Don’t be afraid to get stuck in and be confident in your abilities. Don’t give up when people challenge you.
Growing up, I simply wanted to be a civil engineer. As one may say, passion breeds when we are young and for me what first ignited my interest in construction would be the “wobbly bridge”. Questions I asked myself was so why did the London Millennium Bridge sway, was the tendency of pedestrians to synchronise their leg movement taken into consideration by engineers?
What lured me to this profession is the perception of improving the lives of people through the built environment. By continuously developing and upgrading the facilities and services of the public, it not only gives the engineer a sense of responsibility towards humanity but brings forth a sense of satisfaction that the work carried out by civil engineers contributes significantly to the well being of the society.
To me, being a woman of colour and working in the construction industry can be difficult at times. I do believe women have to be thick skinned to stand up and be counted for. The more people told me of the concerns they had with gender balance, the more it made me want to do it to prove that it is possible!
There is still much work to be done to fully include women in construction. Companies need to acknowledge and remove gender bias from their work culture, develop mentor ship programs specific to the needs of women and encourage more women to become role models to other women. Schools and educational programs need to highlight the value of construction jobs for women and young girls to ensure they can see the industry as a viable career path. With more and more inspirational strong women chipping away at gendered norms and leveling the playing field, the industry is taking bigger steps at becoming a more diverse and inclusive space for future generations.
What did you study at school/university?
I studied Civil Engineering with a placement year at Loughborough University.
What certifications are associated with your career if any?
I have DIS certification of working a year in the industry while undertaking my civil engineering degree at Loughborough university. I currently work as a graduate civil engineer with Graham Construction on the Crossrail project in London. I have done numerous training courses ranging from the Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme to Managing Suicidal Contact course by the Samaritans.
What advice do you have for someone looking to pursue this career path?
If you are pursuing a career in consultancy, you will be more involved in the design stage of a project and collaborating with architects and other professionals. Whereas having a career in contracting like myself, you would be making the drawings done by designers into reality. Civil engineers are the central figures in the community development and without their unique talents, communities would not grow and prosper. My advice to my new engineers in the making, civil engineering is an exciting and innovative industry to work in and you are constantly exposed to many scenarios which make you stronger as an individual and the learning never stops.
Black lives matter? What 10 years ago would have been a simple statement, today some say is a controversial topic or that it is too political - identity politics the left uses to divide us. Surely, it’s just about equality and anti-racism, how is politics involved in any perspective? If it was about equality it wouldn’t be called black lives matter, it would be all lives matter proving they are just a bunch of white haters. The riots and looting show they just want revenge and not equality, Martin Luther King never would have wanted this. Where are the riots and lootings for black on black crime? I found myself getting extremely frustrated at the myriad of comments, soon realising that many simply don’t understand what this movement is or are ignorant about it intentionally or unintentionally. Misunderstanding why so many of us can’t support all lives matter or blue lives matter.
The reason it’s called Black lives matter and not All lives matter is because you have to name your movement in a way that pinpoints what the problem is. The same way it’s called feminism, even though it’s about equality of the sexes, sexism historically and typically affects females. Feminism still addresses the injustices of family law, men receiving longer sentences and 60% of homeless people being men, even though it is called feminism.
Black lives matter is about challenging and fighting police brutality which historically and still is affecting primarily black people. It is not about white people killing black people. This is not a race war and especially is not white against black. Now more than ever it is everyone against racism. The police officer could have been any race, the problem wasn’t that he was Caucasian, the problem was that it was a police officer using excessive force and murdering yet another black life unnecessarily. A common argument is “well black people commit more crime”. The punishment for any crime has now become death? If so, we can then get rid of the court system, the justice system and prisons. Enlighten me, was that nurse sleeping in her home committing a crime: BREONNA TAYLOR 2020, the retired veteran whose LifeAid medical alert necklace was triggered; KENNETH CHAMBERLAIN SR, 2011 selling cigarettes: ERIC GARNER 2016, falling asleep in your car and being shot 55 times: WILLIE McCOY 2019, for babysitting your nephew in your own home: ATATIANA JEFFERSON 2019, having a non-functioning brake light: WALTER SCOTT 2015, for having a broken tail light to then be murdered in front of your 6-year-old daughter: PHILANDO CASTILE 2016 , that 12-year-old boy who was playing with a toy gun TAMIR RICE 2014, going to the store: MICHAEL BROWN 2014, shopping; JOHN CRAWFORD 2014, traffic ticket; SANDRA BLAND 2015, driving: TERENCE CRUTCHER 2016, going to his bachelor party; SEAN BELL 2006. These are just a handful of names from the black community who lost their lives to the people who are supposed to be protecting them.
