Building success

Ryan Wong will never forget March 23, 2018. Not only was it his wife’s birthday but also the night of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) annual awards, which champions the ‘best of the best’ in the industry. His company CBRE Hong Kong had nominated him for Young Surveyor of the Year and they allowed him to take his wife to the ceremony.

Fortunately, it turned out to be an evening of multiple celebrations all round. Wong walked away with the prestigious Young Surveyor Award and, in addition to another trophy plus two Certificates of Excellence, CBRE also won Project Management Team of the Year for assisting Nord Anglia Education with their Hong Kong expansion, an appointment in which Wong had played a major role.

“It was a milestone in my life to have been awarded Young Surveyor of the Year. I was thrilled and humbled by the recognition but I would not have won the award if not for CBRE and our Project Management team,” recalls Wong. “It will be a decade next year since I joined the field and the award came at an opportune time to remind me to live out the best qualities of a surveyor and inspire the next generation as I was in the past.”

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Wong has dreamt of becoming a surveyor since he was young, aspiring to be part of the process of building a property from scratch. He read surveying at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and did a year at Deakin University in Australia, studying construction management as part of an exchange programme. He started as a graduate surveyor with Hong Kong’s Urban Renewal Authority in September 2009 but moved on after under three years to join JLL in early 2012. There, he worked his way up from assistant project manager to senior project manager, also becoming an MRICS Chartered Building Surveyor and member of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, a registered Professional Surveyor (Building Surveying Division) and an LEED Green Associate. When CBRE offered him a position as associate director in November 2016, Wong couldn’t refuse.

He is currently part of CBRE’s Project Management team, which comprises of more than 100 professionals, and also wears the hat of deputy lead in business development for the team. His job requires extensive communication with different stakeholders, including architects, interior designers, engineers and quantity surveyors, as well as environmental, traffic, façade and retail consultants.

“This job is not about being a messenger but a manager of professional practices, expectations, timelines, resources and the momentum of people involved,” he explains. “To be a good surveyor boils down to one thing—dealing with people. Communicating well with people in the field requires professionals who are familiar with the technicalities of surveying, in addition to intricate negotiation skills. This is the most complicated, delicate yet most enjoyable part of my job.

“I also enjoy being a trouble-shooter for clients—helping them get to the root of their building problems, putting together available options, weighing them up and making a call with their best interests at heart. Our clients rely on us as advisors, leveraging our professionalism and experience to identify as well as to fix issues.”

As well as good communication, an integral part of the surveying industry these days is technology, says Wong. When he joined the industry, technology was scarcely used. Even five years ago, nobody could have envisaged the adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles in different areas, for example, or the use of Building Information Modelling (a digital process that gets people and information working together efficiently and effectively on every component of a construction project across the project lifestyle). Fast forward to present day and there is all that and more, including extensive access to 3D floor plans and fit-outs.

“Technology is the future and surveyors need to either catch up with it or be left behind,” he says. “Technology will disrupt the field for the better as it will speed up many work streams, from creating 3D floor plans and fit-outs to uncovering inefficiencies in property portfolios. We should all keep up with the latest technology in real estate and utilise it to our advantage.”

That said, Wong still believes that professional judgement can never be replaced by technology.

“Surveyors are trained to make the right call on how and what makes strong buildings. Sharp-eyed surveyors are in demand in every city as they are the key members in creating the landscape. Properties are tangible, touchable, lasting and offer a place for people to get together to work, live and share experiences,” he says. “Being a surveyor makes me part of the ‘dream team’ that brings buildings to life. The buildings are the masterpiece. The idea of bringing my family to view the buildings [I have worked on] one day has motivated me to continue this profession.”

Wong won’t have to wait long to bring his own next generation for a tour; he is expecting his first child in December.