Senior Construction Manager, Mace
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My career has been very organic. I started as a civil engineering graduate and was sponsored through university, so walked straight into a job and worked my way up through the ranks. Now I’m a site production manager at Mace, only the second company I’ve worked for.
I’ve worked on some really large-scale flagship projects, including Heathrow Terminal 5, BBC Television Centre in White City and recently Battersea Power station, which is one of the largest developments in Europe. I grew up in Battersea, so I had an emotional affiliation to the place.
I’ve been at Mace for eight years now. I went through a kind of graduate management programme where you rotate around the organisation and take on various roles, which has helped me make an informed decision as to what I wanted to do in my later career. Mace has a number of structured training programmes at various levels of the business, If you show the right kind of aspirations and skill sets and a desire for a senior position in the business, opportunities are there for all.
My career goals are dynamic and change as I gain more and more experience. If you’d asked me five years ago, I probably would have said that my end goal would be the position I’m in now. But I’m continuing to improve, so why should that be my end goal? Director level for sure is now my current target and if I could get onto the Board one day, then fantastic, why not?
Although we’re a massively diverse company, that pendulum sways towards White males as you go up the company – to directors and board members. So\ I think if we can get that balance a bit better, the dream would be more realistic for people like myself trying to get up in the business. More representation in senior roles is very important because what people see, they believe.
When I started in construction, I was a bit lost because I come from an ethnic background where the language is slightly different, the slang is different and I struggled a lot with adapting to that setting. I felt like I didn’t belong. When I went outside of work with my friends, I spoke differently to them because I was kind of going through this transition period. As silly as it sounds, its these subtle things that need to be captured.
It goes into cultures of Black and ethnic minority people. What we want our kids to get into. I remember when I was choosing my educational selections talking with my cousins and friends, most of them were steered towards medicine, accountancy and law. Construction wasn’t on the agenda. And why is that?
I assume it’s because our parents didn’t see us in this type of organisation. There’s also a stigma around it – like it’s low paid or dirty work. Why would they push their children into that environment?
It’s not true at all. I wear a suit to work now that I’m in interiors. I haven’t always worn a suit but it’s not a dirty environment at all. Just changing these kinds of stigmas is a massive step in the right direction.
There is a space for those law and accountancy within construction and the built environment – so it’s about changing that narrative. When I speak to my White peers they say, ‘well, my dad did it and I went to work for the weekend with my dad one day’.
A lot of people from my kind of culture and background don’t get that opportunity; their parents aren’t taking them to construction sites and showing them the ropes and showing them the light. It doesn’t happen. So, there’s less interest from a young age. I have two children and I have made a conscious effort to show them that it’s a good opportunity, especially for young Black women – they’re crying out for that demographic.
Inclusivity & ED&I
Eight years is a long time to be with a company and as it stands now, I can see myself staying with Mace because it’s at the forefront of construction and consultancy. I would describe Mace as 100% an inclusive company. It’s diverse and welcoming and I feel like I belong here. We have a number of networks that have been set up to represent people from marginalised backgrounds, including LGBTQ+, parents, military. I co-chair the Ethnic Diversity and Inclusion network.
There’s a culture of meritocracy where the right person for the job is allocated the role. It’s a very transparent open company where there’s an ability to create safe spaces, to be able to speak and voice opinions and share and exchange views and help you debate.
ED&I is something that we speak about on a day-to-day basis. You see it all over our Intranet, all over our comms. You have safety moments, you have training. It’s a culture thing. It’s the way how we live now. It’s at the forefront of every decision we make.
Off the back of #MeToo and the Black Lives Matter movement, I think diversity and inclusion within the business has been more of a priority. Like many organisations, I think it’s always been at the core of the business, but now it’s definitely more apparent. We have recently won accolades and awards, being recognised for that industry wide. So, I think that speaks for itself.
Changing the narrative about the way the construction industry is viewed needs to start way before companies and organisations are hiring people. Again, it’s that image of it being low paid, dirty work.
Construction companies need to go to parent evenings, career open days to show that construction is a wider opportunity for young people. My older brother is a lawyer, my middle brother is an engineer, and I am a civil engineer and that kind of expectation, that bar was set high from a young age, similar to my peers.
We do a lot of engagement with schools and I’ve been part of that in recent years, but engagement with parents is something we’re working on.
I enjoy focusing on interiors, so I have every desire to stay within the company. I think that’s important because a lot of companies do a lot to recruit people from minority ethnic backgrounds, but there’s not as much focus on retention. Mace do that.
My career has been so blessed and my opportunities have been too. Provided I deliver the world is my oyster. But it’s not just about opportunities, it’s about how you seize those opportunities.