From marketing and retail management to quantity surveying

Olivia de Rooy
  • Junior Quantity Surveyor at White Associates

Looking for a change from retail management and marketing, Olivia de Rooy found the “numbers side” of studying quantity surveying through Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga the perfect fit.

Olivia, who is based in Queenstown, recently completed the New Zealand Diploma in Construction (Level 6) (Quantity Surveying)  through Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga.

The 26-year-old is pleased she decided to switch from marketing and retail management to quantity surveying in November 2020.  

“With a marketing degree and a 10-year background in retail management I found the financial and numbers side of business the most interesting,” Olivia said.

“When COVID-19 hit, the fast-paced environment of retail diminished so I began looking for something else. As I loved the numbers side of retail management, and have always had a love for buildings, I decided to go down the route of Quantity Surveying.”

Olivia’s career switch from marketing and retail management to quantity surveying

Olivia completed a Bachelor of Business, Marketing and International Business degree from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia in 2018.

But while she enjoyed studying marketing, it was tough to find her dream job.

Olivia had thought that getting a degree in marketing would lead her straight into a corporate marketing role with standard business hours.

Instead, with plenty of competition for marketing jobs, she found opportunities in retail management, with varied work hours and days. And while she loved her career in retail, this was not what she had envisioned.

But a conversation with a friend in late 2020, nine months after she moved to Queenstown, changed things.

Her friend suggested that she should consider studying quantity surveying.

“I looked into it and thought, this is the perfect fit for me – the construction industry is fast-paced and exciting. And that’s how I decided to go back and study,” she said.

Another benefit of moving into quantity surveying was the opportunity to get practical experience, by combining on the job training with her study.

Olivia managed to get work while she was studying, as a cadet in the Queenstown-based office of White Associates, who are property and construction consultants and quantity surveyors.

“Having experienced multiple career changes, from marketing to retail management, I was really committed to finding experience as a quantity surveyor before finishing my studies, to ensure that this is exactly what I wanted to do,” she said.

Throughout her studies, Olivia worked part-time and studied full-time, and upon graduating, she moved into a full-time Junior Quantity Surveying role. While she is still relatively new to the industry, having the New Zealand Diploma in Construction (Level 6) (Quantity Surveying)  through Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga has helped.

Because of the foundations set by Open Polytechnic, I wasn’t a nuisance the first day in my job. I had somewhat of an idea of what I was doing,” she said.

“Construction is so complicated, there is so much more to quantity surveying than you realise. I think having the foundations through studying has definitely helped.”

According to Olivia, the company she is with now (White Associates), likes to promote from within their ranks and they are really supportive of current employees, so she knows there will definitely be future opportunities to come.

“They were very good throughout my studies. If I had any questions I would go straight to them,” Olivia said.

“There are four other cadets at the moment, so they do support students going through their study stages and then going full-time at the end of it.”

Studying with Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga

For Olivia, who has been living in Queenstown for three years, the decision to study through Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga was easy.

It provided her with the flexibility to complete a qualification online, from home, without having to travel to other cities regularly.

“As long as I met my deadlines for my assignments, it really suited my lifestyle, rather than sitting in a lecture and having to be there, it was great to be able to set time aside whenever I could fit it in.”

“I was quite efficient with studying and doing assignments at the same time. I could go through the modules as fast as I wanted to and do the assignments on the days that suited me and my work schedule, rather than waiting each week for what the lecturer puts out, like traditional face-to-face study.”

There are 16 courses in the diploma, and Olivia says she particularly enjoyed the ones that covered measurement and estimates as well as construction.

“The quantity surveying courses give you a really good foundation for measurement and rate build ups,” Olivia said.

“The general construction courses were also really helpful for someone like me, who doesn’t have a construction background. They gave me a good foundation about what goes into a building, from residential to commercial builds.”

Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga support

Studying online can have its challenges says Olivia, particularly if a student isn’t sure about what they are learning and has questions. In this situation, she found it could sometimes be hard to explain a question through the forums provided in the online learning platform. Olivia found in this situation it was important to make the most of the support provided by lecturers.

“My lecturer, Marius, was golden,” Olivia said.

“He was so supportive, always quick to reply to students, he was quite good at explaining if you weren’t sure what was going on with an assignment or a certain topic in the course.”  

“I really appreciated him throughout the whole diploma.”

Advice for anyone thinking of getting into study

Olivia suggests doing some research into what you want to study beforehand and making sure it’s what you want to do before you commit.

“Obviously there is the financial aspect to it, but you are committing time out of your life,” she says.

“But if you are to study, I would say time management is the biggest thing you need, especially with the diploma being solely assignment based which can take up a lot of time. You need to be able to manage and juggle the workload.”

For Olivia, work and study needs to be balanced with leisure activities.

She keeps active and makes the most of the sports on offer around Queenstown, including skiing, mountain biking, Pilates and hiking, as well as catching up with friends and family.  

“I live in Queenstown for the lifestyle, so it was really important to be able to maintain that throughout the two-year course. I think all students should keep a healthy study, work, and lifestyle balance in mind and luckily, studying through Open Polytechnic allows that,” she said.

Future plans

Now that she has completed her diploma, Olivia says she may eventually do a degree, but for now, is enjoying focusing on her job.  Enjoying her work at White Associates, she hopes to progress into an intermediate role, and then a senior role.

“I love White Associates, and there’s a lot happening in Queenstown - it’s definitely growing.  It’s a great place for me to stay career-wise.”

As long as I met my deadlines for my assignments, it really suited my lifestyle, rather than sitting in a lecture and having to be there, it was great to be able to set time aside whenever I could fit it in.