An interview with Peter Smith, Associate Director at Summers-Inman

How long have you worked for Summers-Inman?

Nine years on 16th September! I came over from Ireland with my (now) wife and studied at Northumbria University. We said we would stay in the North East for no more than five years and thirteen years later, we are still here.

How did you get into your current role?

I started as a building maintenance assistant whilst Summers-Inman administered numerous measured term contracts for a large utility company.  Whilst in role, I was involved in numerous aspects of surveying, due to the fast nature of the framework.

Once I had learned to drive and had a car, I was sent out to site and quickly worked my way up the building surveying team, working for various clients.

In 2018, I became the lead client contact for one of the UK’s largest utilities companies and was promoted to senior surveyor in 2021, and then in 2022, I was promoted to associate director.

You are responsible for the Building Surveying Team in the North region. Can you tell us a bit more about your role?

I manage a team of surveyors, including chartered, graduate surveyors, as well as placement students. I also make sure that clients are well looked-after and engaged. I ensure that my team has all the tools to do the job and deliver a great service to our clients, from efficiencies with data collection and reporting to reducing risk and lead times. I am constantly looking at how we can improve processes to deliver more for our clients, in less time or with greater value for them – and that usually means improvements in equipment, process, technology and reporting.

What type of projects do you work on?

My specialist sector is utilities but I have worked across health and commercial clients from the Newcastle, Teesside and Leeds office. I have developed a specialism surveying roofs and replacement waterproofing specification, having surveyed and replaced large schemes.

Our work involves standard building surveying activities, such as condition surveys, dilapidations, party wall advice, programmes to survey – 100s of buildings, some listed (incorporating Power Bi for ease of user interaction), heritage remedial projects – we recently removed a large Victorian pumping station from the at-risk register. Our projects also include surveys, project and programme management of bridges, roads, rivers embankments etc.

Recently we have utilised drones to efficiently survey large portfolios of buildings.  

No two days are the same!

What would you say is the most important aspect of your role?  

Making sure my team and my clients are happy.

From your own experience, what would you say are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the industry today?

Future skills shortage is definitely something to watch. We need to ensure that there are enough people engaged in the industry from a young age – and that we can offer them access to opportunities, training and development. This is something we strive to do at Summers-Inman.

Technology is certainly having a huge impact on the efficiency with which we can do our job. Equipment is getting better and safer all the time and software helps deliver real-time reporting. Plus things like TEAMs meetings have saved hours on the roads!

What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into the industry?

Stick with it, there are loads of opportunities. If you want to know more about the company or the industry, contact us directly. There is always someone willing to share their experience; it will help you build rapport rather than have a third party do it and we are open to people exploring different career paths with us. I did an HND and it was great – I got to try loads of different aspects of construction and really enjoyed building surveying.

What’s it like working for Summers-Inman?

I love it. I wouldn’t be here otherwise. It sounds clichéd but it does have a family atmosphere. I organise with others the staff parties, staff away days and the atmosphere is great when we have everyone together. Also, it is a supportive business, so if you need something for your work life or your team, it’s provided.

And finally, what would career plan B have been?

I was going to become a metal fabricator and go off to Australia/Canada but a workplace accident meant that my path changed – and I am glad it did. I still get to build stuff at home and in the allotment.

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