Trainee building surveyor Saira Is-Haq talks about being the only Asian - and woman - on her course

When did you decide to become a building surveyor?

About two years ago when I started my gap year here at the NHBC. But I had been interested in a career in construction since I was about nine. We had an extension built at home, and I remember looking out the window, seeing a pile of bricks and thinking "Wow! That's going to be my bedroom". That was the initial spark that eventually led me to start a degree in construction management.

But it is still regarded as an unusual career route for a second-generation British Asian, isn't it?

The trend among first-generation Asians has been to study to become doctors or lawyers - those are the professions that parents traditionally want their children to go into. But my brother, who's a surveyor, was a big influence on me. He said: "You can do this. It's fine."

Were you the only person of Asian origin in your class at university?

Yes, it was quite intimidating at first, but more because I was the only woman than because I was the only Asian.

Do you think the industry does enough to attract people from ethnic minorities?

I'm not really sure. I would like to see a few more Asians in the industry but how do you go about it? I think the aim has to be to target the parents. I still don't think construction is seen as a successful career.

What does your work at the NHBC involve?

My current role is quite wide-ranging. I deal with NHBC warranty issues and the Building Regulations, taking clients through the process of Building Regulation approval. I enjoy it and am still gaining a lot of experience.

You are still studying for a degree part-time. How do you find juggling work and study?

I definitely prefer the part-time route. I started doing a full-time degree but after I did my gap year at the NHBC they offered me a position to work here. I now work here three-and-a-half days a week and I've found that the pressure's reduced by half. If I'm studying for a particular module then I have a lot of people on hand I can call on - for example, the engineers are just downstairs and we have surveyors in the office. I would have graduated by now if I had stayed on at university full-time, but I wouldn't have got any practical experience - everything is just shown to you in books and on screen. Some people that study full-time end up waiting to get jobs, but I know that when I finish my degree I've got a job. It takes the worry out of it.

Saira Is-Haq

Age 23
Employment history Having done work experience at civil engineering firm Tony Oates Associates and the NHBC, is now a trainee building surveyor at the NHBC and a member of the RICS Forum for the northern region. Is studying part-time for a BSc in construction management at Leeds Metropolitan University and is working towards APC accreditation
Qualifications GNVQ in business and finance
Lives Eccles in Greater Manchester, with her family
Hobbies Plays the flute, goes kayaking on Derwent Water in the Lake District and goes on charity runs