As part of the #BuildingEquality Campaign, Nellie Reid, Managing Director at Meehan Green, shares her story as a woman in construction.
Who Are Your Door Openers?
Who has opened doors in your life? They might not be obvious until much later in life. Here are some stories about my door openers.
My interest in sustainability and the built environment is deeply rooted in my childhood experiences. I grew up on the Jersey Shore (NJ USA) where tidal flooding was a monthly occurrence that came along with the full moon. We were dealing with climate change at our doorstep. I was an environmental activist by age 8, volunteering for Clean Ocean Action and “manning” the community-led newspaper recycling station in my hometown on Saturdays.
At the dinner table, my parents would discuss some of the issues they dealt with at work. My father was a commercial property manager and my mother was a lawyer who handled real estate transactions. I often wondered if there was any way that “development” did not have to equate to “destruction.” I made it my mission to find ways to build buildings in a way that was not harmful but beneficial to our society and to our natural environment.
As a teen, my father would take me to Jersey City where he was managing the construction of the tallest building in New Jersey. Seeing the construction site at that age definitely had an impact on my career path. My mother took me to Princeton University Architectural Library where I discovered some books and magazines about Green Architecture. That was it. I had discovered my calling.
My Art Teacher
I had an art teacher in high school who steered me in the right direction to get into one of the country’s best architectural programs. He shifted my focus in secondary school from a purely technical curriculum to a broader one, emphasizing the importance of having a well-rounded core before going into a very specific field of study. He was right, and I am forever grateful to him.
My Swim Coach
At the same time, I was swimming five days a week for my school’s State Champion swim team. Although I was definitely not an Olympic hopeful, my swim coach would drop me in the fast lane to push my limits and see how fast I could go. It was a smart move which I feel gave me the courage to find my way in unfamiliar waters in the construction industry. Go with the flow, keep focused on a point in front of you and don’t forget to breathe!
After graduating with my architectural degree, I fell into a job at a large, corporate architectural design practice. In my fourteen years there, I went from being an intern to Director of Sustainable Design, a position I essentially created while I was there, with the support of many (mostly male) door openers.
My timing was ideal as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system was launched in 2000, and I became the first LEED Accredited Professionals in the company in 2001. I spent over 10 years training 100s of other professional in the same career path and consulting on projects of all shapes and sizes all over the world.
Then life took a turn, I married an Irish guy and moved to Tipperary in 2011. I left the career behind and was going to focus on starting a family. What I did not realise was that my career was not ready to give up on me. My husband saw a note in a newspaper about the launch event for the Tipperary Green Business Network. I went to the event and met a whole new group of like-minded individuals. They supported me in establishing my own business.
My Clients and Google
While I was pregnant with my first child, I got a call from a contractor who was looking for a LEED consultant. He literally “Googled” LEED Consultant in Ireland and I popped up. He convinced me to give him some guidance. It turned out to be the start of a new chapter in my career…this time on my own. Now I needed to deliver and dig deep into my years of previous experience.
My Professional Network
On one of my business trips up to Dublin for an Irish Green Building Council networking event, I met Martin Meehan, who had a well-established architecture practice in Dublin and was also an advocate for green building. I would not have met him if I had not engaged with this network of green building professionals.
My Business Partner
Martin and I started pursuing work together, leveraging off of each other’s strengths. We had such success that when I discovered I was pregnant again, I said, “We need to build a team.” When I found out it was twins, I said, “We need to build a bigger team!” In 2016, we launched Meehan Green. As the Managing Director, now it was not just about me, but about building a team of EXPERTS.
I find comfort in surrounding myself with like-minded people. I am so fortunate to have landed in a position where I can build a team of the brightest, most caring people in the construction industry. My team members are from diverse backgrounds and are driven by the challenge of improving the built environment in a way that is healthier and more environmentally sensitive. They inspire me every day and continue to open doors through their own business ideas, social networks and pro-active nature.
To learn more about the #BuildingEquality campaign and to share your own story, please visit our dedicated page here