Laura is an English Literature graduate. Since joining our writing team, a year ago, she has focused on supporting major contractors bidding for work with clients including Highways England and London Underground.
Your first year – has it been an interesting learning curve?
It’s been fascinating. Each time I go to a major contractor’s office and become embedded as part of the team, I learn so much about how the bidding process works, how different teams operate and how the review process varies.
So how would you sum up your role at PCSG?
I write bid responses to help construction and infrastructure clients win work. I hope I do this in an engaging, clear, concise and persuasive way.
And what do you think it takes to produce a top-quality bid response?
Common sense firstly, to work out what it is that you need, what is missing, what needs checking and most importantly that you have answered the exact question. Then the writing skills kick in to perfect the copy. It’s important to really think it through and pay attention to detail.
Have you found it difficult to navigate the world of construction?
Not at all. I like the fact that it’s quite a straightforward, down-to-earth industry. It’s also a really interesting time to be involved with this sector. The industry is catching up on issues such as mental health and equality and there is so much going on with digital transformation. I am learning a little from the digital side of PCSG’s business – about smart cities, sustainability and the critical role of data. How we build relates to how we live and how we work – and ultimately, how we succeed as communities.
Infrastructure is fundamental to all our lives and I find it really interesting when you think how unbelievably complex it is to tunnel right below busy streets, metres away from utilities for example.
Had you always wanted to write?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to do something that involved writing – but I wasn’t sure what. Both my parents went to Oxford, one became a journalist, the other a lawyer, so it was quite an academic household and it was no surprise really that I read all the time. My mum worked on the New Society and always encouraged us to learn and to be interested in the world around us. I’m sure I’ve inherited much of my passion for words and literature from her.
So what skills do you think you bring to the role?
I think I am quite good at taking big, complex piles of information and wading through to find what is needed. I’m not daunted by highly technical copy, I enjoy researching and working out what it’s all about and then presenting it in a readable fashion. Also, I can fit quite easily into a new environment. I am flexible about change too which I think is really important in a bidding environment.
And what have you found difficult about the role?
It’s hard at times knowing how far to keep pushing people for information, especially when you are young, and everyone is often very busy. I do find it difficult to know how much to keep bothering them. On the flip side however, you learn so much so quickly when you do get some time with one of the specialists. People are really kind at explaining the technical stuff and the more you understand, the easier it gets.
You did some teaching in rural Japan? What did you learn from that?
Resilience, more than anything, I was working in an unfamiliar environment and their working culture is so different from ours. It can be quite tough and the academic learning and all the extra-curricular activities are taken very seriously. They are very hard-working. But I loved the physical landscape, mountains everywhere you looked, it was just stunning.
Your work life balance has improved now?
The work life balance at PCSG is certainly preferable. We work hard and everyone here is united in getting the best outcomes for our clients. It’s a fun place to work too. Yes, there are sometimes late nights and manic periods as you get to the end of a bid, but there is great camaraderie. It’s ok when you are all in it together.
What other challenges have there been during your first year at PCSG?
I have worked on some major bids with some senior people and learning how to hold your own can be daunting. Working on joint ventures can also be interesting at times – dealing with various first languages and trying to merge all the different ways of working into one unified approach.
Do you have a career plan?
Right now, I am just happy to be writing and learning. My plan, if any, is to keep improving my written responses to fit client’s needs and requirements and to learn more about the different structures of tenders and how this whole industry works.
Who or what has had the most influence over your career and why?
Probably my mum being a journalist. I’m not sure if I was drawn indirectly to study English and write for a career because of the path she took. My dad has always been encouraging too and is also a lover of literature. Language has always been a big part of family life.
If you hadn’t chosen, this career what else might you have been?
At one stage growing up I thought about becoming a vet as I loved animals but I soon realised it might be a bit scientific for me. I also played a lot of football growing up. I’m still a little obsessive about football…
No! Arsenal….I stayed close to my North London roots and go to at least a couple of matches a season.
And finally, what advice would you give your younger self?
Stop worrying about getting a job while still at uni. It’s ok to study English just because you enjoy it and there are jobs out there. And you might even find yourself interested in tunnel boring machines….
PCSG provides a wide range of writing and communications services to infrastructure and construction companies. To learn more, please contact our workstream lead, Simon.Cunnington@pcsg.co.uk