Daisy

Quantity Surveyor
Construction & Property

What are some of the coolest things you like about working in your industry?

In my understanding, the property and construction industries are diverse and dynamic people industries. Almost all the inputs and outputs rely on collaboration between multiple parties. From experience, a strong handle of communication and connection with different industry players who have competing demand and agenda is essential to surviving and thriving. For me as a Chinese immigrant in an English-speaking environment, this is even more the case, but I like how the rhythm of work in our industry has been building up my interpersonal acumen.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do?

Working as a client-side Quantity Surveyor, I enjoy the involvement in a variety of projects at different stages which in turn affords exposure to a host of internal and external stakeholders. As such, I am from time to time challenged with managing expectations that are competing and conflicting. That said, it is also a joy to see a few projects tracking forward, from a concept to 2D and 2D to 3D.

A Tutor in the University of Melbourne’s Construction subjects, I also find joy in imparting my knowledge and experience to the aspiring built environment professionals. Staying connected with the academic cohort foundational to my early career in this positive feedback loop is highly rewarding.

What successful strategies have you used that have helped you transition to working in a non-traditional industry?

As alluded to above, English communication used to be among the top challenges to find my feet as a shy Chinese student. An antidote to that, I pushed myself out there to meet more people studying and working in the same field and expand my professional network. From the experience and advice of people in multiple career stages, some of whom successfully transitioned from an immigrant background, I had more confidence, clarity and resources to navigate my own pathway.

How did you get started in your career pathway and what helped you along your career journey?

I was at first not confident about a career in the Australian building industry as an international candidate but hoped to make an informed decision from practical experience. In the same backdrop, volunteering was my primary means of networking. In 2018, I was a Student Union Officer and committee of the Construction Students Association, actively organising and promoting events to advance the social integration and professional development of students. This kept me top of the minds in the university and industry network. Later that year, I was referred by one of them to my first industry position at a Quantity Surveying firm in Melbourne in 2018.

I was very convicted that giving back to the community that continuously developed me was exactly what made this opportunity came my way. Therefore, I kept expanding my dedication and became the first female President of the Construction Students Association in 2019. A highlight of my presidency I co-founded the Internet of Things in Built Environment Competition. During COVID, this raised the participants’ profile leading to further career opportunities. In 2021, I headed the podcast at the Chartered Institute of Building’s Oceania Chapter, which fruited in 30 episodes featuring industry guests from 4 continents.

In developing my skills and mind set, the above experiences were instrumental and enabled me to scale my career. Right now, I’m working in a leading global Quantity Surveying firm in Melbourne on a spectrum of building projects and expanding our capabilities in Embodied Carbon Management.

I’ve grown well past the point where I’d count on networking or volunteering as a stepping stone to a job. Down the track, it dawned on me a job was hardly the best to expect out of connecting with the personalities behind the titles and stories behind an impressive profile. The immense value of social connections in the industry would be so underrated if we only used professional outcomes as a benchmark.

What or who has influenced your career pathway?

My network in Australia where I’ve lived and worked for 8 and 5 years respectively, broadly speaking. They’ve provided me with practical advice, inspiring reference and moral support in varying capacities. More profoundly, I simply cannot overrate the role of mentorship. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve evolved my career with the guidance and support of resourceful industry leaders. It’s indeed a critical investment of my time and resources to mentor with those who have already been where I aspire and continuously expanded my skill and heart set to pursue the next best thing on the horizon.

In school what subjects did you enjoy most or were good at?

I was top performing in the STEM subjects, but my favourite would have to be English as my second language.

What did you want to be or do when you left school. How does this compare with where you are now?

I’ve always loved learning English as a second language and did contemplate a foreign language major when I grew up in China before deciding on a different pathway in Australia. While my recent career development has strengthened my root in the building industry, the passion in English learning remains in the back of mind, as far as I once believed I must master English like a native speaker to achieve my goals overseas.

In hindsight, navigating and coming to term with the language barrier has characterized my trajectory in property and construction. From where I’ve come, I highly relate to the other barriers apart from the language confronting those who identify as foreigners. Thanks to my experience in a multicultural society and industry of dynamic human interactions, I realized there is so much more weight that should be placed on self-mastery than language mastery in order to thrive interpersonally and professionally. This propelled me to establish my own mentoring practice, Multilingual Connectors, where I guide aspiring non-native English speakers to build meaningful cross-cultural connections and unlock opportunities.

Working on the job and on the side, I’ve had the privilege to integrate my thought leadership into my corporate experience and mentoring practice. Unlike choosing a major for a university degree, it’s not one or the other in the case of what I now do in the building industry and personal development space. The experiences in two industries are not mutually exclusive but rather, complimentary in expanding my resourcefulness and identifying my niche in each field. This’s led to an expanding realm of opportunities. Speaking and mentoring especially, at my own practice and leading industry bodies, is a perfect marriage of my skill set and passion in two distinct fields.

Are you able to provide information about your qualifications, this helps others seeking information about careers in your industry.

I finished a Bachelor of Design (Construction major, Property minor and BIM specialization) and Master of Construction Management at the University of Melbourne from 2017 to 2021. In 2018, I also embarked on a study exchange at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying Entrepreneurship and Business Management.

What advice would you give to others about following careers in non-traditional industries?

Never let yourself be defined or confined by your gender, ethnicity or seniority. “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

And lastly, we’d love if you could share how you are making your own mark?

From a shy Chinese student to an award-winning high achiever in Australia, I’ve reset the benchmarks for young professionals. Emerging from the pandemic, I’ve established myself as an active advocate, mentor and thought leader for immigrants and females aspiring to make their mark in male-dominated industries. I always exert myself outside of my comfort zone to share my growth trajectory via networking and speaking to promote the awareness of the challenges faced by these minority groups in the Australian construction industry.

As a demonstration of this, I was awarded a position on the 2023 Sydney Build Construction Idols shortlist which celebrates the most influential and inspiring professionals in Australia’s built environment. Further to this, I’ve also been selected as a participant of Property Council of Australia’s 500 Women in Property program and winner of the Top 100 Women in Construction Award.

With my accomplishments recognized widely, I have featured in leading industry events and media as an impactful speaker and mentor for students and early-career professionals in Australia and overseas. My top recent speaking engagements spanned Sydney Build, CIOB, the Australian Institute of Building, TEDx Unimelb, AIESEC, VicWISE and the Construction Coach.

Hear from other role models making their mark

Steph

National Decarbonisation & Energy Transition Senior Manager
Energy, Mining and Property