I saw a statistic being shared online that in the United States 370 white people were killed by police during 2019 and 235 black people were killed hence white people are more likely to be killed by police. Well luckily after my two years of GCSE maths I can tell you that statement happens to be incorrect. Assuming there is truth in that statistic, 76.5% of American citizens are white, 13.4% are black. As America has a population of 328.2 million the ratios then stand at 1:678,576 for white people and 1:187,144 for black people. It doesn’t deny the fact that white people are unjustly killed by police, let’s not forget the tragedies of; Justine Damond, Kelly Thomas and Daniel Leetin Shaver. Therefore, the next time you find yourself saying “well white people are killed too”, ask yourself why you aren’t joining the movement in order to do something about it.
The biggest issue with “all lives matter” is not only was it non-existent until after black lives matter but that you don’t have the mindset of caring equally about everything always, for everyday circumstances. If your friend cuts their finger do you ensure to get a bandage for everyone else in the room because all fingers matter? When someone spreads awareness for breast cancer do you criticise them and tell them that all cancer’s matter? If someone gives a eulogy about how kind and special that person was you don’t take the microphone and say that everyone is kind and special. When Notre Dame burnt down, we donated money to Notre Dame and not other buildings. Why? Notre Dame was the one that needed our attention at that moment in time.By focusing on the one that is clearly in trouble and in need that does not imply nor indicate that the others are in any way inferior or lesser, it simply shows we care about it just as much as the others. That is why we don’t say all lives matter.
When the riots first started taking place, I found myself getting frustrated that violence was now being used, possessing the mindset of “violence doesn’t fix anything” and that any respect for the movement will soon be lost. Then I started to analyse and reflect as to why people felt the need to use violence. BLM has been an organisation since 2013, having multiple peaceful protests to try and fix injustice but nothing was being done. The riots seem to be sporadic if anything and not consistent, they were fuelled by years of anger and frustration. When quarterback Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested (his first amendment right as per the constitution) by kneeling during the national anthem, an idea from a veteran, he received so much hate and backlash. Both peaceful and violent protests seem to create an issue.
We cannot pretend that historically violence has not fixed a substantial amount of problems; the slaves did not sit around singing kumbaya or wade in the water to the point where plantation owners felt guilty enough to let them go. Churchill most certainly did not politely ask and protest for Hitler and the Nazis to leave them alone during the blitz. The suffragettes caused damages to property estimated to be worth between 1 and 2 billion pounds for them to be taken seriously and achieve their goal.If a couple of riots make all BLM supporters ‘Thugs and radicals' the suffragettes must have been terrorists. To quote Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s famous words “A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”
Even though this revolution may have proved that there is more ignorance in this world than perceived, it also brought a multitude of different people together; countless celebrities, over 20 countries, the Amish, the LGBTQ+ community, kpop fans, witches, feminists, monks, many distinguished brands the list really does go on. One of the biggest gains to the movement was the Korean pop band BTS who donated 1 million dollars to the cause which in turn led to their fans donating another 1 million dollars. Not only that but kpop fans have been flooding the white lives matter and white out Wednesday hashtags with fan edits to drown out any racist tweets.
My personal favourite part of this revolution is that generation z is leading it, teenagers are at the fore-front of this. The ones who were told they were too tech-dependent, lazy and unable to focus are now at the front lines of protest, picking up tear gas cans with their bare hands, hijacking tanks from the national guard , toppling statues of slave owners and tackling police officers in full riot gear. They used their ‘tech-dependent’ ways to make #allbirthdaysmatter and the first-ever #obamaappreciationday trending on twitter on Donald Trump's birthday. Dallas police introduced an app for anyone to send videos of protesters in hope of making arrests. This resulted in kpop fans flooding the app with fan edits to such an extent that the app crashed and was unable to function. Kpop fans and gen z managed to fool POTUS by reserving all the free seats at his Tulsa rally with no intention of attending. 5 days before the rally Trump tweets “Almost One Million people request tickets for the Saturday Night Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma!”. In the end it’s reported that 6,200 people (0.62% of the requested tickets) were at the arena that can hold up to 19,000. We can’t be surprised at some of the madness taking place; we were the generation that ate laundry detergent pods for fun, flooded a serial killer's Instagram with fairy comments, randomly decided to storm Area 51 out of pure curiosity whilst justifying this madness with statements such as “we can all run faster than their bullets, they can’t kill us all”. As crazy as this generation may seem, I do wholeheartedly believe we will bring about the change needed in this world.
