After a childhood obsession with Lego, Kathryn Gardner put her childhood skills into practice and now works in the construction industry for Faithful + Gould.
Where do you call home?
Hurworth, near Darlington (although I’m originally from Manchester).
Tell us about your role?
I work in the construction industry as a regional director for Faithful + Gould, leading a team of project managers, planners and quantity surveyors.
In simple terms, I help clients get stuff built. This involves everything from managing the designers and contractors, working out how much it will cost and how long it will take – then making sure it all goes to plan…
How did you get to where you are today?
It all started with a childhood obsession with Lego.
I studied quantity surveying at university and spent the first couple of years based on construction sites all over the country. I have been a bit of a chameleon since then – I’ve been a risk manager, project manager and programme manager working for contractors, consultants and clients. I’ve been very lucky to have been involved in a real variety of projects – everything from roads and railways to schools and sports centres.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
I grew up in quite a deprived area where ‘people like me’ didn’t get good jobs or have professional careers, and I was the first in my family to go to university. Even though I secured a sponsorship I still had to work two jobs whilst studying.
I have often been the only woman on site or in meetings, and unfortunately, I have had some experiences of sexism. Thankfully, these situations are rare these days and construction is becoming much more inclusive.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
Getting chartered by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors was an amazing feeling – it’s quite a tough process but having letters after my name helped me finally recognise that I must be pretty good at what I do. It also made me realise how far I’ve come. I’ve added a few more letters since then!
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
The construction industry is a great place to work. Construction projects are very dynamic, and I love that no two will ever be the same. Even at this point in my career I’m still learning and developing and as excited by the challenges.
Don’t be afraid to try something new – a strong set of skills is readily transferrable, and I’ve been able to work in lots of different sectors. Don’t be too precious to move sideways or even backwards to move your career forwards.
Never stop learning, and you can learn a lot from others. I have been fortunate to have had lots of supportive and encouraging managers over the years.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Trust your ability and believe more in yourself. The hard work will pay off, just don’t take it all so seriously.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
Don’t try, do!
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