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Picture This: How I became a PCA graduate

By Sarah-Jane Firth, Junior Consultant

Having picked up my first camera when I was around 10 years old, it was no shock to my family and friends that it would be something I inevitably pursued later in education and as a career.

After graduating from Leeds Arts University and earning a high 2:1 in my Photography degree, I was determined to put all of my hard work to good use, going straight from university and diving into being a photographer on cruise ships with P&O.

The idea of traveling and fulfilling what I thought had been my passion for such a long period of my life turned out to be 16 hour days and a whole lot of rejection from passengers who had heard my spiel of “Go on, give us a smile!” far too many times. With regret and some relief, I allowed photography to take a backseat and enjoy it as a hobby. I took on a sales role in Bristol, where I learned that I was once again just filling time with something I didn’t see a future in.

Fast forward three years. I was fed up and I’d given myself the push to look for something new and applied to multiple different roles, still not knowing exactly where I wanted to be. My encounter with i3Works changed all that.

The interview was friendly and formal and, having prepped, I felt confident that I’d left a good impression. As no specific experience was required, I was prompted to answer questions using previous experiences to define how I’d deal with difficult situations, manage my time and my priorities if I were to be representing i3Works. Having been offered the position I was elated, albeit slightly terrified, that I had an opportunity to begin something completely from scratch in a job role quite frankly knew very little about.

My first year in the Project Controls Academy flew, assisting on internal projects, contributing to bid work and having interactive lessons around planning and risk to learn the intricacies around project controls.

Having absolutely no previous experience in project controls, I was able to adapt using skills from my previous job roles to develop the expertise needed to become a project controller, with the phenomenal support and guidance from i3Works. Reaching out for help to all levels of the company was, and will always be an option, and I’ve had nothing but encouragement throughout my PCA journey, from directors through to junior consultants.

Starting out as an inexperienced, relatively shy employee, I have increased confidence in the field and have delivered positive outputs for a local charity when taking part in the APM Challenge, succeeded in passing relevant qualifications, and am now in a billable role as lead planner for a project within the Ministry of Defence.

I feel I’ve found my stride with the help of i3Works. Whereas at one point I was panicking and had no idea where I’d be in a year’s time, I now have goals and objectives defined for five years ahead, further qualifications to pursue and every day have more and more confidence in my career in project controls.

Although I now see my future in project controls, you’ll still find me with a camera in my hand and dipping in and out of graphics work which I’ve also managed to put to good use to develop i3Works’ branding and website imagery.

What I have accomplished in just under a year feels an incredible achievement and I would recommend i3Works PCA to anybody considering a role in project controls. As you can see, it isn’t about having multiple qualifications to fit the description. As long as you can apply yourself, stay motivated, and create results, then you are an ideal candidate for the team.

Looking to change career? Considering project management? Find out more about our PCA scheme here.