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May 2019

Image of Somasundram Ranganathan

Somasundram Ranganathan

BSc (Hons) Quantity Surveying 1997

1. Tell us about yourself. 

I served in the British Army in Singapore from September 1964 to September 1971. In February 1970, I decided to pursue a course in land surveying at a local college in Singapore, and while studying I needed to learn how to use surveying instruments, such as the theodolite and dumpy level for practical work.

I sought help from friends, and luckily one of my colleagues knew a surveyor in the local area. Through his help, I was introduced to this surveyor who agreed to help, allowing me to visit his work site (a road construction project) on Wednesday afternoons.

Visiting the work site was a great opportunity to learn how to handle surveying instruments and gave me a greater understanding of surveying which meant preparing my coursework became a lot easier. Eventually I took my exam in February 1971 and was successful, after which I carried on attending my friend’s worksite and learning about more practical work.

I was due to be discharged from the army in September 1971, and was given a junior surveyor’s job in my friend’s construction company upon my release. I was mainly involved in setting out roadworks and occasionally did surveying work on rural areas earmarked for development. I required more in-depth surveying experience and so after six months decided to move on to a surveying practice in Malaysia.

I was at Anglia Ruskin from 1994-1997 undertaking a BSc (Hons) in Quantity Surveying. In my final year I worked for free at a consultancy which offered me a trainee position upon my graduation after being impressed with my work. I then moved to another consultancy a year later, and began working towards my chartered status, which I achieved four years after graduation.

I worked for various consultancies until I retired in March 2017, and am a qualified assessor for RICS.

2. What is your fondest memory at Anglia Ruskin University?

The very first day when I assembled with other students to meet the tutors for the first time. 

3. What has been your favourite job? 

When I worked as a land surveyor investigating ground conditions and the vegetation to produce a detailed map of the forest of Pahang in Eastern Malaysia. The project involved about 15 junior surveyors, and five seniors to cover about 400 square miles in an area which wasn’t accessible by vehicles, and was only accessible by foot from the main roads or by boat along the river.

Latitude lines (N-S) were set at 21 miles long into three, seven mile intervals and the latitude lines were set a half mile apart and were 20 miles long. Each surveyor was provided with ten men to help measure, handle the instruments, clear the line of sight and to cook meals while we stayed in the forest, which is where we camped until the grid line was fully surveyed and the results were submitted to the draftsmen to plot the map.

Luckily for me, my army training gave me the courage and assurance necessary to handle such hard work in an area where the ground conditions were rough and included swampy areas. There were elephants, bears, tigers and other wildlife in the forest, but fortunately we only encountered elephants, bears and snakes. I worked in the forest for six months and successfully completed the job, which left me ready to take on similar roles.

4. How did your time at Anglia Ruskin help you?

ARU was a great platform to help me get into a new career of Quantity Surveying.

5. What did you love about your chosen course?

I had previously worked as a civil engineer in the construction industry for several years, and had assisted quantity surveyors which inspired me to divert my attention towards quantity surveying and start my degree at a later stage.

6. What advice would you give to current students as they're preparing to graduate?

My advice to final year students is to seek a place for work experience during their free time which can help to secure a trainee position upon graduation. For one day a week, I did work experience for free in a local consulting firm during my final year, which helped me to secure a trainee position with the same consultants upon my graduation.

7. In one word, how would you describe Anglia Ruskin?


8. Who was the biggest influence on your career?

My friend who provided practical training in land surveying during my course of study. During my final year of university, I had problems completing my coursework and approached an architect friend for assistance. He introduced me to a chartered quantity surveyor who met with me twice to give advice, and then when I asked if I could go into his office for practical experience, he accepted.

This was the best thing I did, as I gained a thorough knowledge of the profession, and help was at hand if I needed it.

9. What advice would you give your younger self?

Focus on what is required, concentrate fully and seek assistance when in doubt.

10. Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

I am an ex-serviceman, having served in the British Army for seven years, and I’ve been trained in arms.

11.  What’s next?

I have now retired from full-time work, however I still act as an assessor for RICS, and would like to help potential surveyors to achieve their chartered status. I would also like to advise university students who are aiming to be quantity surveyors.