People, program & culture | 09 December 2021

Leah Simmons hits 15 year milestone at Millar Merrigan

How has the surveying profession changed since you graduated?

Advances in technology have changed the way we undertake surveys as well as our office practices, but the same high standards have been maintained through our QA procedures and the need to get things ‘right’. Being a Licensed Surveyor means holding yourself to a higher standard, that has not changed.

When I started we would measure a lot of our feature surveys with a tape and take natural surface levels with a level and staff, but soon digital recording of coordinates/heights/codes became common practice. With today’s equipment, which is its own mini computer that can calculate all sorts of things we may need in the field, our abilities have broadened and has made us more efficient both in and out of the office.

It was notable when I started as a Graduate that it would be rare for me to see another woman in the crowd at our professional development seminars. Now there are more, but the industry is still very much lacking in female representation, at all levels.

I look forward to seeing the profession adapt to further technology advances as well as the efforts to draw more women to surveying. It will be interesting to see where we are in another 15 years!

Why did you choose to become a Licensed Surveyor?

I love the outdoors, and knew I needed a job that was not monotonous. I had a conversation with my father’s friend LS Bryce Milne when I was in Year 12, where he suggested I do some work experience in Surveying. I’d never even heard of it!

But being outside, where every job/site is different, sounded like something I could try. After some work experience and visiting open days at RMIT, it became one of my top preferences.

Following graduation from uni, to me the logical step was to get Licensed. It was not an easy task, juggling full time work with extra study, as well as a busy competition schedule for my horses (yes I’m a crazy horse girl), but it was worth the effort. Although I don’t get out in the field as much as I would like now that I am Licensed, the work is still interesting and fulfilling.

I have a perfectionist streak that I think is essential for this career. You need to know that you are correct in every part of the job – fieldwork, office work, drafting, as well as knowing cadastral law and how best to apply it, and interacting with clients and other professionals. I love how varied the work is and how broad my knowledge needs to be to do this job correctly.

What advice would you give someone thinking of studying to be a Licensed surveyor?

Be organised, ask lots of the right questions, and check your work. The additional workload of being on a Training Agreement on top of a career can be daunting and seem like a mountain to climb, but stick at it methodically and you will appreciate the rewards.

What does the profession offer women?

There is no reason why women can’t be surveyors. There is physical work requiring a level of fitness to be able walk around all day and carry a bit of weight (pegs etc), but that should not put anyone keen on the outdoors off the job.

I like that being a Surveyor is part tradie, part professional. Becoming Licensed pushes you toward the professional end of the scale, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy being on site doing the actual survey work. A person can settle wherever they want on that scale, whether they are male or female, and can choose from being in the field every day or do more drafting in the office, to a mixture of both. It is a very versatile career choice.

Most workplaces these days are flexible (especially the last 2 years with COVID-19) and that extends to maternity leave and flexible hours. Being a surveyor is not always a 9-5 job, so being able to do the work in my own timetable has been a key reason I have enjoyed being a Licensed Surveyor.

It is also a career choice where you will be in demand. There are not enough Licensed Surveyors for the volume of work coming through in Victoria, so unemployment in this industry virtually doesn’t exist. This gives you as an LS a certain level of leverage with employers that is not as existent in other land development industries such as engineering and architecture. A good draftee or field surveyor are also worth their weight in gold and are in demand.

There is no reason why women can’t be surveyors.

What do you see as your biggest accomplishment since joining the company?

Becoming a Licensed Surveyor in 2013. It took me 5 years to complete the training process/projects, and it was a huge relief coming out of the final interview feeling confident about the outcome.

What do you like most about working for MM?

The people. Everyone makes this company what it is and being able to have genuine conversations and friendships with so many people from across the whole business makes Millar Merrigan so good to work for, and why it hasn’t been a struggle to achieve 15 years with the one company.

MM has also traditionally been a family company, which means they have been extremely supportive of all employees in whatever circumstances they find themselves in or curve balls that get thrown.

How has Millar Merrigan helped you through your career?

The support of the other Licensed Surveyors while I was a graduate was outstanding, along with other senior employees from across the business who helped me understand each aspect of Land Development and how we as a business operate to support our clients from start to finish. Those discussions continue daily as this job is a never ending learning curve!

MM encourage further professional development through industry seminars etc as well as ensuring the staff have other training relevant to their job e.g. first aid, confined space, even a driver’s education course to ensure we are as safe as we can be.

Following my maternity leave I have been working part time. MM recognize the importance of family life and encourage employees to find the right balance for themselves and their career.

What advice would you give a young surveyor about starting a career in Land Development?

Check your work, then check it again!! Accuracy and the correctness of the information are the fundamental basics of this job. We want to make ‘good title’, our legacy for the future.

What advice would you give someone just starting out at MM?

Lucky you! The best way to learn is to ask lots of questions of more experienced people, across the whole business. Do your best to understand what each department does and how we bring it together

Share this article

The Chalk

You might be interested in…