Angela has been working in the construction industry for over 15 years. She has been a self-confessed chronic people pleaser for most of her life, which eventuated to her facing a quarter-life crisis in her early 30’s. Her seemingly perfect life suddenly got turned upside down. Fast forward 6 years, Angela is now in a senior position for a tier 2 construction company, a career and wellness mentor for people in the industry and living the life of her dreams. Let’s hear about what changed for her…
Can you tell us how you started your career in the industry?
I used to say it’s a bit of a fluke. These days I think it’s more about following my gut and just trust the process. I decided to come to Sydney and study a Master’s in Construction Project Management after I finished my architecture degree in 2016. I initially thought that doing my master’s and understanding more about project management would help me become a better Architect.
Halfway through my degree, I got bored of just studying and decided to look for a job. I wanted to find something quick and that wouldn’t require putting together a portfolio. I ended up going to 7 interviews in one week and landed myself a job in tier 3 construction company. (And as they say, the rest is history… and I’ve never looked back since).
I really didn’t know where each of my decisions was going to take me back when I first started. All I knew was to go with what felt right at the time and trusting that it will get me somewhere eventually.
How did you advance your career, and can you share some of your key career lessons?
I wouldn’t say that I have a strategy in terms of advancing my career, but I’ve always had a vision. I wanted to be able to personally help my clients transform their visions into a building that they would be proud of. I got promoted as a design manager without much industry experience and not knowing what the role is about. In fact, back in those days, people generally didn’t know what design managers do.
I remember running my first design meeting on my own with an important hotel client. None of my managers were available that day to sit in the meeting. I didn’t have the confidence to face a room of people who have a lot more experiences than me, self-doubt and lack of self-confidence were my biggest challenges at the time. I couldn’t talk properly, or lead conversations during the meeting. The Client’s development manager rang me afterwards to tell me how bad I was at doing my job. However, she was kind enough and offered to support me because she could see that I was out of my depth. Till today, this was still one of the toughest projects I’ve ever worked on, yet I have learnt so much in such a short period of time. This was also when I made the decision that if I was ever going to be given the opportunity to support, mentor or working with another female in construction, I will never make them feel the same way I did during those meetings.
I think coming from a super competitive family meant that I rarely give up on something easily. I also have a genuine desire to provide the best solutions and generate buildings that I will be proud of. I believe it’s the combination of these two factors that pushed me through every challenge I’ve faced at work to date.
Steve Job’s famous quote “Stay hungry, stay foolish” is something that I live by each day and what I believe has helped me in advancing my career so far. I don’t believe I know everything, and I don’t think I ever will. However, I am always on the lookout to find better ways of doing things, and I am always interested in people and what’s important to them. I love asking my clients and consultants questions because I want to understand what’s important to them. I am here to support the teams that I work with to deliver what’s important to our clients. To me it’s not about ego, competition, getting that promotion or pay raise. To me, it’s about being the best that I could be in supporting my team to build the best buildings and making the experience pleasant for everyone involved. Most importantly, do what makes me happy. I think that is really the point of difference that has helped my career progression.
Have you yourself faced any adversity being a female in your field? If so, how did you overcome that and what advice would you give to other females starting out in this male dominated space?
I don’t really remember ever been treated differently. I think growing up playing with boys must have really helped. My advice would be, just be you. Have the confidence in who you are as a woman and in your ability to bring your strength to the table.
I have spent a lot of time working on myself and really get to know who I am as a person over the past 5 years. Many people in the personal development field call it the inner works. What I have learnt is when I respect myself and accept myself, other people will accept and respect me more. As what I call a chronic people pleaser growing up, I used to really care about what other people thought of me. Through dealing with my divorce, a quarter-life crisis and depression in 2015, I had to really assess my life, get to know myself again, and find out what really makes me happy, instead of spending my time making everyone else around me happy.
Can you tell us more about your role as a “Life Renovator for People in Construction’ and what inspired you to do this?
When I heard that a colleague of mine had committed suicide just before Christmas in 2017, I was first shocked. He was a quiet achiever, who had a really bright future, and no one would ever think that he would be one to want to take his own life.
