Antonio Quesada is one of the newest members of our team. He joined us from VINCI, where he worked on the high-profile, £185m, Mandarin Oriental renovation.
Originally qualifying as a building engineer, he supports PCSG clients with the implementation of all aspects of digital project delivery.
Q: You joined PCSG in July – early days but how would you describe your role?
A: I’ve been getting a feel for the organisation and the many areas in which we offer support and guidance. I help clients understand and introduce data driven ways of working to improve performance and I take companies forward on their digital journey – whether it be implementing new workflow processes, setting up a Common Data Environment (CDE) or writing Employer’s Information Requirements (EIRs). There are so many ways we can help clients realise the benefits of the good use of good data.
Having worked at the coalface on lots of building sites, where I was always following a design manager’s BIM strategy or other people’s EIRs, I have experienced the problems that can arise. I understand how important, well thought-out information-gathering procedures are.
Q: So, you didn’t set out to become a BIM consultant?
A: No, I am not that old but even when I was starting out there was no such thing. Well especially not in Spain! However, I am grateful that life has driven me towards this role and looking back, there is a sort of path. When I was an assistant site manager working with 2D drawings I would often think how it didn’t much reflect what we were about to build or help us determine how best to do it. It felt that there was a gap between design and construction. Something clearly had to fill it, to efficiently link up the processes and this was what first got me interested in new technology. We are all finally working hard to find best practice ways to close this gap.
Q: What did you study and how did that lead to this career?
A: I grew up in the South of Spain and studied Technical Architecture, followed by a master’s degree in Building Engineering, both at the University of Seville. I have a brother who is ten years older than me, who studied engineering. When I was as young as nine, I would be poring over his technical drawings with him.
I was always interested in maths / science subjects and have various uncles in the profession, so it was no surprise to anyone. But interestingly, I also enjoyed reading about psychology. I am hoping that my on-going interest in people and how they interact, combined with my strong empathetic skills, might also prove useful in this profession.
Q: That’s interesting – in what way?
A: Part of the transformation needed to encourage a more digital way of working, is a cultural change. A need to win over people’s minds, to build trust and confidence and understanding that this is the way forward for our industry. It’s not a simple matter of explaining the technology or even demonstrating the efficiency gains. Part of the role is working hard to understand people’s reservations, to use logic and patience and empathy to work with them and hopefully slowly iron out concerns and quietly keep emphasising the benefits. I am a calm person and find it easy to step back from a situation and work out if another tack is needed.
Q: So how did you find your way from Southern Spain to sunny Croydon?
A: My master’s degree opened doors for me to work in Europe which, given the disastrous economic situation and high unemployment in Spain at the time, was a blessing. I was offered an internship in a Romanian engineering company which I loved. I enjoyed doing the job of an engineer finally and was happy to find myself in my early 20s, out of my comfort zone, living on my own and meeting a wide range of people. When it came to an end and the situation was no better at home in Spain, I had the confidence to pack up and come to the UK to find work.
Q:You speak very good English which must have helped?
A: Yes, I have my parents to thank for that. For eight years I studied extra English lessons outside of school. My Dad worked all his life as a finance manager in a sugar factory and he was determined that his children would be able to speak a second language well. But it still wasn’t easy to find work. For the first year I had to take a variety of catering roles, including a sandwich artist, oh yes, and lots of front of house positions. I was always trying to improve my English with a view to finding a job back in my chosen field.
Q: And this job came in the form of a CAD/Design Technician at Ideaworks, an AV Design and Integration company, in Kent?
A: Yes, in a role that included the production of CAD layouts, schematics and the development of O&M manuals. It felt good to be back in an office environment, using my knowledge but also to be learning again. From there, I made the big move in 2015 to London to join PTS Consulting as a CAD specialist. This was where my interest in BIM really took off. I found myself developing the company’s BIM standards and managing the CAD standards. I ended up leading the development of BIM within the consultancy and working on the design of major new build projects for clients including Bloomberg and Facebook.
Q: How did you acquire the technical expertise needed to work on such high-profile BIM implementations?
A: I had been picking up knowledge of software including Revit, Navisworks and AutoCAD and increasing my understanding of inter-operability between software but knew that I wanted to work in a more specialist BIM field. So, I enrolled myself and studied in my spare time, spending evenings and weekends for over a year training to become a certified Autodesk BIM Specialist post graduate. On the few occasions that my girlfriend grumbled about how much time I was spending studying at weekends, I would tell her to hang on in there, that it would be worth it, that this was the future!
Q: That is very dedicated and shows a clear-sighted belief in BIM/digital. Did it pay off?
A: Well once I had completed the course the company did start winning the BIM projects and my star began to rise shall we say. I was reimbursed for the course and kept busy. When we won the Facebook account, I was very busy.
Q: And from there you went to work on supporting VINCI as BIM Co-ordinator on the Mandarin Oriental renovation? What did your role there focus on?
A: It was largely around the management of data for the MEP systems for Phase 2 on this 12,000 m2 refurbishment. It was a full-on, intense, slightly mad time, working loads of extra time, to meet challengingly tight deadlines but I loved it. It was such an experience to work on this BIM award-winning project (it won the BIM D’Or in 2016).
My role focused on the creation and revision of BIM models for Phase 2, daily management of BIM data sets/ workflows and leading the co-ordination between the Architectural and MEP systems.
I also had to work extensively with designers, planners and engineers to assist in the manipulation and extraction of information from various data models. And it was all worth it when the project came in before deadline.
Q: And now you are bringing this knowledge and experience to PCSG. What appealed?
A: As soon as I met PCSG director, Ian Blackman, in my first interview, I liked the sound of what the company was up to. It was clear the level of expertise was high and that they were working with some interesting clients on hugely innovative projects. For example, the GeoConnect+ initiative, the idea of using data for such practical outcomes, really captured my interest. The interview process also contained extensive psychometric testing and before I even started it was clear that great emphasis is placed on people – with building relationships as important as the technical delivery. This appeals to me.
Q: Is there anything in particular that gets you out of bed and into work every day?
A:I am so keen to keep working in this digital arena. The use of data/BIM/digital process, call it what you will, is going to resolve a lot of issues – it will reduce costs, it will cut timescales and it will solve problems to help people work more efficiently.
Q: What are going to be the challenges of your role?
A: Being able to make people understand why they need BIM and how best to use it. Construction the world over is an old-fashioned industry and it will take a while to see the potential and realise all the benefits. We need strong examples to show what these might be.
Q: So, no plans to return to Spain soon?
A: I probably will one day but I am in no rush. Many of my childhood friends are in the UK and so is my girlfriend – we are enjoying it here.
One day I would like to use my knowledge and experience to work with companies back in Spain. My home country is way behind the UK on the digital journey.
Q: Who or what has had the most influence over your career and why?
A: My older brother who I still turn to for advice. And my Dad – a man of great integrity, an honest hard worker who always set me a great example of doing a job well.
Q: And finally, what advice would you give your younger self?
A: Don’t be afraid to try anything. And don’t over think life.