Gill Kirkness, regional director at construction consultant Thomas & Adamson, on how she got started in property, her film and book picks, the celebrity she’d like to meet and the superpower she wishes she had.

Gill Kirkness headshot

Gill Kirkness

How did you join the property industry?

I graduated with a degree in geography and no idea what I wanted to do next. I saw a job advert asking: ‘Do you want to work indoors and outdoors? Do you want to work on interesting projects? Do you want to further your education?’ I said ‘yes’ to all and successfully applied for the job as trainee quantity surveyor with Tarmac Construction. I was straight on to site and have been hooked on construction since.

What does your job entail?

I carry out a management role. Most recently, this includes a scheme in Glasgow, where we are providing cost management services on the city’s first BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ office. I am responsible for managing the technical delivery of numerous projects across many sectors including strategic liaison with clients, management of a team of surveyors, financial reporting to the board, business development, preparation of bid submissions and assisting with staff training – to name a few – while maintaining a hands-on technical role within the business.

What do you like most about the property industry?

The projects and the people – both are interesting and every day you learn something different. I love understanding how buildings operate and working to develop buildings that work for the people who use them. I think the industry has some unique characters and I find construction humour hugely entertaining.

And what do you dislike most about it?

As an industry, I think we are guilty of working long hours striving to hit deadlines that are sometimes challenging to achieve. Most people I work with are hard-working and do whatever is necessary to hit these deadlines, often to the detriment of downtime.

What would you change about the property industry?

The property industry was quite adversarial when I first started working in it. Things are much improved, but there is still a way to go.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

As a female, I often felt as though I had to try that little bit harder to prove myself. Things are much improved, but sometimes I still find the ladies’ toilet being used as a store room. In the early 1990s, a particular site sent me along the road to the local garage where they had an agreement for ladies to use their facilities!

What are you most proud of in your career?

Achieving my personal goals to get to board level and prove I could do well in this industry. Also, encouraging others, male and female, that they are capable of the same – if they really want to.

What do you value in people?

The ability to listen and take on board what other people are saying. If you really listen, you can understand and hear the entire message someone is sending. I think this is sometimes a rare quality.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?

Ask as many questions as you can, even if they appear foolish, and get on to site as much as you can. The best way to learn construction is to see it.