Life as a Building Surveyor in Thailand
Haydn Thomas I currently work for Steven J Leach Jr & Associates Limited where I have worked for the past four years: my job title is Business Development and Projects Director.
I am based in Bangkok, Thailand, a bustling capital city of over 10m people where I am the only Chartered Building Surveyor. I have previously worked in the UK, North and South America.
I originally became interested in surveying after prompting from a careers advisor at grammar school: I had said that I did not want a desk job pushing a pen all day long, and he suggested I take an RICS booklet home to browse.
I subsequently travelled to London, UK to RICS and learned which courses lead to a recognised degree and I graduated from Leicester Polytechnic, UK in 1977 with a BSc in Building Surveying. I later went to London to find employment, and two years later passed my APC.
As a surveyor, I enjoy the variety of work and the fact that no two days are the same – you really never now what tomorrow will bring. I also particularly enjoy the technical aspects of being asked to look at a building or project and breaking it down into individual components to help determine what action is needed to achieve the client’s goal.
During my time in Thailand I have worked for a variety of clients, ranging from small-medium Thai companies through multinational household names and public bodies such as embassies.
I have appeared in court as an expert witness and seen all manner of clients from international developers to individuals who were building a 30 storey office building in their back-yard (literally!)
For me earning a living in a country where the sun shines for over 300 days per year and where the people are gentle and friendly more than makes up for any frustrations or confusion caused through cultural and language difficulties.
Advice would I give to anyone considering working overseas:
* If you really want to work overseas, firstly you should focus on skillsets which are ‘exportable’. Learn skills which may have relevance in other countries – insulation, energy saving and green buildings come to mind.
* By the same token beware of becoming too specialized in areas which are very UK and even county/region specific
* Look at countries where Chartered Surveyors are recognised and where you might be able to obtain work – Australia for example is emerging increasingly as a potential place of employment as is the United States for Chartered Surveyors
* Try to understand what type of work Chartered Surveyors do internationally – for example Project Management and Quantity Surveying
* Contact the major companies who have offices in the country in which you work and contact them
* Try to visit the country after having contacted the companies and see if you are able to meet up with any Chartered Surveyors to discuss possible employment
* Find out about the culture in the country where you want to work and make sure that you understand a few words and expressions: it might help convince an employer that you really want to be in their country
* Last and but no means least, if you do visit, try and make your trip coincide with an RICS function so that you can do as much networking as possible to determine what type of work people really do.
I once read that 85% of jobs come through personal contact, giving credence to the old adage about ‘It’s not what you know but who you know’ – so get out there and mix with fellow professionals and get ahead of the pack.
In summary, I would say that working overseas and the expatriate lifestyle can have considerable advantages, and being a Chartered Surveyor opens the door to many opportunities which you might not otherwise have considered.