As part of Design & Build's international women’s day campaign, we wanted to highlight some of the amazing women working within the built environment space. Today we speak to Carolyn Cox, a project manager wunderkind who has already managed a $24million aged care facility in South Brisbane and is now in charge of building a $50 million retirement village with up to 200 workers a day. And she's only 26! While traditionally construction has always been perceived as a ‘masculine’ industry, Carolyn demonstrates that there are lots of exciting things about the job that can appeal to both men and women. Read her thoughts and experiences in working within project management below:
You studied construction management at university. How did you become aware of project management as a career possibility and what made you study construction?
I was very fortunate in that I stumbled upon construction as I walked past a site in the Brisbane CBD and was instantly drawn to the process and the environment construction entails. At the time I was in Year 12 on a scholarship to start University early and had chosen to study accounting. In hindsight, I hadn’t done enough research on all my career options and accounting felt safe. but wasn’t for me. After an accounting exam, I started researching into construction straight away and was lucky enough to have been able to start my construction degree in my first year out of high school.
How did you land your first job opportunity or work experience within construction?
I did the “old school” physical resume drop off to a company that hired me not too long after that initial interaction. My advice to anyone looking for a cadetship or starting in construction is to be persistent and patient in getting a start. Don’t 'scattergun' approach across a wide variety of companies. Read about the company, understand them, visit buildings they have built and only jump on board if you feel this aligns with you. Construction is far too demanding to also have any form of discontentedness within yourself as you perform your role.
What do you like most about working as a project manager?
I am a Site Based Project Manager who loves detail and being able to deliver successful outcomes for Woollam, our clients and our end users. I thrive off the pursuit of perfection and get completely invested in the project. Yes, I am a Project Manager, but as all PM’s know, we wear a lot of different hats. The teams we create onsite with Contract Partners, our clients and Woollam are also very rewarding. I want people to enjoy and be fulfilled by their life, and not just the life they live when they walk out of the gate and go home. We spend so many hours together every day that to not work together in an aligned vision is just wasting time and effort. Being able to create these teams, provide an open environment and foster togetherness is very rewarding.
Construction is one of the most male-dominated industries in Australia and in 2019 the proportion of women working within the sector had fallen by 20%, why do you think this is?
I don’t have a good answer as to why this is however I do encourage everyone (men and women) that whatever you choose to do in your career, you need to love it. Find a company that fulfils that sense of belonging in you, put down your roots and grow.
Why do you think working in construction and project management specifically is a great career option for women?
Construction and Project Management is a great career option for women in the same way that it is a great career option for men. We need to throw this idea of men or women being better at specific roles out the window – it is all dependent upon the individual. I encourage everyone, of all genders to give construction a go.
What do you think organisations can do to raise awareness of career opportunities within construction to young women studying or finishing school?
Woollam proactively engages with the communities in which we build. This extends to school buildings and the inherent engagement of high school students onto construction sites. With the technological capabilities we have now, I do believe we have the opportunity to engage with High School students through Virtual Reality. It’s not always safe to be taking students through scaffold, in hoists and through live construction sites, but with VR they can actually be amongst it in a safe environment.
What do you think makes an inclusive and welcoming workplace culture (for both men and women)?
Culture is a two-way street that doesn’t discriminate between men or women. It’s not given by a company’s management – it is created by management and the people in the company. Good culture comes from an alignment of good values, understanding and empathy, faith in your ability and steadfast direction. Everyone in the company needs to contribute to foster good culture.
What has been your proudest achievement within your career to date?
My proudest achievement to date has been the development of Cadets and construction professionals who have been less exposed to the industry than me. Watching someone develop into a competent, capable strong individual and team player has been by far, the most fulfilling achievement that I am proudest of.
Looking to the future, what are your key goals?
I have always been focused on the task at hand as opposed to the next best thing. I honestly don’t know what is next for me – I just want to complete the project I am working on, perfectly. When you feel a sense of belonging at a company, like I do with Woollam, it’s not about the money nor the title. I am not saying don’t have goals. I am saying that you are only as good as your last project, focus on getting it right.
To find out more about project management and the exciting job opportunities within the construction industry, you can contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org