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Recent BSc graduate Alex Kulakov on his degree as a "strong foundation for a successful career"

12 July 2017

Alex Kulakov

Alexandr Kulakov has recently completed his final year of the BSc Project Management for Construction programme. He was enrolled on the four year sandwich course, which involves a year in industry. We caught up with Alex to reflect on his studies and his plans for the future.

What attracted you to apply for the BSc in Project Management for Construction?

The status of the university. I was looking for a prestigious institution that could impart transferrable skills and knowledge. I did not have a construction background but I saw that the BSc Project Management for Construction programme was offering a range of transferable skills. When I was making my application, I noted the programme had excellent ratings and offered good employment prospects. It felt great that I could study at one of the world’s top universities and could employ the skills I would learn to another industry in case I decide not to pursue a career in the construction sector.

What did you focus on in your dissertation, and how did you find the research process? Did you find CPM’s research resources accessible?

Initially the focus of my dissertation was to develop a model that would predict construction contractors’ failure, where failure was defined as a state of insolvency. Myself and Alex Murray, my dissertation supervisor, faced a challenge of classifying/identifying/differentiating companies within the UK construction industry. In other words, from 20,000 companies I needed to pick only contractors and filter, for example, developers. While solving this problem, my supervisor suggested that it would be beneficial to provide quantitative descriptions of business models used by different types of companies within the UK construction industry. At the end, we achieved 3 things. First, we showed quantitative attributes of developers, main contractors, sub-contractors and civil engineering contractors. Secondly, we offered a perspective on how to predict insolvency of these types of companies. Finally, yet importantly, we have made some contribution to future research by demonstrating how insightful quantitative research may be, especially with large data sets.

I am very pleased and grateful that UCL and its academic staff provided me with all necessary resources and support to fully carry out my research. Completing my undergraduate dissertation has awakened my interest in research projects and I am seriously considering undertaking further academic research in the near future.

Alex did a fantastic job of producing an insightful dissertation that engaged with established literature, while making the most of recent data and cutting edge techniques for company failure prediction. His work benefitted from previous research into the financial practices of UK contractor firms produced within the department. His improvements to construction industry coverage with accounts data will no doubt prove valuable in next year's teaching on the core economics module of MSc programmes.

  • Alex Murray, CPM Teaching Fellow

Who did you work for during your year in industry and how did it go?

I worked for a London-based medium-sized project management consultancy called Bruce Shaw. I found it through another undergraduate who did his placement there. The experience I gained exceeded my expectations and was very beneficial for me. I find that spending a year working in industry helped a lot during my last year of study as well as benefited my employability.

What kind of work are you looking for now?

I was looking in the construction industry, primarily client-side project management roles. Now I have accepted a job offer from AECOM, one of the largest construction consultancy companies in the world.

As well as achieving your degree and receiving a job offer, you have also been busy working on an app. Could you tell us about how you developed the app and what it does?

The idea behind the app was to make processing of payments under a construction contract easier. I undertook some research and found out that processing of payments was not only a “slow” process, but also mismanagement of this process could cause some contractual problems.My software helps contract administrators manage payments under construction contracts quicker. We also intend to reduce risk of mismanagement of the payment process by reminding people of their actions.

Do you think it will be possible to see the app become live in the near future?

As a foreign citizen, I cannot set up my own business in the UK without having a certain type of visa. With the great help and support from staff from the School of Construction and Project Management, my contacts within the industry and assistance from UCL Innovation and Enterprise business advisors, I have managed to persuade UCL to support my future visa that will allow me to set up my own business and develop my software further.

Lastly, what are you looking forward to now you have successfully completed your degree with CPM?

I am convinced that studying for a degree with CPM is a strong foundation for a successful career. In the short term, I am considering going on the Assessment of Professional Competence training scheme to qualify as a chartered surveyor with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Having gained some more experience, I would like to undertake further academic research with UCL.