Sam Johnstone
Senior Surveyor at Cushmand & Wakefield

What was your dream career when you were younger?

I always wanted to be a Veterinarian. I loved animals (and still do) and I wanted to be able to help them. We always had a house full of strays who we helped and adopted over the years.


What subjects did you study at school?

Biology, Chemistry, Geography, English (although I was not very good at this at all) and Maths.


Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

My family. They have always pushed me to want more and do better.


How have the subjects you studied at school helped you in your career?

The subjects I learned at school helped me get into my first university course. I required certain grades in those subjects which then allowed me to obtain unconditional offers to university. Although, I stayed in education longer than most I struggled in school and needed tutoring for English and Math. I would say for me the subjects I learned in school were just the stepping blocks for me to get where I wanted in order to learn the things I wanted. There is definitely more diversity in school subjects these days allowing students to learn a wider variety of subjects but don’t be discouraged if they aren’t what you really enjoy that will come in higher education and with you career thereafter.


Please briefly describe your STEM journey since leaving school.

Firstly, I went to Glasgow University where I undertook a degree in Zoology and a masters in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law. I got the opportunity to lead expeditions to Tobago to research sea turtles and be an active member of the Zoological Society. After I left university, I knew I wanted to work with animals (or so I thought) so I ended up working as a Milk Recorder on dairy farms for two years. It was hard work but I was lucky enough to work with some great people. During this time, I looked for permanent jobs which would allow me to progress in my career. Unfortunately, I really struggled to find anything even remotely well paid or permanent. I then had a long chat with my dad who encouraged me to try something new. My Dad was a surveyor (albeit a different type to me) but he loved his job and thought I too would love a career in property. After some cajoling, I applied for a conversion masters at Sheffield Hallam University. 5 years later, I am now a Chartered Building Surveyor at one of the biggest Real Estate firms in the world and I absolutely love my job.


What skills do you utilise most in your career? 

Problem solving and organisation. Engineering regardless of its appearance is fundamentally problem solving. If you like finding solutions to problems then you’ll probably get along with engineering. It sounds nerdy but I always got a kick out of solving difficult maths problems in school! Organisation is another skill I find incredibly useful, if you stay organised and ahead of the game then you discover things that might trip you up before they get you.


What advice would you give to any young people considering a STEM career? 

It is rare that what you want to do as child is what you end up doing as an adult. I would say always give something a try you never know what might interest you. I didn’t think I would ever be a Chartered Surveyor and yet here I am.