When I became a valuation assistant, I had already worked in banking and insurance. Typing reports for valuers, I aspired to do more; but at the time the opportunity to do so was just not available.
I realised that I wanted a career linked with my passion for buildings. What better way to start than with a diploma in surveying at the College of Estate Management at the University of Reading.
I was one of the first valuation assistants at Colleys Surveyors, part of Lloyds Banking Group, to embark on this route to qualification. A two-year course alongside two years shadowing a surveyor was slightly daunting, but the opportunity was too good to turn down.
Returning to studying after a ten-year gap I was a little apprehensive, but I soon got to grips with distance learning. This meant I could spend a day a week studying, as well as continuing to work as a valuation assistant for the first year. I had to be self-disciplined, motivated and highly organised to juggle full-time employment and learning.
Through the course, I enjoyed understanding how buildings are put together, how they work, the likely associated defects, and how to apply lender policy – those criteria relating to, for example, property type, which may or may not be acceptable to lenders in given circumstances. After completing the diploma and two years' practical experience shadowing a supportive mentor, I eventually qualified as a TechRICS. This led other valuation assistants in the business to follow the same career path to qualification.
I spent many years valuing and surveying residential properties for mortgage purposes in and around Birmingham. Although I was happy carrying out such work, my goal was to become a chartered surveyor – but without a degree I was still some way from achieving this.
I then decided to embark on a seven-year degree in building surveying, following the residential survey and valuation route. I used all my weekends, purchased additional annual leave as well as self-funding the course while I continued with full-time employment. After many years of hard work, I finally qualified with a first-class honours degree.
During this time an opening for a secondment became available in my organisation's head office as part of a technical team, and after an interview I secured the role. The work was interesting and varied, and enabled me to gain experience in defects and professional valuation negligence complaints, as well as dealing with technical queries from valuers, brokers and intermediaries.
This then led to further opportunities to work on technical training online with projects including a one-stop portal for building surveying-related articles, technical papers and training material for surveyors who specialise in building interiors. I also helped support and coordinate a surveying graduate programme, providing a range of technical support and mock interviews. I was then able to draw on all this experience when I became a chartered surveyor in 2011.
Given my enthusiasm for buildings, I decided that my final dissertation would explore the factors affecting whether or not to move historic properties; I also had an isurv article published covering the topic.
Together with additional experience in trainee and graduate programmes I applied for FRICS designation, which I was lucky enough to achieve in 2014 between two spells of maternity leave. I am now an expert adviser to residential chartered valuation surveyors on technical matters, as well as a subject matter expert on new build.
I would encourage anyone who has a passion for buildings, surveying and valuation to look into what courses are available that fit your work schedule and lifestyle. Juggling a young family and work is difficult, but I find it incredibly rewarding, and for the past few years I have also been helping the RICS associate assessor programme.
Trudy Woolf FRICS is a quality assurance and new build technical manager at Legal & General Surveying Services firstname.lastname@example.org