Being a regional graduate surveyor - accepting the challenge

Mitchel Hanlon
Written by: Mitchel Hanlon

We've recently taken on a graduate surveyor to help out with our rail services team.

Jacky at GemallaJacky had previously worked on medium density and hospital projects in Sydney so he wasn't too sure what it was like working in a regional environment. I'm very close to his boss and had rang seeking recommendations on recruitment specialists. We traditionally recruit from the the regions we work in. Kids from the country already know of the challenges they and their families face. Coping with these challenges is in their DNA. Yet the work still poured in so we had to try a new strategy....hiring city surveyors!!

A city born surveyor was new to us. Moreover, what we do is new to Jacky. He is still wrapping his head around the wide range of skill sets we have. I know he's a bit trepidations about our expectations of all our staff. We've found over the years that some step-up and accept the challenge and others don't or can't. Either way is OK as we don't want people to hate coming to work. At the end of the day, you've got to love what we do and there is nothing worse than seeing someone hate their job.

In this line of work, you've got to love the job challenges and the work environment.

When you're on a job site doing the setting out of a railway you designed last week and you're suddenly asked about the region's socio-economic status as a result of improved freight movements, you need to think fast and not be a narrow technician. The fact that the surveyor has established the first survey control network, detailed the site, re-established the corridor boundaries, assessed the roads at the rail crossings, considered the environment and designed the track alignment and drainage is a considerable skill set. Many years of post-graduate on the job training is required followed by competency assessments by the client to gain engineering authority and the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information. All this can only be achieved through personalised mentoring and a structured training program.

I keep telling our people that we're problem solvers and that we use our surveying education, training and experience to solve problems. The client doesn't care about your qualifications, all he cares about is you being able to solve his problem and without causing any headaches. Make the client's problem disappear and you'll continue to get work. Anticipate future problems and he'll give you more. That's how a good surveyor becomes invaluable to a client.

That's what we do and a lot of people struggle with that responsibility. Hence the need for mentoring and a structured training program. But this isn't enough without innate curiosity to learn new skills, to like being challenged and to discover purpose.

We've taught Jacky how to drive a 4WD, he's met his first wombat and snake, and been taught the language of regional Australia. What's he's found is that country people are accepting and willing to give anyone a go. 

So, who wants to be a regional surveyor? I can guarantee you'll never be bored and you'll discover how good you can be.

PS Jacky made the mistake of trying to drive one of the survey vehicles in front of 20 railway workers. At the time, he wasn't familiar with the manual gears of the ute. The resulting kangaroo hops automatically endeared him to the team. In a world where no one is called by their actual name, Jacky's is now "Skip". If Jacky isn't on a job site, we're asked "Where's Skip"? You gotta love Aussie humour.

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