I realised then that me wanting to jump off my 6th floor balcony when I was going through the toughest time in my life, isn’t just a one-off incident. I jumped online and looked up the statistics around suicide and depression that afternoon and realised that there are a lot more people like me in the Construction industry, in fact, as an industry we have the 2nd highest suicide rate across the country.
At that stage, I had already completed my training as a life coach and was coaching clients after work as a side hustle. I have been looking for a niche to jump into and this was really the moment that I realised that I can use my story to help others, especially the men and women in our industry.
In 2018, I re-branded my business and launched Angela Wang & Co with a new focus.
I wanted to tackle the topics of mental health and suicide from a positive spin and remove the shame and guilt associated with them. I also believe that none of us are fundamentally broken and that we are all born perfect. It’s the environments that we were in that shaped our behaviours, beliefs and habits. To me, in order to construct your best life and create a positive outlook, you don’t need to do a full knock down and rebuild you. Like a reno, you simply look at what needs re-modification and keep all the good bits. This is why I call myself the Life Renovator.
I realised earlier this year that many females in our industry have a dream to really progress their career to a senior level, but had either been told that is not possible, or somehow believed themselves that it’s not possible or unrealistic. So instead of working on breaking the glass ceiling, they buried their dreams.
I help my clients figure out their secret desires that have been buried, and what makes them tick. Together we will discover this and come up with a plan to renovate their lives in order for them to create the best life that they have been wanting for so long.
I have just launched my Magnify Your Career Programme, created for females in the construction industry for this reason. I am passionate about seeing more female in our industry, not just living and surviving, but shining their light with full confidence.
What do you think are the main factors for the high suicide rates in Construction?
I believe that there are multiple factors. Stress, long hours, tight deadlines and pressure are some of the things that have been commonly discussed. I also believe that our passion towards what we do as an industry also have something to do towards the high suicide rates.
“Attention to detail” is a trait that has been valued greatly in our industry. It’s almost as if you have “attention to detail” then that would make you a good fit for construction.
Perfectionism in my opinion when combined with stress and tight deadlines is one of the key contributors to high suicide rates in our industry.
The long working hours also mean we spend less quality time with our family. When the work is physically demanding, it often means by the time we get home, there is no energy left to connect with our family. In the US, a study showed that 78% of men who died by suicide had relationship problems. A similar study in Australia showed that out of 34 cases of men who died by suicide cases 18 of those had relationship or child custody issues. So, I guess what I am trying to say is that yes the long hours, stress, tight deadlines and work pressures do form part of the reason why we as an industry has the 2nd highest suicide rate across the country. However, it is the secondary impacts that our environment has created that are the main contributors of this statistic.
Instead of looking at how we can fix what we can see as obvious issues, we need to dig deeper. Perhaps it’s looking at how we can help our staff create better family life, ways to support stress release at work, educate our teams to relax but also be kinder to themselves, and teach them other healthy ways to release stress, without resorting to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or any other suppressants.
What advice would you give to both males and females who are struggling and don’t feel brave enough to reach out for help?
This is a very good question. I think the most important thing is to understand that whatever that they are struggling with, is nothing to be ashamed of and by sharing what you are going through is definitely not burdening others.
I don’t believe that there is a one size fits all approach when it comes to our struggles, but I would always start with doing something that you are comfortable with. This is one of the reasons that I published my book “Armour: The Truth Behind The E & F Word In Construction” last year. I wanted to create a resource that people can use and work on themselves when they face tough challenges in life. I understand that we don’t all want to talk about our problems in life. If by talking to people that you can trust will help you get there, then that’s great. If you don’t feel like talking to others is the way for you, then maybe reading self-help books could be an easy first step.
If you feel like you have hit rock bottom, and are really struggling, I believe the most important thing is to understand, it will always get better. It’s such a cliché, but life is definitely worth living, and only you can turn your life around. It is really important that you commit to yourself, to take one step at a time, and one day at a time. Be patient with yourself and have compassion towards yourself. Every step you take towards constructing your best life, however big or small, is a step away from your current situation.
Angela is currently offering a 60 min "Time out & re-focus" session at 60% off the normal price for anyone who may be going through a tough time and needing extra support. You can simply book in a session through the link below