Mother of three Catherine Brooking tells Josh Brooks why she left academia for hands-on QSing

You spent more than a decade teaching university students. How did you find the move back into practising as a QS?

I've really enjoyed the transition. I didn't want to go back to being just a QS and, with my experience, I think I would have been wasted if I'd gone back to straightforward quantity surveying, so my role doing due diligence is ideal.

Why did you move out of education?

Working at the university fitted in very well with my children. When you have young children, you can't think that much about your own career. But now they are more grown up - 13, 11 and 8 years old - they can look after themselves more. (At least they tell me when they have a problem, rather than me running around after them!) The pressure's less, so I started thinking about myself again and decided I wanted a change.

Do you miss anything about academia?

I miss the students. It's really satisfying to do a job where you are helping people to develop their careers. As a lecturer, you also have a duty of care to your students in their personal lives - that side of the job is fulfilling too. In private practice, you don't really encounter clients' personal problems.

What are you doing for McBains Cooper?

I'm doing due diligence, based in our London office, and working three days a week. Because I work three consecutive days there is continuity for the clients, and I have a very supportive team. The company has a flexible and progressive attitude - not many companies would offer new opportunities to a woman my age. I think a lot of my younger colleagues see me as a mummy figure.

Why did you decide to work part-time?

It was for the kids. It's a big job running a family of five. I would consider going to four days a week, but I'd be unlikely to go full-time again until the children have left home.

You're quite unusual in the industry in that you're a working mum …

There aren't many women of my age in the industry, but companies need to be more flexible. I think the industry is missing out if it can't allow older women to work. Working mums have to be extremely organised and give more than 100% to their work. They will never be off ill or be late for a meeting, even though they will also be very conscious of work-life balance.

Has being a woman in a male-dominated industry ever caused you problems?

I've never had a problem, but it's about the way you behave. You'll always come across people who think, what are you doing here? But you just have to behave in a professional manner - you don't have to be ballsy like the guys on site.


Age: 40

Current job: Senior surveyor at McBains Cooper

Employment history: Six years training and working as a QS in late 1980s with Wiltshires, Finchfield and John Lelliot (Eastern) before joining Anglia Ruskin University in 1992 to lecture on surveying. Joined McBains Cooper in January

Qualifications: BSc in quantity surveying, member of the Chartered Institute of Builders, member of the RICS

Lives: Shenfield, Essex

Hobbies: Work with local youth groups and as a school governor, going to the gym, reading, socialising