The partnership’s development director divides her time between London and the West Country. When not working or commuting, she might well be watching rugby or out running

Sarah Trahair-Willams _4.6

Why did you choose construction as a career?

In the simplest terms, I find buildings fascinating. Buildings are things that really can be there forever, especially in a society where fads can exist for hours and even minutes. I remember my UCAS application back in 2005. I had a statement along the lines of “celebrities are fleeting, buildings are forever”. This feels even more fitting in today’s society.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

I would probably say my move to FORE Partnership (no hands being forced behind my back, I promise!). I seem to have done the reverse of what people have chosen to do since covid and, instead of moving from London to the country, I have chosen to commute from the country to London. Most importantly, I have decided to really push myself out of my comfort zone, learn about a new city (quite a big one at that), work away from home for periods of time and really try and push the boundaries of sustainability because that is the right thing to do.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?

It has to be coming out of the recession in 2009 with a 2:2 architecture degree. Not only were there no jobs in construction but a 2:2 meant I could not get on a graduate scheme to change and I had recently been medically discharged from the Army bursary I had had since I was 16 – so that wasn’t an option either.

I did, however, have the foresight to see that jobs were not going to be on the horizon when I graduated. So, in my final year, I had already secured a place at Loughborough to study commercial management and quantity surveying with a main contractor sponsoring me for the degree. This meant graduating again in 2012 with a first-class degree. I was then in a much better position to pounce on the available opportunities.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

It would be for the industry to stop focusing on what has not been done and instead to work on how we get to the solution we need. Things are getting better, but alas this focus still exists in many circumstances.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

You can only control what you do. You cannot control what others do, you can merely guide and encourage a team to work towards a common goal.


Source: Shutterstock

The Pyramids of Giza

Name your favourite building in the world?

This might be a curve ball, but I’m fascinated by the Egyptian pyramids and really want to go and see them one day.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

The Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Source: Shutterstock

The Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue, New York

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

The Eiffel Tower.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

Be curious and ask questions. You will probably find that you are not the only person who has no idea what the abbreviation someone just came out with means, let alone the rest of their sentence!

What is it like being you (and doing your job)?

It’s busy and you have to be organised or things go awry very quickly!

I spend at least nine hours of my week running in addition to my job – mainly at about 6am before work. I am also a season ticket holder at Exeter Chiefs so spend every other Saturday at Sandy Park cheering them on in rugby union’s Premiership.

I commute to London on a Monday and come back on a Thursday, with Friday often a day when I work from home. I also head into Bristol to catch up with contacts there, so organisation with my wife over dog duties, and when she’ll see me, is a factor as part of my job.

I have got three live projects at FORE. I have to make sure I am giving them enough attention, reviewing design information, progress on site, letting enquires as well as any funder and client queries which might arise. I spend a lot of my time looking at new and innovative products as well as researching sustainability initiatives to make sure we are really pushing boundaries.

We are also a small team – and it is important that I am able to be there for colleagues, so we are learning from each other and working together.

Sandy Park

Source: Shutterstock

Sandy Park, home of Exeter Chiefs RFC

Do you have a life philosophy?

Treat everyone equally and with respect.

What do you think your best quality is?


What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?

Probably my single-mindedness, which often means I cannot turn off the laptop even when I should.

Name three things that you like

My wife, my dog, chocolate cake (might not be in order of priority!)

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have

I think most people know this because I cannot stop talking about it, but I’m actually a pretty fast marathon runner.

What is your most prized possession?

I am not one for possessions.

Early bird or night owl?

Early bird.

What is your favourite food?

Sandwich Sandwich Kinder muffins – if you are not from Bristol, or don’t know what these are, you need to check out Instagram.

What would your superpower be?

Being able to fly would be really cool.