In this article, we sit down with Sean Murphy, a Senior Associate Director based in our Sydney, Australia team, to discuss his professional journey into Quantity Surveying and Alternative Dispute Resolution in the construction industry.
Sean also shares his story of emigrating from the UK to Australia to pursue broader career opportunities.
Can you please introduce yourself and give some brief details about your background and work experience?
I relocated to Sydney, Australia from the UK five years ago and before that I worked in Liverpool for 11 years, working in the North-West of England at 3 different companies – a private quantity surveying firm, a utilities company, and a heavy civils contractor.
I moved to Australia in 2017, with my first role being on the Sydney Light Rail Project working as part of the commercial team. I then moved to work on the Moorebank Intermodal project, before joining what is now CCi. Since joining CCi, I’ve worked on various projects, undertaking predominantly claims work, and contributing to expert report writing.
You touched on it a little bit, but how would you define your role at CCi?
I’m a Senior Associate Director reporting into my manager who is Director of the Sydney office.
My primary role has been working on delay and disruption claims, mediation and adjudication works, and providing assistance with expert report submissions.
What made you decide to move to Australia?
The short version is, I wanted to move out of Liverpool. It’s a great city but I came to a point in my life where I was ready for a change.
I had various interviews and the original intention was to move to New Jersey in New York, but that fell through at the last minute. Luckily, I’d made some contacts through the interview process, and I soon had an interview for a job in Sydney, Australia. Within 6 weeks of that interview, I was over here! It was ‘now or never’ in terms of career change, so I got over to Australia as quick as I could.
So, going back to the start of your career, what made you want to become a quantity surveyor? Did you just fall into it?
I would say yes, I fell into it. I was looking at either quantity/building surveying or structural engineering, something along the lines of construction or engineering.
I knew one of the university lecturers at Liverpool John Moore’s University and when speaking to him he explained in detail the modules I would be undertaking, and a possible career path after graduation. After taking this into consideration, I made the final decision to do quantity surveying.
Would you say the quantity surveying course you took at university sparked your interest in becoming professionally qualified?
Yes absolutely. The degree I studied was recognised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and provided the pathway to becoming a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS).
Expanding on that, when I left university, I went to work with a traditional private quantity surveying firm in Liverpool. It was there that I got great experience across all sectors of the construction industry, including various forms of contract and exposure to working on projects from inception to completion. I was fortunate in the fact that the company were very encouraging of people becoming professionally qualified. So, whilst there I obtained my chartership – I think that was 3 or 4 years after graduating university, so luckily for me it went quite quickly.
You’ve been with us for 2 years, have you sought to gain any further professional qualifications since you’ve joined?
Yes, since I joined CCi I have been able to work on engagements involving various forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation, adjudication, and arbitration.
Further to working on a mediation engagement with CCi, I took particular interest in exploring this method of ADR further, with my interest peaking to the point that I decided to enrol on the RICS Mediation course and subsequently become an RICS Accredited Evaluative Mediator.
And why do you think mediation is important in the construction industry today?
Much of the work CCi are engaged to work on is related to arbitration and adjudication, but it’s becoming more apparent that parties are being encouraged to resolve disputes by mediation before any further escalation.
As part of the mediation course, I was able to develop my interpersonal skills – learning how to act in pressurised, tense environments with varying personalities.
A key aspect of the mediation process was to assist the parties in seeing the benefits of settling the dispute via the mediation process and avoid the often painful process of court proceedings.
So, you’ve touched on it briefly, but what advice would you offer to someone looking to become an accredited mediator?
I believe mediation will be used a lot more in the future as an alternative method of dispute resolution – that was one of the main reasons I took the course. I wanted to ensure I have a detailed understanding of what is involved in the mediation process, and would encourage people, if interested, to look to courses such as those provided by the RICS to develop their knowledge.
What do you think the biggest challenge has been in your career so far?
I think the biggest challenge, but it was a good challenge, was moving over to Australia. I wanted to do it for a while, but I suppose it’s one thing thinking about it and another thing doing it. Luckily for me, I was made an offer where it wasn’t one that I’d have to wait three or six months to come over here, it was six weeks, and I was here. So, the biggest challenge was sorting everything out back home.
Coming back to your role now at CCi, what’s the favourite part of your day job?
After living through Covid for the past 2 years, it has made me appreciate that my favourite part of my job was coming in to see the team and working with people.
I know that the role I have can be flexible and I can work from home, but the CCi office environment that I work in is a positive place to work. Everyone is really encouraging, gets on and is willing to help out.
So, for me after working from apartment for 4 months, I was desperate to get back to the office! I think now, a lot of people appreciate coming into work a lot more – something which they might not have said a few years ago!