The main message this revolution has brought to everyone is that we’ve gone past the stage of it being adequate to claim, “I don’t see race” or “I’m not a racist my neighbour is black”. It is 2020 and we now need to be anti-racists and educate ourselves on race rather than simply being too uncomfortable to discuss it. The reason for it being an uncomfortable subject is because throughout our school lives we are told that ‘racism is bad’ and ‘you shouldn’t see race’ but that is about it. We are never really taught about what racism is or how it works. The history curriculum of British schools doesn’t teach about the colonial and segregated past of the country because we want to believe ‘the UK isn’t racist’ even though I’m still having to tell 16 year old boys not to use the n-word. The school curriculum in Britain is currently: 1066, some kings and queens, ensure to skip over all the racist bad parts and two big bad wars that we won. Not discussing race is installed in us which is why some of us may be racists without realising or even intending to be whilst still having the ‘I don’t see colour’ mentality. We simply need to start teaching these things from a young age. It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men, therefore it needs to be taught: Black lives matter.
Author: Lakisha K. Charema
This blog was submitted to us via VolkersWesselsUK
I always knew construction was a male dominated industry however that reality did not settle in until I went to uni.
Meet Gift Angela Hamisi, a Project Manager at Arcadis. We recently spoke to her regarding our women in construction month campaign and she shared her story with us;
"I grew up in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, a city where life practically comes to a standstill during the rain season due to its non-existent drainage system. Every rain season I saw the same images resurfacing the news; flooded roads, stranded commuters and people losing their homes especially those living in flood zones like Jangwani.
Being the country’s commercial capital, I didn’t understand how it was possible to have such a poor drainage system, that inspired me to pursue a career in construction, hoping one day I can help to fix the problem.
I started off my career as a Site Manager and later transitioned into Project Management.
I always knew construction was a male dominated industry however that reality did not settle in until I went to uni and every so often I found myself being the only woman in the room, but not just any room, it was a room with guys who were far more experienced than I was, as majority had worked or were already working in the industry and there was me, with little practical knowledge but broad textbook knowledge.
At the start of the course, I found that daunting – I did not want to come across as the only woman in the room who knew nothing, so I barely spoke up in discussions and at one point I wanted to drop out of my course. However, with time I learnt that no one knows everything and instead of being scared, I used that as an opportunity to learn from my peers and to be confident in my abilities, after all I didn’t end up there by chance.
My uni experience helped me to build a thick skin from an early stage and gave me the backbone I needed when I joined the industry. I have been fortunate in my experiences to date from working on some mega-projects to building good relationships with both clients and colleagues. However, that’s not to say I have not dealt with the microaggressions that come with being a young and black woman in a male dominated industry and still find myself in scenarios where I’m the only woman in the room and surrounded with men either equally or far more experienced than me, however this time the experience is different. I am not afraid to show up and exercise confidence, speak up and not feel intimidated.
I’m still in the early stages of my career however, I have so far learnt, it’s about being confident enough to use your skill sets and knowledge to make the right project decisions but also to not be shy to ask questions or help, be headstrong but also thoughtful of people and their views and working with people from different backgrounds also brings new perspectives in a project. If all team members feel their opinions are valuable, they will speak up and contribute, which fosters healthy discussions and effective problem solving, thus leading to a successful project.
On what she studied at school/university
I studied Advanced Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment for my A-levels, followed with a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management at Leeds Beckett University. I am currently completing my Master’s degree in Construction Project Management at Nottingham Trent University.
Professionally, there are various professional certifications associated with project management such as the Project Management Qualification (PMQ) from the APM, chartership from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
On advise to younger women
My advice to young women thinking of pursuing a career in construction is GO FOR IT! There’s a role for everyone and majority of the roles are not about being a man or a woman, it’s about your personality, grit and perseverance. But also, when you get your foot in the door, learn beyond your role to broaden your knowledge on other areas within the industry.
