Tomorrow's leaders, tomorrow's world

Drones, digital disruption and data analytics are transforming the way construction responds to some of the planet’s biggest challenges, from scarcity of resources to climate change.

But what does the next generation of professionals think about this rapidly evolving landscape? In this 360°View - Next Generation article, five of Turner & Townsend’s future leaders give us their take on everything from the skills gap to 3D printing, setting out their priorities for driving change.

Imran Hussain, Principal Consultant, Santiago

Over 13 years in cost consultancy Imran has experienced first-hand a number of changes in technology and systems. He has worked for Turner & Townsend since 2014 in the UK, Australia and now Chile, becoming a principal consultant in 2017.

In the future, which technology do you feel will be most disruptive to your role and why?

Drones have already started to revolutionise the way progress is measured on site. In addition, the need for intelligent software that automates the traditional quantity surveyor role, by measuring quantities, controlling design changes and variations directly from 3D models, will grow.

How would you sell a role in the construction industry to the next generation?

If you want to join one of the most booming industries in the world, have an ambition to develop your career and travel, while working on some of the most exciting projects and programmes around the globe…then this industry might just be for you! 

What is the one thing you think the construction industry should adopt to help minimise its environmental impact?

For me adopting a circular approach, with an emphasis on designing buildings that interact with the natural environment, will help reduce our environmental impact. This includes the usage of locally sourced materials in their natural form, which after the lifecycle of the building can easily be decommissioned, reissued, or left to decompose naturally.

Malini Sudhakar, Director, India

A trained architect with an MSc in construction project management, Malini worked for ten years in the UK before relocating to India. In May 2019, she was promoted to director, becoming the first woman to sit on our board in India.

How would you sell a role in the construction industry to the next generation?

To attract the next generation, we need to create a culture that truly values collaboration, teamwork and social opportunities. I believe it’s important for us to build corporate communities and sustainable cultural structures that inspire and engage employees in the long term.

Plus, construction is a built form that lives even beyond us: who wouldn’t want their name to be carved in history or tell their grandchildren proudly ‘I built that!’.

What key skills do you believe the next generation of construction professionals will require?

Leadership, teamwork, communication, time management, adaptability and – most importantly – passion for construction!

In your region, what do you think is the biggest challenge our clients or industry face?

The lack of a skilled workforce and certified professionals is one of the biggest challenges in India. The literacy level among our workers is low, with most being illiterate, having not had basic schooling. Training on site around 'life skills' to cultivate personal and communication skills, literacy levels, environmental awareness and digital knowledge is a good start. We tried such a programme on one of our projects and it was a huge hit.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received from someone you admire?

Follow your heart, follow your passion, be one hundred percent committed and happy with what you are doing, and you will achieve what you want!

Saravanan Pillay, Associate Director, Johannesburg

Saravanan is the project management office (PMO) lead for several programmes across Africa. With nine years' industry experience, he joined Turner & Townsend in 2016, attracted by the company’s global footprint and client base.

In the future, which technology do you feel will be most disruptive to your role and why?

For me, it’s artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics. These are already disrupting projects, programmes and portfolio management - and that will continue. The information-gathering capabilities of AI can help reduce human error and biases when it comes to creating budgets, predicting cost overruns, and developing schedules. This allows project professionals to devote more time to ensuring that projects remain aligned with organisational goals.

What key skills do you believe the next generation of construction professionals will require?

Future construction professionals will need to be agile, resilient and dynamic, as roles are evolving quickly. The role of a project manager for example is growing to one of a strategic advisor, innovator, communicator, big thinker, and versatile manager.

What is the one thing you think the construction industry should adopt to help minimise its environmental impact?

I believe that 3D printing for materials and equipment on site would make a big difference. It has been proven to reduce material usage and generate less waste compared to traditional methodologies. 3D printing reduces labour turnover, saves on energy consumption and can use eco-friendly materials.

What's the best piece of advice you have received from someone you admire?

During my junior development days, my mentor told me: “building boundaries only limits your expertise. Broadening your imagination and horizon will lead you beyond the status quo.”

Kaarin Kalavus, Associate Director, Dubai

Kaarin is a digital construction specialist who helps clients develop and implement digital data strategies. One of her current projects is the Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal where she is working on data and systems that will inform asset management in the future.

What key skills do you believe the next generation of construction professionals will require?

Now more than ever we need to be open to change and adapt. The technological race is on and a lot of development is happening in all areas of the construction sector. The next generation needs to embrace change to stay relevant and ahead of the game. 

How would you sell a role in the construction industry to the next generation?

Construction is a diverse industry with hugely transferable skills. You can be working on an airport, a school, or a sports stadium project, learning about the people and processes connected to these facilities and their operation.

In your region, what do you think is the biggest challenge our clients or industry face?

In the Middle East, one of the key challenges for construction projects is the skills shortage. The availability of skilled professionals to deliver mega projects to the expected time and quality is in scarce supply; however, new projects have been announced and there remains optimism and ambition for the region and its construction sector.

What is the one thing you think the construction industry should adopt to help minimise its environmental impact?

The mindset of ‘building for a lifetime’ rather than applying quick fixes, using low quality and cheap materials. Poor quality materials typically have a short lifespan, they’ve generally been sourced from unsupported processes and are difficult to recycle and reuse, which means that they put a huge strain on the environment.

What’s the best piece of advice you have received from someone you admire?

Recently, one of my client’s told me to "keep doing what you are doing and keep smiling" which empowered me, and confirmed that I was on the right track, making a difference for that client.

Luke Vanner, Senior Product Owner, London

Luke joined Turner & Townsend on its graduate programme three years ago and is now part of the digital transformation team. His role sees him working with both cost managers and software developers to create in-house apps.

In the future, which technology do you feel will be most disruptive to your role and why?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single technology. As a product owner, my role is to be the interface between people and technology, so basically any technological change will be a good thing!

What key skills do you believe the next generation of construction professionals will require?

Being data literate is becoming an important skill in our industry. As the adoption of technologies that foster the creation and curation of data as a business asset increase, the ability to structure, manipulate, and analyse data in a common environment will inevitably become part of an average working day.

In your region, what do you think is the biggest challenge our clients or industry face?

Since the last recession in the UK growth has been low, public debt remains high, and interest rates remain near zero. This has created a macroeconomic climate where investment in large-scale construction projects is likely to be severely limited if we have another recession. To reduce the impact this will have, we can look to encourage alliancing across the industry to provide great efficiency in delivery, making investment in construction a more attractive offer.

What is the emerging trend in your industry specialism and how are you responding to this?

We’re employing best practice agile software development and DevOps to help us bring our users, software engineers and technical infrastructure closer together. This gives us the ability to build and run all our products from a single internal development team, which isn’t dissimilar to an owner-operator model in construction.