From Bachelor of Design to construction Project Coordinator

Briean Ranchhod opted to pursue a double major in architecture and construction in her Bachelor of Design. She’s now working in the construction industry as a project coordinator.

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You are amongst the first cohort of students to graduate from the Bachelor of Design, congratulations! How would you describe your overall experience in the course?

I really enjoyed the course. It was rewarding to have finished with such a great group of friends alongside me. It was challenging at times, especially being the ‘guinea pig’ of the course, given that we were the first cohort. There was, at times, a lack of direction, however we were able to navigate our way through each assignment and have hopefully been able to help shape it for the students after us.

In doing the double major in construction and architecture, there was a significant workload that at times proved extremely challenging but overall, I enjoyed it. The two majors complimented each other, and I was able to use learnings from construction to help my architecture subjects.

I was grateful to make good friends; we helped each other and laughed our way through it. Many late nights, coffees and hours spent in the print room were all part of it!

When did you decide what you wanted to major in?

I majored in architecture and construction. This was quite different to what I expected to major in when I first started in the course, but they go hand in hand which is perfect now that I am working in the industry.

I initially chose the Bachelor of Design as I was not 100% sure about architecture but was passionate about it and knew it was something I wanted to pursue.

Within the first year I completed a few construction and landscape architecture subjects. I was increasingly interested in the practicality and structural engineering side to the built environment. The Principals of Building subject was where I found myself really enjoying construction.

I decided to continue with the double major from the start of second year and persisted through the many long hours and core subjects that were required. Construction became something I really enjoyed and often preferred over architecture subjects.

Briean with colleagues

What was your favourite subject or experience in the course?

My favourite subjects were Principals of Building and Steel and Concrete Structural Systems. Principals of Building was my first taste of the structural engineering aspects of construction; load paths and design loads.

What I found most valuable was the opportunity to do something meaningful with this knowledge and help others. Our assignment was to design a playground for a centre that looked after children from disadvantaged homes. Being someone who is passionate about helping others, I was really encouraged that even with my minimal, first year construction knowledge, I was able to make a difference.

Steel and Concrete Structural Systems was also a favourite, led by TK (Dr Toong-Khuan Chan, Senior Lecture in Construction Management and Technology). I thoroughly enjoyed learning the complexities of the systems and the realistic nature of the major assignment. I was also very fortunate to receive a Dean's sponsored award, the 'Chartered Institute of Building (UG) award', for top academic results in this subject.

What was the most valuable skill you learned that carried over from your studies to your work?

That is a tough question as we learnt so many valuable things throughout the course. Time management and coordination of lots of different elements was super critical, especially doing the double major. Architecture subjects require a lot of hours and investment that had to be balanced with construction.

Now working in the industry, there are often many moving parts and endless tasks that require careful time management and coordination. To-do lists were always my go-to through Uni and this has not changed at work.

You are currently working in construction. How did you hear about this employment opportunity?I completed a year-long graduate program at Harris HMC in my final year of the Bachelor of Design and was then offered a full-time position as a Project Coordinator upon attaining my degree.

In second year, I set a goal for myself: to graduate with industry experience. I searched through many job listings, cold emailed companies to work as an intern and then found Harris HMC offering a graduate/intern program that runs part-time to allow for completion of studies at the same time.

I was offered a position in their program and commenced in 2019 while finishing my final year of studies. Completing the double major capstone subjects while working 3 days a week at Harris HMC was a huge challenge but it really increased my understanding of the industry.

Harris HMC values culture and understands that the people they employ are the foundation of their build successes. A lot of their current employees have grown within the company from graduates which shows the way they invest in people and value growth.

How did you find the transition from the Bachelor of Design to working in industry?

The degree taught me a lot of valuable things about the industry and the kind of roles I could go into but more than that it fostered a strong work ethic that I have carried into my work.

The transition has been a lot easier than I anticipated as I was fortunate enough to start in the graduate position at Harris HMC while still in my final year at Uni. There has definitely been a steep learning curve since starting full time, long hours and less flexibility than Uni but it has come with responsibilities and challenges that are exciting.

Collingwood building render
Image: render of 1-9 Sackville St Collingwood courtesy of Ricdanic

It’s a very difficult year with Covid-19 impacting lives profoundly. How have you found working throughout the pandemic so far?This year has been so different and new, but I have loved it. I started 2020 as the project coordinator of a new 9 storey office building in Sackville St, Collingwood. Being able to start from the beginning of the project has been crazy with so much to learn.

Setting up the site, obtaining building permits and dealing with the council was challenging but has allowed me to see how much is involved in the pre-commencement process that shapes the overall project. My team is based on site in a leased property next door to the build which has meant I have been able to be a part of a lot of the site management and learnings of the buildability of different things.

With Covid-19 this was a lot harder as I worked from home and had limited exposure to what was happening on the ground. However, endless Zoom calls and team meetings made everything possible. With restrictions easing and further OH&S implementations on site, I have been able to go back to working on site, which is very fortunate, especially now as the project is progressing significantly.

I really enjoy being on site and love being able to see the tangible results of my work take shape in the build. There are still many Zoom meetings, and ensuring working conditions are in line with government guidelines makes things difficult at times but we have been able to adapt and continue.

What are your next steps thinking towards the future?

I want to continue gaining experience, learning and advancing my skills. I want to stay at Harris HMC to grow and progress into a Contract Administrator role or a Project Engineer position.

I love the complexities of what goes in to a building project, and the fact that I have the ability to influence it in my role. Having completed the architecture major as well as construction, I still enjoy the creative and design side of the industry and hope to use these skills more in the future.

I would love to start my own residential design and construction firm that covers both phases and allows me to use both skills and be a part of the whole process. I’d like to use design and construction as a way of helping people in developing countries where simple infrastructure and innovative affordable housing is critical.

I may further my studies but right now I see the value of experience and furthering my understanding in the field.

Briean on site

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about studying or currently studying the Bachelor of Design?

My advice would be to use the breadth subjects and try subjects you’re are interested in or do something new and outside of your norm. This opportunity allowed me to get into construction and now it is something I love. I never expected I would end up working in construction with high vis vests and steel caps as my everyday norm.

Also, go out and get experience before you graduate. Don’t wait until you think you know it all, just show you are willing to learn and give anything a shot. I would highly recommend the graduate program at Harris HMC as it allowed me to do just that. Additionally, the program rotations covered everything from estimating to site management and allowed me to work out what elements of the industry I enjoyed the most.

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