Additionally, have a goal(s) for what you want to achieve and have structured plan in place to help you achieve that goal. There will be roadblocks on the way but if you have a goal and a plan in place, you will thrive!
Don’t downplay the importance of experience, a wise man once told me “get the experience, the money will come”, networking and mentoring. In my opining, you need the three to build a successful career.
Lastly, I hope sooner than later, women in construction or the question on how to deal with working in a male industry will no longer need to be asked - and the only concern for women interested in construction will be things such as wondering what career path to take, how to thrive in their chosen field or what countries are best to work in."
We are proud to announce that we have recently partnered up with HS2 to promote careers in the construction industry! HS2 is a state-of-the-art, high-speed line critical for the UK’s low carbon transport future. It will provide much-needed rail capacity across the country, and is integral to rail projects in the North and Midlands – helping rebalance the UK economy.
We will be sharing careers with HS2 under the hashtag #HS2andYou, and we are kicking off this segment with Rubi Sarang, a Commercial Operations Project Manager. Here is her story;
I studied Civil Engineering at University, and I’ll be honest – I didn’t love it, but during my course I became interested in project management. I went on to do a Masters in Engineering Project Management, and I knew I had found exactly what I wanted to do.
I joined HS2 in 2017 as a Graduate Project Manager, I briefly worked in the Delivery Directorate, before moving into the Infrastructure Directorate. It was here where I joined the Commercial Operations team, working on developing the Operational Cost Baseline and the model we now use to estimate the operational cost of the railway.
I have recently been promoted to Commercial Operations Project Manager, myself and my team focus on the end state structure of the railway, and what businesses will be required to ensure we deliver the benefits of HS2.
HS2 has already given me opportunities, experiences and challenges that I will never forget.
During my time at HS2, I have become a Mental Health First Aider, a STEM Ambassador and a Values Champion. This has allowed me to become more involved in developing the culture within HS2.
My role as a STEM Ambassador has given me opportunities to mentor students who are interested in a career in STEM, attend and facilitate national events across the country, and take part in speaking events to encourage more women and people from BAME backgrounds to join the industry. I have genuinely felt like I have had a positive impact on the students and young people that I have engaged with.
One of the highlights of my time at HS2 so far has been delivering the values moment in front of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). I spoke about my own career aspirations and how I believe that the SLT should use their position as leaders within the company and the industry to ensure that those from less represented backgrounds are given a wealth of opportunities within HS2 itself and in the construction and railway sectors.
HS2 has already given me opportunities, experiences and challenges that I will never forget. I hope to build upon these throughout my career, and look forward to the project building momentum. I hope to be able to see the first train leave a brand new HS2 station, and I will be proud to say that I have been a part of it!
Click HERE to register for HS2’s Talent Pool or visit hs2.org.uk/hs2-and-you.
I started my company as soon as I completed university studies and I have never looked back
Meet Simone de Gale, the proud owner of Simone de Gale Architects! She is running in this year’s RIBA elections to be a National Council Member. She has been in this role for the last three years, helping to transform the RIBA and build a better RIBA for its members. Simone notes “I would really like to ask your members who are RIBA registered to read my Election Statement and if it fits their aspirations for the RIBA, then please vote for me when the ballot opens on 14th July 2020!”
I hope you are well and Staying Alert.
Over the last three years, I have been RIBA National Council Member. This was my first time with remit of Trustee, and in this period of time, I have accomplished considerable achievement for RIBA.
In 2017, I was selected to join the Finance and Operations committee. Within this role, I monitored RIBA budgets and business plan goals. I reported to John Assael (Honorary Treasurer) who commended my work. In 2018, I participated as a group of six FOC members to complete the largest financial negotiation RIBA has ever upheld within its 186 years. Project Williams. We negotiated 100% sale of RIBA Enterprises, which delivered a cash injection of £59million into RIBA, as well as 42.5% share and £30million loan notes in a newly formed associated company. This enriched RIBA’s financial position to invest in better services, and benefits for members, as well as retain sustainability of RIBA as a charitable organization. We worked very hard negotiating best terms for the RIBA.
