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James Jacobs


“I joined Alder King as a graduate surveyor in 2001, having started my accreditation training in other companies. I completed the APC course a year later to gain RICS chartered status. After graduating, the firm helped me develop my career in building surveying – a path I had always wanted to follow – and I now work as part of a team of seven surveyors at our Exeter office, where I specialise in building consultancy services.

I was promoted to senior surveyor, then associate, then to partner in 2011. With the support of the company, I also became an APC assessor and chairman, carrying out assessments of candidates as part of a panel.  I’m very happy with the way my career has progressed: I’ve been able to live in a part of the country I love and have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of commercial projects in this region and elsewhere.

One of the big changes in the building industry in recent years has been the introduction of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 for managing health and safety on construction works. The regulations introduced the role of Principal Designer to work with the design team and client during the pre-construction phase to identify and manage avoidable risks. Seeing the opportunity to build on our already good reputation locally, I put myself forward to take on this further specialism.

Alder King always welcomes fresh ideas for taking the business – and people’s personal careers – in new and challenging directions. The firm provided me with all the support and back-up I needed to try something new and make this demanding role a success.

Five years on and we are acting as Principal Designer on active projects totalling approximately £250 million, helping to deliver new-build and refurbishment projects ranging in value from £1-50 million. These have included the 860 student bed scheme at Fitzwilliam Street in Sheffield, the landmark 26-storey Zenith student accommodation development in Cardiff; the redevelopment of part of the former naval dockyards at South Yard, Plymouth; a new multi-use facility at Paignton Academy with KTA Architects; and repair work to the Stonehenge visitor site. I’m given the latitude I need to carry out the role effectively. What started out in a small way to meet a client requirement has broadened out, and relationships with architects and contractors have blossomed.

The firm is always open to the idea of expanding new skills within the core offering – and the supportive culture that enables this starts from the top.  There’s a direct line of communication to the senior partners and doors are always open. People listen to what you have to say and take on board suggestions – even if they don’t always agree with them! It’s a level of personal support that bigger, ‘faceless’ corporations can struggle to provide.

Alder King’s network of offices means it has a huge pool of knowledge and resources that we can draw on. We don’t work as islands; we work together. All our offices have multi-disciplinary teams who actively share ideas: I regularly help my valuation colleagues with costing queries if they’re doing a valuation of a building, for example. We have working groups for each of the disciplines, so I regularly have meetings with surveyor colleagues to swap notes. There’s constant dialogue. You’re encouraged to ask if you want to know something – and people are always happy to help.

We’ve got a good track record for nurturing talent and, most importantly, career progression is not dependent on geographical location. In my experience, there are equal opportunities at all our offices for everybody with the motivation to succeed. I think the company gets the balance right – after all, if people didn’t get the opportunities, they wouldn’t stay.

It’s also a very friendly work environment, with a good social aspect and lots of fundraising activities that people can get involved with. I’m a keen cyclist and regularly go out on organised cycle rides after work. A few years back, along with some other Exeter locals, I took part in a sponsored ride from John O’Groats to Land’s End. It was a gruelling 880 miles over seven and a half days. A lot of colleagues sponsored me. I’m pleased to say we made £25K for the Wooden Spoon rugby charity for disabled and disadvantaged children, which was worth every mile travelled.”

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