Monday, February 27, 2017

MSc PMBE: best student prize and profile

The annual prize for best all round student on the MSc Project Management in the Built Environment (PMBE) is sponsored by Bidwells, one of the UK's leading property consultants which was established in Cambridge in 1839. This year, the prize was awarded to Alaa Karrar, who started the MSc PMBE as a distance-learning student in September 2014 and completed his MSc in January 2016. Derek Farrow, Partner at Bidwells, presented the prize.

The 'before' shot, featuring (left to right): Derek Farrow, Alaa Karrar, Joe Tah (Head of School)
and Mark Austin (PG Programmes Leader)

The 'handshake' shot...same people, more serious.

After I'd taken the photos, I caught up with Alaa and he kindly agreed to answer my questions...

What is your background and why did you choose to go into Project Management?
My Bachelors was in Accounting and Statistics, which is a numerically based degree. During
the course of my studies, I came to realise that Accounting was not for me. Therefore, I
undertook the CELTA course, which allowed me to teach English to non-native speakers
aboard. I worked in the Middle East for two years as an ESL instructor. It was during this
period that I became aware of big scale construction projects and wanted to be a part of it.

Why did you choose the MSc PMBE at Brookes?
The MSc PMBE is well recognised and so is the Real Estate and Construction Department. The course is also accredited by the RICS and CIOB, which is a major differentiator especially when entering the job market. The university’s ties with the industry also factored into my decision; as industry recognition is as important as the academic element.

What was it like when started the course?
The induction onto the course is a clear and easy process. Within the first week of the course there was an evening meal, where staff and students went out for an evening meal, this really helped in the settling in phase. But also set the tone that our studies were student focused and demonstrated the friendly and approachable nature of staff.

Looking back over the course, what have been the highlights? And the most challenging bits?
The highlights have been the opportunities to network with industry professionals through networking events, conferences, presentations and site visits. I was surprised by the regularity, but also the level of seniority the university could attract to give special lectures and presentations. I recall when Laing O’Rourke gave a presentation just how many of their senior staff attended the event. The topic was modular construction and virtual reality, a futuristic look at construction.
What I found most challenging was the routine, as a full-time student, managing the workload, as it had been some time since I completed my bachelors. However, I found the support that university provided (library, IT) and most especially the faculty satisfactory to guide me through the programme.

Bearing in mind your experience, what advice would you give to someone starting the course?
I would tell any would-be student to really make an effort to attend the construction events the universities hosts. I felt this was a key aspect in securing work, meeting contacts and developing networks during the Laing O’Rourke event I recall an opportunity presented itself to do some Synchro training, during a discussion with one of their senior managers. I found these types of opportunities present themselves to those who are willing to engage and be interactive during the events.

Which subject area did you focus on for your dissertation and why?
My dissertation title was ‘Building Information Modelling Adoption Strategies: A SMEs Perspective’. During the course, I became intrigued by the role technology should play in the industry and specially for SMEs (80% of businesses in construction are SMEs). I also gained some work experience working with a small electrical company.

What have you got planned for the next 5 years career-wise?
I have managed to secure a job as a Quantity Surveyor with Galliford Try, I have also enrolled with the RICS and am currently undertaking my APC, I hope to achieve my chartered status in the coming years.

Find out more about our MSc courses below...
MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Project Management in the Built Environment
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management

And take a look around the blog (using the index) for more information on what actually happens!

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