How I became project manager for a global competition

Rhys Hooks, Project Management for Construction BSc(Hons) talks to us about his experience, successes and latest role as project manager for the Solar Decathlon global competition.

“I chose the University of Brighton’s project management course as it is triple-accredited with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Royal Institute of Surveyors (RICS) and Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE).

I worked in Central London for an International construction consultancy company (Realys and ISG) in a consultancy project management role for my placement year which was definitely a highlight. During this year I applied everything I learnt during university and returned to final year with the ability to apply real-world rationale to theoretical problems posed by all Project Management modules. Learning how to produce Programmes on software’s such as Microsoft PowerProject and ASTA Gantt were the most beneficial skills for my placement. Being able to use the software and apply analytical thinking skills and future planning were imperative to my year in industry.

Taking a placement year confirmed my desire to have a career in a professional role within the construction industry, accelerated my personal development and expanded my network of professional contacts and mentors.

I achieved a 1:1 class degree and was awarded the 2017/18 CIOB Novus in Sussex (Best PM

The team

Dissertation), 2017/18 CIOB Certificate of Excellence – Project Management for Construction and 2018 Governor’s Award for outstanding academic achievements. In addition, I created a team of 4 students to enter the CIOB Bright Futures challenge which is a national competition. In the regional heat we came 3rd and progressed to the finals held at prestigious The Wardian project in Canary Wharf. I won the Outstanding Student award and was rewarded with a week’s experience working on the Wembley Development in London. In the finals we did incredibly well and narrowly missed out on winning the entire competition on a judge split-vote, finishing 2nd and doing ourselves and the university proud!

The Project Management for Construction course at Brighton provides an invaluable oversight of the construction process from a buildings inception to end-of-life, learning about the myriad roles and disciplines within the industry and how they interlink. I’d recommend this course to anyone who would like to see the bigger picture of construction and understand that a project is a journey involving a wide range of skills and personalities.

I found that my lecturers have an open-door policy and have always been extremely supportive whenever I’ve needed a quick 10-minute sense-check or a 1-2-hour meeting to progress coursework. They genuinely care about your success and about pushing you forward without making things too easy.

In early 2018 I was presented with the initial opportunity for students to get involved in the Solar Decathlon Eur0pe. I was one of the 16 attending students and I put myself forward to become the Project Manager – it was agreed that I was a fit for this position. In the following weeks after the initial presentation, the project architect ran a series of design workshops to develop the vision for the BrightNest building and it was fascinating to be involved as the students and staff collaborated towards a shaping what the BrightNestEU building would look like and how it could be considered ‘innovative’.

Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the project, a key responsibility in my role has been collaborating with a talent team of people, bringing their various skills together and provide them with a brief to fulfil.

I have been fortunate enough to be in contact with helpful staff from schools outside of the School of Environment and Technology (SET). The Solar Decathlon is more than just a building project, it appeals to a global audience and the way it is marketed has equal importance to how it looks and performs environmentally. We work with the School of Media staff and Brighton Business School. Having their skills and knowledge of their industry will help diversify the project, adding real value and connecting the construction, media and business focuses of the competition.

The best part of the Solar Decathlon has been given the ability to take a holistic view of such a complicated project. Looking at the bigger picture and understanding where the strengths and weaknesses of the projects lie and putting plans in place to improve the weaknesses and to empower the areas of strength. In the same vein, expanding my network has been great, connecting with professional contacts In the UK and potential friends from across the world through the competition.

Studying a BSc Project Management in Construction honours degree at Brighton has helped me to secure a fantastic graduate trainee job based in London for a global construction company. I plan to develop the competencies I’ve gained from the Solar Decathlon project and my degree through my working career.

The advice I would give to someone thinking of applying to any construction related degree at this university is that they are a perfect route into a rewarding, stimulating and fulfilling career.”

Find out more about Solar Decathlon and keep updated with the progress of the project



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