As part of the #BuildingEquality 2018 Campaign, Niamh Barry, Manager of Training & Development, Walls Construction, shares her story as a woman in construction.
My professional history has been a funny one. In a lot of ways my career found me! One of the elective subjects in secondary school was Technology. It was my favourite subject, by far. We did woodwork, metal works, plastics, circuit boards, and tech drawing. Unfortunately, at the time, it was only part of junior cert programme, and while I would have loved to, I couldn’t pursue it any further. However, it gave me a taste for what I wanted to do with my future.
I studied Architectural Technology and spent eight blissful years working as a technician but the recession had a thing or two to say about that. During this time, I started working in the contracts department of a Dublin based subcontractor.
I loved being involved in the co-ordination of installations, to see the fabrication taking place, the requirements to meet specifications, technical submittals, collateral warranties, forms of contract…. just the entire process that goes with it.
In the past I had experienced site from a design team’s side. This was a totally distinct perspective and we were only delivering one element/package of what was required to achieve a completed project. It gave me a taste for the contractor’s side and the diversity that comes with it. I wanted to know more and I decided to upskill.
I completed a Postgrad Diploma in Construction Law and Contract Administration in Trinity and moved on to an MSc in Quantity Surveying. With this under my belt, it was time for me to make the move. I interviewed with Walls Construction for what I believed was a QS role, however, midway through the interview they revealed that the interview was slightly under false pretenses! It was for a Training and Development role. I decided to risk it and I haven’t looked back since.
I love the variety that comes with all the different disciplines that are involved. My previous experience and academic background provides me with an understanding of the requirements for all the company departments. The industry constantly brings challenges and its ever-changing. No two projects are the same. I love being involved in the process of staying on top of these challenges and the future training and development of my colleagues to meet these demands. I always experience a huge sense of pride in the work we produce. Many of our projects are iconic landmark buildings, such as Trinity Bioscience, the new Central Bank of Ireland HQ, Dublin Landings, etc. Buildings that will be there a long time after I retire, and beyond.
I believe that the built environment creates the feeling, culture and heart of a place. A sense of what it is about. From sustainability, to smart technology, to conservation, to the obvious aesthetics. These factors contribute towards greater community cohesion through its impact on a neighbourhood. It’s great to be part of an industry that delivers this.
Role models are very important for any career. It is what you aspire to. I have to say my role model in the built environment would be the architect Zaha Hadid and well, as Irish as this sounds, my biggest female role model and the biggest influence is my life is my mam. She is a very pragmatic person. She always worked really hard, never complained, returned to college in her 40’s to complete a BSc in Nursing Management, and worked her way up to a Director of Nursing position, all while having a family of five! She’s a very determined person and I’ve always tried to be the same. Preconceptions never existed in my home. If you really wanted something you pursued it. It was that simple.
I feel the construction industry has so much to offer anyone who enters it. It’s challenging, diverse, and rewarding. You meet great characters along the way. I firmly believe to attract more females into the industry we need more female role models and greater collaboration between the industry, third level institutions, and professional bodies to demonstrate to children exactly what the industry can offer and it can be a place for anyone if you want it to be, male or female.
To learn more about the #BuildingEquality campaign and to share your own story, please visit our dedicated #BuildingEquality page here