Karlee Whitehouse

Karlee Whitehouse

Queensland University of Technology
Contract Administrator
Karlee studied Bachelor of Urban Development at Queensland University of Technology

What's your job about?

Mainbrace Constructions is a Sydney based builder that has expanded to both Brisbane and Melbourne, and specialise in commercial retail construction.  I work in the project department working closely with the project managers, to manage risk for both the client and subcontractors, by following scopes of work and payment schedules. 

Right now I have just been put onto a new project.  This means I am working through setting up a project to be fully functional.  After being awarded the contract, I review all of the documentation, which includes drawings, reports, and a bill of quantities.  The next step is to coordinate with the project manager so that all of the required safety documentation can be set up and distributed.  Then comes site set up, so everything that makes a construction site look like a construction site, will be ordered by myself.  After this initial project start up, then scopes of work will be written and sent to subcontractors to price, and once selected, contracts written and sent.  So now that the project is up and running and all the subcontractors are working, it is my job to process all the invoices and maintain budgets, and most importantly maintain the invoices and variations so that Mainbrace can be paid by the client. 

With all this said, a teenager could definitely understand it, the main difference would be the practical knowledge that takes time.  This is an industry where time can make a huge difference on the level of skill someone may have.

What's your background?

I grew up in North Queensland, and as soon as I turned 18, I headed down to Brisbane for university. I worked full time through university as I lived on my own, so I spread the subjects to lessen my workload.  This ultimately turned out to be quite draining, so one Christmas while I was in Canada for a holiday, I ended up securing a job in the oil and gas industry as a Materials Manager and spent over 2 years there.  I had done bits and pieces of travelling while in North America, which is always a new experience. I came back to Australia and decided to finish my degree.  While I was studying I was informed that Mainbrace was looking for an undergraduate to work while they study.  I’ve now been with Mainbrace for over a year.  This past year has been quite an adventure, I have completed my degree, got married, and bought a house! This is on top of moving from the estimating department to the contract administrating department, so managing a work/ life balance has been tough this year!

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Most definitely!  One of my biggest regrets when undergoing my degree was the fact I had no ‘trade’ background.  I think it would be truly beneficial to have that basic understanding of construction.  The only other characteristic you would need to have would be determination.  Knowing what you want to do, and then striving to complete it.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

I love how challenging every day is. Every project is different. Every project has different people, deadlines, designs, and so much more.  This means that even if I start to get complacent, a new challenge is awaiting.  As I am relatively new in my position, I am constantly learning new ways of doing things, and I get to spend a lot of time problem solving and discussing with my team.  The best way to know were doing the right thing is being able to deliver a project with high quality before we were contractually meant to, with strengthening relationships between both client and subcontractors.

What are the limitations of your job?

Construction is always going to be a challenge.  It has long hours, crucial deadlines, high amounts of monetary turnover, and a lot of people working on a single project.  So to work in this industry you should know that yes, you will take on a lot of responsibility, some late nights, some weekends, but the end result is rewarding to know you helped build something. You will meet so many different types of people, and learn something from each one – good or bad. The main limitation someone would face is if they don’t have much attention to detail, this can be crucial.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  1. Don’t fall victim to pressure – be it from your peers or your parents.  At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to complete the degree and work in that industry – not them.
  2. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.  If the ‘path’ you want doesn’t come to fruition, there is always another way.
  3. Always remember that a master has failed more times than you have ever attempted.  Don’t think of failure as ‘the end’ but just that you’ve discovered a way that doesn’t work, and you can try another way that may work.