The TCS is a government-funded scheme designed to help the transfer of knowledge between universities and industrial partners. Basically, it is a partnership between a company and a university that helps the company in its work on a key strategic project. The idea is that the university benefits as it gets all the project information, and the company benefits as it gets to use the university's academic resources. In this case, I am the link between Reading University, where I am doing a part-time MSc, and Cyril Sweett, where the programme pays for me to be a research associate.
So what project are you working on?
I am working on the creation of a cost database that will be used for benchmarking purposes. It is all about manipulating data and processing project results in a standardised way. I am about 14 months though the two-year programme at the moment. When it is finished, the idea is that if a client asks how we came up with a certain figure, we'll be able to tell them that it is based on real results from our last 30 or so projects – we'll be able to be confident in our figures.
What has been the hardest part?
Winning people over has been difficult, as it involves a lot of change, such as changing the way they capture data. It has been particularly hard because this type of project has been tried a few times before, so people are sceptical. We have won a few people over, but there are quite a few sceptics still out there. You need to show people that when this benchmarking system is up and running, it will save them a lot of time in the long run – so making a few small changes will be really worthwhile. Also, because Cyril Sweett is so big, it has been difficult to align the way different departments do things – there has to be a certain amount of compromise, such as on the terminology you use in the database.
Have you found it difficult to combine your MSc with the project?
When I started, although I had prepared myself for hard work, I hadn't properly appreciated how much I would have to sacrifice socially. So at first I found it quite hard – I guess you would call it teething problems. Now I've settled down, I'm really enjoying it and I'm glad I stuck with it.
What will you do when you finish?
I'm hoping to stay at Cyril Sweett and move into the project management department, as this is a very transferrable skill and I think it would be good for me to broaden my horizons. Once I've established a skills base, I'd definitely like to go and work abroad. I'm from Peru – I came to England when I was eight – and I speak almost fluent Spanish so I'd love to go and use my skills somewhere else.
Current job Research associate at quantity surveyor Cyril Sweett
Employment history Worked as a site manager for Bellway Homes between November 2000 and September 2001
Qualifications Graduated from Oxford Brookes University in 2000 with a degree in construction management; is studying part time for an MSc in project management and also for an NVQ level 4 in management.
Lives Hemel Hempsted
Interests Goes to salsa classes and salsa clubs in London; has been playing the guitar for about 14 years; plays golf – but only when it’s sunny.