The residential construction industry has always played a significant role in Australia’s economy. Houses are an important asset for individuals and families –not only because they can represent a good investment and provide shelter, but because of the significant and lasting memories they contain. As places where people gather with their family and friends, it’s understandable that many put great importance on finding or creating their dream home. Consequently, when it comes to building homes – especially architecturally designed homes – great care and skill needs to be taken to ensure the spaces created are ones that clients can love and live in.
There are several steps involved when building a dream home, from the architects working alongside clients to create the initial floorplans, to the physical structure built by the tradespeople. It involves a multitude of skills from a diverse range of people, but one significant person who helps drive the projects and ensure things are running smoothly is the operations manager. Within the residential construction space, operation managers are in a unique position, as they get to interact with all departments involved in the home build process. To explain the role a little more, and provide some insight into what it’s like working within the architecturally designed and high-end homes space, we speak to Mathanki Aru. Mathanki Aru is the operations manager for Thomas Archer Homes; a Melbourne boutique home builder & design company that focuses on designing and building homes perfectly crafted to each client’s lifestyle.
For those just starting out in their construction career - or considering a change of pace, Mathanki’s answers demonstrate the exciting opportunities available within residential construction, especially in regards to boutique and custom home design. Read below:
How did you first get into the construction industry?
My dad is an architect so I grew up making scaled lego. I did architecture at university to follow in my dad’s footsteps and gradually worked towards management due to my naturally bossy (yet helpful and resourceful) demeanour. There is only so much you can do in the design management space, so I branched into construction very quickly in my career.
What’s your favourite part of working both in construction and at Thomas Archer Homes?
Every day is unique in construction. We get to take an idea and budget and transform it into a luxury dwelling. This process can take years sometimes, so you build genuine relationships with clients and get this amazing sense of joy at the end when they walk through their dream home (often in tears). With Thomas Archer, we take luxury and out-of-the-box thinking to the next level and have a lot of fun along the way. Our current motto is “work hard, play harder.”
Thomas Archer builds architecturally designed homes in Melbourne. As the Operations Manager, can you describe the key things you look after in a standard day?
Almost everything! We are a relatively small business with a relatively horizontal structure, so I still liaise with every department. This entails conversations with the director and building manager, with our building coordinators, designers, drafty’s and estimators to workflow and problem solve. I also work with our sales team, liaise with the construction team for commercial decisions for onsite client matters. I go through ETO’s, presite suppliers, update process and policies as needed, and the list goes on! I also try to make time for a cream-filled doughnut every so often too, as we have the world’s best doughnuts at a Sicilian café 5m down the road!
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
I started as a graduate architect fresh out of uni. My boss at the time helped me nurture my voice and how to back it up with direction/conviction. Within 2 years I was promoted to design manager and then general manager, all thanks to the teachings of my then boss…along with the occasional luxury car upgrade and business class flights. That truly has made me the strong, independent woman I am proud to be today.
What do you think are the key qualities that make a successful Operations Manager?
Communication, people management, understanding how your employees work, their needs, requirements, and how that fits with the requirements of the business. This may not always align, and that’s the hardest part. But when you have employees who respect you as a manager and the decisions that are being made (whether they understand them or not) is the key aim, and that comes down to aligning yourself with great recruiters (like Design and Build), who understand your business culture.
Why do you think working within the construction industry is a great career opportunity – especially for women?
Females bring a beautiful, soft, feminine energy to what we do, regardless of industry. However, this is especially important in construction where it’s saturated with males. Construction is one of those industries where you learn on the job, so your success is proportional to your eagerness to learn and grow, and the hard work you put in - but this isn’t easy, or for everyone. There are so many branches and substructures you can take your career to within construction itself. I’ve had (female) civil engineers become my PA, administrators become estimators, estimators become supervisors, drafty’s become leaders and so forth.
How do you like to support those just starting out with the organisation and the industry?
I have always loved the saying, “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for life,” after all, this is how I was taught. It is about understanding what the individual brings to the table, and what they require support on, and if that aligns with the business needs. It is also about having a great team who can make them feel welcome and supported. After all, having a large team to manage in a fast-paced industry like construction does not leave much time for 1 on 1 support all the time. So, if someone is wanting to start out in construction, make sure you have the eagerness to learn, take constructive feedback and be proactive.
Do you have any career advice for those just beginning their construction career and trying to figure out where to take it?
Be prepared. It is a fast-paced, male-dominated industry and you will need to know how to hold your own. Confidence is great, but when it is backed by critical thinking and knowledge, even better. Be prepared to meet deadlines, try to approach problem-solving through out-of-the-box thinking, take the time to understand other departments and how that intertwines with the task at hand. There is so much to do, to learn, to grow. And I love every day of it, but I also know it is not for everyone.
Are there any exciting projects both yourself and Thomas Archer Homes are working on currently, that you can share with us?
Some amazing designs are coming from our custom range, which you will start to see on our website. And we may have an upcoming display home… watch this space!
Interested in finding out about business support roles within the construction space? Click on the link below to see all the exciting opportunities our Design & Build construction consultants are currently working on.
To find out more about Thomas Archer Homes and the work they do, you can click here