity Surveying

I started working as a Quantity Surveyor when I was 15. My uncle ran a local practice called SP Projects. I started there for two reasons:

 

  1. I tried accountancy and concluded that even though I was good with numbers, I liked the idea of being able to mix office work with actual on site visits (hence thinking of construction).
  2. SP Projects offered me double what I was making at the time working at the local supermarket.

 

After bean counting at SP Projects for all my school holidays, I then went to Liverpool John Moores University to study Quantity Surveying on a Sandwich course (2 years full-time, 1 year working in the industry and then last year back at university).

How I secured a guaranteed job and £1,500 per year for free

On the open day at John Moores, they mentioned that it was possible to get sponsorship from the larger quantity surveying firms, so that evening I went back and wrote a letter to all the major QS players in and around the Liverpool area. I got a reply from Davis Langdon and now Aecom. I liked them and they offered me £1,500 per year and also good salary and a guaranteed place in my sandwich year. Needing a bit of extra beer money I took their offer and it turned out to be a very good decision. Davis Langdon was a breeding ground for top talent and so I learnt a lot, was held accountable for high standards and also went through their great Graduate Development Course.

How I got a 1st in Quantity Surveying BSc and an award for best marks

I love the way the sandwich course is structured when you study QSing. It gives the student the opportunity to match the theory with the reality while still in the education stage. I learnt a lot from this constant compare and contrasting of theory and reality. However, the biggest take-away for me was learning how to challenge myself. I had quite a demanding boss at Davis Langdon throughout my sandwich year and at the time I came there, I was scoring a 2:1 average in my studies. I can’t remember how we got talking about this, but he ended up making a bet with me that I could not get a 1st in my degree. I took the bet on and decided to outwork everyone on the course in order to guarantee that I finished the year with a first. It turns out, whatever you think you can, you can, and whatever you think you can’t, well, you can’t!  

How I got my APC within 18 months after graduating

I was determined to become chartered as soon as possible. In order to make this happen, I started recording my APC diary from day 1 of my sandwich course so that when I got back after my sandwich year I was nearly half way already with my APC diary. Again, to make sure there was no way I would fail, I took the same attitude in my degree to the APC and just committed to drilling myself with APC questions, theory and interviews until I could not fail. When I turned up at Bolton’s Macron Stadium to take my APC, I knew that whatever they threw at me, there was no chance I would fail.

How does Surveying in Denmark compare the UK?

In 2011 I moved from Davis Langdon in Liverpool and moved to be with my long-term Danish girlfriend in Copenhagen (now the mother of my children). I joined this huge Danish engineering company called COWI and I was asked to basically head up their efforts in Quantity Surveying, which was a bunch of fun. I did all the usual stuff like cost planning, procurement, tender preparation, contract preparation, contract administration, valuations, cost reports, final accounts and general cost management through all stages of the construction process.

 

It’s a really cool place to work and I would recommend it to many QS’s out there who want to either try Copenhagen or want a better family life balance. Ping me on Linkedin if you fancy it – I can hook you up with the right people there.

How I went from QS to Co-Founder of GenieBelt

I always wanted to start my own business. When I came to Denmark, I had decided that now was the time to take action on this. So in my evenings and weekends, basically all my spare time, I put towards this effort. A year before I started in Denmark, Steve Jobs had literally just launched the iPad and that got my brain thinking about this slick piece of technology could be used in Construction.

 

Gladly, I was smart enough to realise that I knew construction pretty well by now and it was in this industry where the majority of my contacts were. Therefore, to leverage on this, I decided to focus my business on the Construction industry and technology (the technology part because I was super interested in being able to create something that really scaled across the globe).

 

So, as has become a recurring pattern in my life. I chose to outwork everyone else and I completely dedicated my time towards progressing in this area. I read everything I could get my hands on, I learnt how to do basic programming, I learnt how to do basic designs and I networked like mad within the entrepreneurial community in Copenhagen.

 

To cut a long story, I met these guys and we worked on an app called Quick Inspect, which was a snagging tool on the iPad.

 

The Quick Inspect Team
The Quick Inspect iPad App

I then met this crazy guy (Klaus Nyengaard):  

Klaus Nyengaard

 

And fast forward to now we are over 30 people and growing at GenieBelt! We are working hard every day in order to simplify the construction project management process for anyone working within construction.

 

The Team Behind GenieBelt

 

P.s. We are always looking for people with Construction backgrounds to join our sales teams. So, if you have a commercial flare and can back that up with Construction theory, then please give us a shout at job@geniebelt.com.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.