In my current role, I head up and manage the design team and the two assistant design managers.
As a team, we have to plan tasks to ensure they are completed to schedule and in order of urgency or impact. I create and use a number of schedules to identify outstanding tasks and aid forward planning. In my role, it is essential to have good communication skills. Through direct and indirect communication routes, I build a rapport and get the best from the team. I chair bi-weekly design team meetings and complete minutes to aid the production of information.
To complete projects, I am required to think analytically and solve any problems along the way.
Working in construction on complex projects on a tight budget has forced me to think creatively and come up with unique solutions to unforeseen problems. This includes things such as separating walkways from the building line to enable the windows to open further and therefore improve the ventilation strategy, and reduce the need for mechanical ventilation.
I spend about half my time in the office working with designs and reviewing information to forward plan, and the other half on-site assisting the site team. While on-site, I am able to visit the buildings where designs I have worked on are becoming reality and troubleshoot when issues arise. Not only do I ensure the design is communicated from the designers to the builders, but I am lucky to see projects from conception to completion and ideas become reality.
Construction is an ever-changing industry … this makes work exciting and interesting. I'm not stuck behind a desk nine to five.
Which company do you work for and what do they do?
I work for Morgan Sindall, a construction and infrastructure company.
Find what role you want to be involved with and talk to people. If you’re hard-working and willing to learn, a construction career is right for you.
What education route did you take from secondary school to where you are today?
When offered work experience in Year 10 at school, many students let the school decide where they worked. I chose to search elsewhere to find some experience somewhere that would build my CV and teach me something I wanted to know. I ended up in the local council office’s architecture and UDLA (urban design and landscape architecture) department. This determined the course of the role I wanted working in construction. I liked management and design so wanted something in between.
I then took A-levels at the same school where I did my GCSEs. I tailored my A-levels to suit the construction industry. I had always wanted to be an architect, not knowing the different careers in architecture available to me. I chose:
- Mathematics - numbers and finance play a big part in construction jobs. You must make sure you build to the right sizes; it’s like a giant jigsaw.
- Physics - relationships and forces are essential when designing.
- Product design - concept design and manufacture translate to buildability in my current role.
- Art - sketching and design.
From there, I applied to a number of degree courses in construction after researching courses available through UCAS - some architecture, some architectural technology and one architectural engineering and design management. I chose the latter, based on its exciting modules and interesting job prospects. I worked hard in my first year and was top of my class, which led to me being picked for a number of interviews for a placement. After a number of offers, I chose to work with Morgan Sindall and completed a 12-month placement as a trainee design manager, returning after graduating.
I completed my degree (first class honours in BSc Architectural Engineering and Design Management) at Loughborough University and couldn’t have been happier there. It is truly wonderful to study something you are passionate about with like-minded people who value the same things, and where innovative research is all around you.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
Working in construction means a career in an ever-changing industry. New technologies are cropping up frequently, making building and designing easier. Regulations, and best practice to safeguard and improve the lives of the workforce and users of our buildings, also change frequently. For these reasons, no day is ever the same. I come to work not knowing what that day will hold. You have to adapt quickly and work with change. This makes work exciting and interesting, as I'm not stuck behind a desk nine to five. I can get out on-site and see things change. You also have the reassurance that projects don’t last forever. Good or bad, they will come and go so it’s important to enjoy and cherish the good ones and learn from the not so good ones.
What is the highlight of your day?
Walking out on-site and seeing what’s being built, and spending time with the team transforming the designs I work with into the finished item for the client are good moments.
Where do you want your career to take you?
I hope to spend a few years doing what I do, but ultimately I’d like to start innovating new practice into construction.
What would you say to someone thinking about a career in construction?
Construction is one of the most exciting industries to work in and there are opportunities and routes in everywhere. Find out which construction jobs you want to be involved with and talk to people. If you’re hard-working and willing to learn, construction is right for you. Once you know the construction job you want, ask for work experience. Paid or not, it looks great on your CV and is a talking point into the industry – you can start at the bottom and work your way into other roles.
Is there anything else you would like to share, which would inspire others to follow their chosen career path?
Construction is at the forefront of innovation because every project is a prototype. Nothing is ever the same so we are constantly adapting to change. In few industries do you design with sustainability in mind from the outset. We want to make buildings better, more comfortable and cheaper to run as there are not many products that have a lifespan over 50 years. We design and build for the future.
The construction sector will shape the way we live in the future because the buildings we construct now will be a part of the skyline and environment we inhabit for years to come. We implement emerging technology like almost no other industry. Essentially, we are the beta testers of the places we spend about half our lives.
People working in construction jobs always give the best advice. They know best. I will always remember someone saying to me ‘make the job work for you, you don’t work for the job’. Find what you enjoy doing and make a career out of it.