Director: Immerse UK
Karl Pallas studied Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying at Loughborough University. Following his graduation in 2013, Karl went into a graduate job, and now has his own company alongside fellow alumnus, Charles Hill. Here you can find out about his engineering journey at Loughborough and beyond.
Academic sponsorship and strong ties with industry were the biggest attraction. I was applying to university shortly after the financial crisis in 2008, so securing employment upon graduation was an important influencer. I also played rugby at a semi-professional level back then, so Loughborough's reputation as a sporting heavyweight, and the unrivalled sporting facilities drew me in.
By the time I had completed my degree, Loughborough University had helped me study (on exchange) in Hong Kong, work in Malaysia, develop my professional rugby career and gain a year of practical experience on a prestigious project in London. I feel that Loughborough provided the opportunity to satisfy my ambitions. I got to meet some lifelong friends on the way, and I'm incredibly grateful to be starting this chapter of life growing a business alongside one of them.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
Use your holidays wisely: gain work experience whilst pursuing your interests. For me it was mixing travelling the world whilst working at different types of quantity surveying organisations.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, how did this impact upon your Loughborough experience?
Rugby: as always, a great way to meet people and stay fit
Student council & finance committee: I learnt the workings democratic union
At university I started my first career steps with a Malaysian construction consultancy summer internship. I then completed a year placement as an assistant quantity surveyor (QS) with Kier working on a prestigious project at King's Cross.
Upon graduation I landed my dream job working for Kier as a QS on Crossrail, the biggest construction project in Europe. I got chartered as quickly as the RICS would allow which, just 2 years out of university, helped earn me a promotion as commercial lead on several Network Rail projects. This was when I decided to have a go at business myself. With a great idea and a great friend who was keen to join the journey, we started Immerse UK, a cutting-edge tech start-up supplying built environment organisations.
We started by juggling the demands of the day job with running the business from our spare bedrooms, but as demand grew we were really grateful to Kier for allowing us the opportunity to take a sabbatical and give the business a go. Since then things have only been going in the right direction and we're extremely excited for what the future holds.
My transition from university was pretty stress free. I put the hard work in early doors to gain experience whilst I studied to increase my visibility and employability upon graduation. It meant I could spend my summer travelling Central America to learn Spanish.
I believe that construction companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. I’m passionate about the way the technology industry uses revolutionary ideas to drive big growth. You need to be a little uncomfortable to stay relevant. Our vision is to provide speculative, or even strange tech solutions to built environment organisations.
What was your role within the FTSE 250 organisation and how has this impacted upon your decision to begin your own business?
I was a project quantity surveyor (QS). As a QS I looked after the commercials and contracts on some of the UK's largest construction projects. The commercial experience taught me the importance of business fundamentals like cash flow, regardless of how big or small the numbers. The contractual experience taught me the importance of mutual trust and cooperation in negotiating and administering any agreement.
Brexit devalued the pound by record figures overnight. That meant the cost of our imports rocketed by the morning. This is one example of the constant rising tide of challenges for a small organisation. You’ve got to do more than just keep your head above water to stay relevant.
We do not fit into the mould of a conventional built environment company, and we do not intend to become one. You can expect us to make small bets in areas that seem speculative or even strange. We want to do more important and meaningful things with the resources we have to change our industry for the better.