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Balancing work with study – An update with Tadhg McGuinness, Assistant Cost Manager

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15 April 2024

6 min read

Back in 2021, we interviewed Assistant Cost Manager, Tadhg McGuinness about his work and study life, as he continued his higher education at Technological University Dublin alongside his full-time work here at Duke McCaffrey. You can find our original interview, to discover Tadhg’s approach to balancing study and work life, along with details of his path to date, here.

As he approaches the end of his five-year course, we caught up with Tadhg to find out how the course has gone, and what the future holds for this soon-to-be graduate.

How does it feel to be approaching the end of your five-year course?

As of now, I have just two weeks remaining in college, and then a final exam in early May and I will have completed my five-year BSc in Quantity Surveying and Construction Economics.

With the end in sight, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I won’t lie, it has been challenging to balance both work and studies, even more so to produce high quality results in both endeavours consistently, but reaching this milestone demonstrates that I have prevailed. The experience I have gained from taking the active learning approach is phenomenal and I am confident the last five years will be incredibly invaluable when beginning this new chapter of my professional career.

What are you plans after graduation?

I have lots of plans for after graduation. The most imminent being to become chartered or become a Chartered Quantity Surveyor. I was accepted by the SCSI in August 2023 to begin Graduate Route 1 and I am almost a year into the two-year training program.

In tandem I plan on expanding on my areas of expertise, I hope to do some courses in Data Centres and Mechanical and Electric Work generally, the goal is to be able to offer as diverse a service as possible, at an equal level of high quality.

All the above will take place as part of the DMC team. The team have invested a significant amount of time and resources into my personal and professional development, and my plan is to repay them with continued hard work, commitment, and quality output.

How has your role evolved since we last spoke? Have you taken on any new responsibilities or projects?

My technical abilities and confidence have grown considerably since we last spoke, with that comes greater and broader responsibilities. The last time we spoke my main duties would have consisted primarily around assisting senior members of staff on projects or taking a lead role in lesser value projects. Currently, almost every project I am involved in I am in a leading position and offering lead Cost Management Services. I have been managing a myriad of diverse projects, including Residential, Commercial, Healthcare, Fit Outs, Greenhouses, Civil Works and Education facilities in both the public and private sector. All of which are unique and allow for something new to be learned almost every day, I thoroughly enjoy all projects I work with, and the aim is to provide a uniform level of high-calibre services to all the clients.

Can you share any significant milestones or achievements you've reached during your time at Duke McCaffrey?

A significant milestone of late would be achieving Practical Completion on a large 153 unit Residential Development I had been heavily involved with from very early on during my time here. I became involved in late 2018/early 2019 and the project was subjected to almost every challenge possible; construction in covid and the hyperinflationary period which followed shortly after.  When I started on this project, I did not know what Practical Completion, or a Final Account meant and this year I agreed a Final Account acceptable to all parties involved and was privileged to see the units being handed over to tenants. This project was a significant learning experience for me, and its successful delivery was a welcomed milestone in my career at DMC. Being able to say I contributed to something so significant is a very proud feeling.

How has your work and study routine changed over the past few years, especially considering the impact of the pandemic?

There has been no real change to work and study since covid, naturally during the lockdowns I was isolated for a good amount of time for both work and study. I took this as a positive experience and used the time to learn things myself and develop somewhat the old-fashioned way. I am glad that life has returned to normal as I believe being in the office is of paramount importance especially for young Quantity Surveyors/Cost Managers as having the ability to ask questions and see what is going on and what others are doing is ultimately key for progression.

Have there been any notable challenges you've had to overcome in balancing work, study, and personal life?

The long hours are probably the most challenging, it would not be uncommon to do 60 to 80 hour weeks most weeks between work and studies, that being said it’s a short-term sacrifice with long term benefits. I am a firm believer in hard work and strongly think that the harder you work now will determine your quality of life in the future.

Looking back, what do you consider the most valuable lessons you've learned during your time at both college and Duke McCaffrey?

I would say there are two lessons I have learned that I will always encourage others to be aware of when starting off in their chosen field. Firstly, you can always learn something from someone, everyone you will ever meet will know something you don’t and it’s important to embrace that idea. The second piece of advice, always be thirsty for knowledge. Since my first day at DMC I have done nothing but ask questions and I strongly believe this trait is the main catalyst for my development.

Is there anything you wish you had known or done differently when you started this journey?

There is not one thing I would change about my journey. It has been a rollercoaster, and I would do it all again tomorrow. My advice to anyone thinking of studying alongside working would be to go for it. Being exposed to the industry from early on is something that will stand out to anyone in any field.

Are there any specific skills or qualities you believe are essential for success in this field or in your role at Duke McCaffrey?

Attention to detail. What sets DMC apart is the sheer quality of our work. From simple things like formatting, and presentation to the in-depth technical understanding of construction, our motto ‘challenging the status quo’ summarises exactly what we set out to do. If the work you produce is even 1% better than everyone around you, everyone notices.

How do you feel your experience with Duke McCaffrey has shaped your professional development and contributed to your overall growth?

I owe any success I will ever have to the team at DMC, the guys took a big risk giving me a chance with zero construction experience just five years ago. Fast forward to today, I am entrusted with a variety of responsibilities generally beyond what is expected of people at a similar career stage. This is a testament to the level of mentorship and guidance given to me by the team at DMC. I look forward to being able to help other people one day as the team have helped me.

What do you see your future career looking like?

I would be confident in saying I see a bright future for myself. I am passionate about Quantity Surveying and I strongly believe in due course I will be regarded as an exceptional Quantity Surveyor. In later years I would like to pursue interlinked avenues such as private development and perhaps dispute resolution, I have a particular interest in construction law, so who knows what the future holds.

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