In late 2018, I was selected to become Chairwoman of RIBA Audit and Oversight Committee. I still hold this rank today. Within my remit, I work closely with my committee members, who consist of a finance expert and established architects, to shape the future of RIBA, by scrutinising expenditure, investment programmes, staff retention and member services. My committee members state they are content with my Chairmanship.
As a caring, innovative black female, I have pushed the boundaries of expectation through my hard work, successes, and influence and I would like to continue my tenure for the next three years, to fully implement the aspirations I hold for our RIBA. To position the RIBA as a viable charity, to serve its members.
Please vote for me.
About Simone De Gale
Simone started her own company as soon as she completed university studies and has never looked back! Now her architect practice is an award-winning practice and have projects in London and internationally ranging from one-off homes and office to full masterplans! She studied Art and Mathematics at A level. At university she took to the path to become a qualified Architect and notes the following qualifications are required to be a fully qualified Architect; Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, Professional Diploma in Architecture, Full Qualification Architecture
On why she chose her career path as an architect
"I had always decided when I was very young that I was going to be an Architect. My Grandfather was an Architect in Jamaica, and my Dad and uncles worked in construction in London. I was always around amazing properties and carpentry as a child."
On advice, she would give to someone pursuing this career.
"I would say definitely be good at Art and Mathematics and work hard!"
Want to follow Simone on her journey, find her via the below platforms and make sure you VOTE when the ballot opens. LINK FOR VOTING HAS BEEN PROVIDED BELOW!
"Growing up, I simply wanted to be an architect"
We sat down with Aisha Janki, an MA in Architecture student at University of Edinburgh. She echoed that, being a Muslim and woman of colour in the construction industry is having a unique perspective fuelled by the untraditional experiences you have had to go through as a result of the complex identities you did not choose in the first place. She found herself the only Black Muslim woman in her current classes, on the entire course, in most rooms, at the firms, and in the house.
She grew up in North-Western Nigeria; hence her identity was not an anomaly. There were many Muslims and black people around her every day and was part of the majority. Nevertheless, she did experience being the only one in the room by being the only female in her Technical Drawing classes. She notes that she did get privileges still as a result of this. "When the boys would not turn up, I would receive one on one sessions with my highly skilled teacher." Within those three years of senior high school, she was able to soak in a lot of information in her chosen subject; architecture.
"I realised I was no longer simply Aisha, the architect, I was now Aisha, the Black Muslim female architect"
Being the only female in my class prepared her when she moved to Edinburgh. "When I moved to Edinburgh to start my undergraduate education, I realised I was no longer simply Aisha, the architect, I was now Aisha, the Black Muslim female architect." There were no black tutors, no Muslim tutors, and this created a barrier in her architectural influences not being easily understood without her going the extra mile in explaining.
She notes that despite these difference, she has benefited from the challenges this brought about. She now has a very diverse group of friends who have shared values and principles. She has worked with people who she struggled to understand at first but has now fostered good relationships. These difference have made her an emotionally adept person who can adjust her learning styles and better understand people from different walks of life.
She is an alumni of African Science Academy where she completed her A Levels in 12 months! A statement to her genius and intelligence. She is passionate about encouraging the younger generation, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds like herself, to pursue their dreams. It is why she signed up to be a student ambassador for the organisation "Access to Creative Education Scotland". She has recently started a YouTube channel called Aisha Janki where she posts content that seeks to inspire, motivate and educate.
On why she chose her career path as an architect
"I was already an artist at the age of 8. I drew at the sight of any picture; portraits, buildings, houses, etc. I became interested in architecture at the age of 12. I had a Basic Technology teacher, Uncle Anthony, who happened to be an architect, and I got fascinated by the way he drew and sketched. He always admonished my drawings, especially the isometric and orthographic projections. I was among a group of students who designed a 3D model of our school building. I became amazed at the exciting things you could do with creativity. I also discovered that Architecture was the best course a young girl with a passion for drawing, designing and creativity could offer. I enjoyed the singular fact that you could do amazing things by just being creative."
On advice, she would give to someone pursuing this career.
"I would say they should go for it. Architecture is everywhere, and it is one of those roles that will forever be needed in society so long as humans need shelter. It's never too late to start learning about what it means to be an architect. Never stop asking questions. Lastly, but most importantly, do not give up on your dreams because they are valid too."
Want to follow Aisha on her journey, find her via the below platforms.
YouTube: Aisha Janki
LinkedIn: Aisha Janki Akinola