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It started in 2006. A 19 year old Chris Piechocki got young Steve Smith out at U19s nationals and thought he had a one way ticket to being a cricketer or golf champion for Australia.

Needless to say, the Manteena estimating cadet did not quite reach a national level of recognition on the sporting scene in 2006, or later on in life, but around Manteena and with contractors we have worked with over the last 17 years, Chris is renowned for his larrikin approach, loyalty and passion for construction.

What has your journey been with Manteena to date?

I started at Manteena in March 2006 after a gap year in North Wales. I knew the Agnello family and Lou suggested I apply for a Cadet role to give it a go and see if I liked it. I interviewed with Rod Mitton, got the job as a Cadet Estimator and never left, which has made me the longest serving Cadet at Manteena who hasn’t gone on to be a Director.

I studied my Cert II, III, IV and Diploma through the MBA and then moved on to do my Bachelor of Building Construction Management, majoring in Quantity Surveying at UC, all while working at Manteena.

I moved from Commercial to Residential in 2017 and have just moved back to Commercial as a Contracts Manager for a new challenge and change of scenery. It allows me to use my 17 year estimating skillset and feels like a natural progression to broaden my career path so I am really enjoying it so far.

Why estimating?

Originally I didn’t want to do a trade, so this allowed me to learn about multiple trades in a ‘learn it how you build it’ kind of way.

I like the problem solving and math components of the job and have built a great rapport with the subbies over the last 17 years.

How would you explain manteena’s offering and approach?

Manteena has an excellent reputation for high quality outcomes and are heavily community orientated. They have been supporting the Queanbeyan Whites for the last few years which I am pretty passionate about and it is great to see the support from Manteena in that sense.

I think we are really well known for our great relationships with our subcontractors and the way we work alongside them in project delivery.

What is it like working at Manteena?

I mean it is all I know from a career point of view but if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t still be here 17 years later. Manteena has a great family environment and I have made lifelong friends while working here. It is an incredibly supportive environment and the interaction with our directors on a daily basis is something unique that adds to the value of Manteena. Our Directors really care about the team personally and professionally which is also really important.

Did you always think estimating was where you would end up?

No. (Insert Steve Smith story and the glory of being a national sporting champion here).

I was young, playing sport and didn’t know what life entailed but I fell into it really well and kept doing it. I think it is hard to find people who enjoy doing estimating for such a long time but it made sense for me.

I think the progression into Contracts Manager is an extension of that too. I get to apply my knowledge as an estimator and work with the Bid and Project Delivery teams to take a project all the way through to completion.

What would you tell anyone considering a career in estimating

It can be viewed quite negatively so I think if you want to learn it you have to quash the negative stuff. That being said it is incredibly rewarding!

It is like a footy team, if everyone does their part it works. The price has to be right for the client and the company so there is a balance you have to find there but when it pays off its “better than LEGO”.  You have to be willing to cop a loss though. You aren’t ever going to be 100% successful and sometimes that means it isn’t for everyone.

You get to identify the risks and the opportunities for the project team to work through so you end up setting the job up for success from the very start. That being said it requires a lot of due diligence and a system that works when you are reviewing 40-50 trades for each project.

Lastly, what have been your favourite projects to date?

There have been a few! The National Arboretum Functions Facility has to be on there, it was my first win as a leading estimator.

The Lodge Refurbishment was also a really good one, and so was the Tennis Centre at Next Gen and the Chinese Embassy Indoor Swimming Pool Facility.

The Garangula Gallery is also on the list. You don’t get to do jobs like that too often.

Dominion Circuit was the first job I priced for Residential and it went on to win a Heritage Award so that is up there, along with Torres Street which has recently been completed.

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