At Careys, our employees form the core of our culture. Through their efforts and hard work, we continue to excel and achieve our ongoing goal of being #BetterEveryDay. The work-winning team is at the forefront of presenting Careys’ considerable expertise and capabilities to our clients. This week we caught up with Lead Submission Coordinator, Gemma Kaling, who gave us an insight into her role, which has enabled her to turn her passion for writing into a career. She also revealed her favourite projects to date.

My day-to-day responsibilities

I joined Careys in January 2018. My responsibilities include managing tender submissions, which range from expressions of interest to Official Journal of the European Union tenders. This is similar to project management, in that I don’t do all the ‘doing’ myself, but I still have to make sure that everything’s being done – by organising launches and catch-up meetings, maintaining an action register and agreeing deadlines. I probably spend about 50% of my time managing and coordinating and 50% writing.

I’m currently working on three public sector submissions – two invitations to tenders and one Pre-qualification questionnaire – and I have 26 questions assigned to me. This totals 89 pages of writing, on subjects ranging from resource planning to delivery management systems. I have 15 days to get all the responses written, reviewed by others and finalised. It’s a lot of fun and no two days are the same.

Along with the rest of the team, I use any spare time to maintain and improve our database of bid materials. When we write responses on topics that haven’t come up before, we save them in the library for future use. We’re also continually updating our standard texts on big issues – like health and safety, quality, sustainability, and learning and development – to reflect the improvements the rest of the business is making.

How a career in work-winning found me

Like most people in bidding (or tenderising as my mother calls it…), I fell into it by accident. I was working as a general administrator/PA in a construction consultancy and the director I worked closely with noticed that I enjoyed writing and editing. He started involving me in bids and, when a full-time position in bidding came up, I applied and got it. I haven’t looked back since.

I do love writing and editing, but I also love other aspects of my role, such as organising, the challenge of trying to do better than all the other contractors bidding for the same job, the pressure of immovable deadlines, working with people from all around the business and the fact that no two bids are ever quite the same, so I’m constantly being challenged to come up with something new and better.

What I enjoy most about my role

Within the role itself, I most enjoy that moment when the client tells us we’ve won a contract and all that hard work has paid off. But what makes me enjoy coming to work is the rest of the work-winning team. Without exception, everybody is kind and helpful, and we all pull together and pitch in when we’re under pressure.

The team spirit is very strong. We’re all busy people but nobody is ever too busy to help a colleague.....there are always people willing to help.

My favourite project to date

This was probably Stratford Waterfront, which was a bid to deliver four substructures at a new development in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It was an Official Journal of the European Union bid, which is the most onerous type and has the strictest rules – if you tick one box incorrectly, you can be booted out of the whole process. It was a very challenging bid, where I had five days to complete the Pre-qualification questionnaire (requiring 38 pages of written responses). And the invitation to tender was one of the largest we have ever completed, with 26 essay-style questions. I worked several late nights and one weekend. But it all paid off – we recently heard that we have been awarded the project. We are now bidding for two further packages.

Overcoming challenges

The biggest challenge is collecting and collating all the information required within the bid’s timescales. With Stratford Waterfront, for example, I had to gather information from finance, learning and development, quality, sustainability, health and safety, surveying, Careys Foundation, Careys Design Team and several colleagues working on site. When we were told we had been successful, I wrote to 21 people in the business to thank them for their help. Usually we have 2-4 weeks to get all the information we need, write it up and get it approved for submission.

The challenge is mostly mitigated by everybody in Careys being so lovely and helpful, and sending me what I need in good time. The team works hard to keep our database up to date, so that we don’t have to keep asking the same questions. We keep up to date with articles on our intranet, CareysConnect, and posts on our internal social platform Yammer, so that we can gather information without having to ask for it. We go on regular site visits to keep case studies updated and record examples of the great things we’re doing in terms of innovations, corporate social responsibility and site welfare. Finally, we meet regularly with subject specialists to hear about new developments in their departments.

My advice to anyone looking to pursue a similar career  

Do it! Bidding is a fantastic career. It’s very specialised so we never find it hard to get work, every day is different and it’s very satisfying.

I would say you need to be cool under pressure. Things are always changing so you need to be able to juggle and re-prioritise your workload constantly. 

What our culture at Careys means to me

The team spirit is very strong. We’re all busy people but nobody is ever too busy to help a colleague. When something goes wrong or when we’re under immense pressure, I never feel like I’m having to deal with it alone – there are always people willing to help.

Interesting fact

Most people outside of bidding think that clients choose the successful bidder based on price, and that the rest of it (the written responses) is just fluff that nobody ever reads. In fact, the qualitative submission is often worth 50% or more of the marks – up to 80% in the public sector – with the price making up the rest. It’s increasingly common for a contractor who isn’t the cheapest to win the contract based on their responses, which have convinced the client that it is worth paying for good-quality construction.

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