- Favourite school subjects
- First full-time job
- What sparked your interest in construction?
After my HSC, I completed a Diploma of Building Design at TAFE NSW. Following that, I went to UTS and did a four-year Bachelor of Construction Project Management.
Visual Arts, and Design and Technology.
My current job is my first full-time job. Before that, I did some building design jobs and worked in retail.
I was fascinated with design, architecture, and learning about building. Back in primary school, I did my own scribbled house designs. Then, when I was getting closer to my final years of high school, I decided construction was for me. My mother works in construction and has a similar background to mine. I’d say all these things sparked it!
"For me, it's always been about collaborating with people. Construction can be an intense industry, I try to step back, have a think, and try to treat other people how I want to be treated. Put another way: “Treat people with kindness. It makes for better collaboration." - Caroline on her work motto.
Can you tell us about your current job?
As a site engineer, I’m helping to coordinate the construction activities at the New Sydney Fish Market project. I look after the details and report to my project engineer. I’m involved in some design aspects, like planning and coordinating with the help of consultants and architects.
When the trades start, I coordinate my work areas with the site manager and supervisors. It’s a busy role – lots of planning, coordinating, liaising, monitoring, and reporting.
Step us through a typical day
I arrive at the office around 6:30am, put on my PPE (personal protective equipment), including steel-toed boots, hi-vis vest, and hard hat and headed outside for the 6:45am pre-start meeting to talk about the work scheduled for the day.
Following that I tour the site to check, track and record progress. You can think of it as a site diary of all the activities that happen throughout the project.
By around 7:30am, I’m back at my desk checking emails, responding to questions that people have for me, and getting on with the most pressing tasks that have come onto my list.
Tomorrow, we have a Jumpstart workshop at a local high school, so I juggle last-minute administration and preparation for it with my other workload. The idea behind Jumpstart is to give girls in high school a full view of the construction industry and highlight the variety of career pathways on offer.
By 9am, I’m reporting up on the latest project developments and will then work through my emails.
Around 11am, I’m back to the site for a quick check on what's happening at the box cofferdam. I take photos, make notes, and liaise with the trades. A cofferdam is a temporary structure we built to water away from the excavation site, and ours is in a box shape.
We have a noon subcontractor meeting where we cover what's happening at the site and the plan for the next few weeks. It’s all about coordinating and ensuring we’re all on the same page.
After lunch there are plenty of emails that have come in again. There’s a lot I need to do for one of our consultant surveyors who is coming to the site at around 1:40pm. So, I grab my laptop and go out to meet him.
At 3:30pm, I’m back in the office awaiting the surveyor’s results. It arrives, and I let everyone know, and on we go.
It’s about now that I start looking at anything left on my list that needs organising for the day ahead. Then there are more communications with my manager, our internal team, and the consultants on a stack of item
I try and be out the door by 5pm!
Being part of the project, working toward a finished result and knowing it will all pay off in the future.
We’ve got a good team that I like working with, and everyone understands my disability.
Seeing the design process in action.
The most challenging bit of this job has been my deafness. Being deaf makes it quite difficult for me because I don't always get what other people say and it can be hard to know what’s happening. I don't always hear everything around me, so I need to be constantly vigilant.
I’ve put a whole lot of strategies in place to help, and my company and the people I work with have been supportive.
When I first started, I had such a hard time with phone calls. Now thanks to improving technologies, I can connect directly to my phone with my hearing device and that helps make people's voices so much clearer.
When I talk with someone or ask a question, everyone I work with knows they'll most likely have to repeat themselves.
It has helped me to tell people what deafness is like and what my deafness is like for me. By doing this, I can build workplace awareness, which helps create an inclusive culture. When I’m meeting and talking with new people, say tradespeople and consultants, I word them up beforehand by saying, “Hey, I'm deaf, and just so you know, you might have to repeat yourself sometimes”.
As for the site, I check my surroundings and double-check with a co-worker that the area I’m going out on is safe before I proceed.
I have a couple of strategies for meetings that help. First, I have this other little device that substitutes for headphones. It connects to my hearing device via Bluetooth or telecoil, and the sound streams directly to my ear. When I’m on a Teams, I use the automatic captions feature at the bottom of the screen.
You need to plan, organise, persevere and be resilient. Being open-minded to new ways of doing things and willing to learn is essential. And because we’re always working with people, your need to be effective in your communications.
What are some things good construction employers do?
Good construction companies have inclusive cultures, are open to new ideas, and offer competitive benefits and flexible work options.
What’s changed, changing, or coming soon to make construction an industry of choice?
Flexible work practices are getting better in our industry. For example, way back, they used to work six days a week, now I’m working five days and one every four Saturdays.
Diversity and inclusion in the industry are improving. There are more women and people from different backgrounds joining.
For people with disability, it’s getting there. My company has tried to improve things for me, and there’s more awareness.
The construction industry is large, so there’s something for everybody. For example, if you’re into engineering, there are many different types – structural, geotechnical, electrical, mechanical – and many career pathways.
You’ll never be stuck doing one thing in our industry because we move from project to project, location to location, and work with many different people. There are so many pathways and things you can do. No way you’re ever going to get bored.
I have so many people who’ve helped me out along the way.
Here at the New Sydney Fish Market construction project, where I’ve been a site engineer for a few months since graduating, I’m finding people are happy to help. I'm grateful to them because this job is quite different as it’s not your typical land-based construction project.
What's next careerwise? And, in the longer term?
Right now, I’m focusing on performing well in my site engineer role, and eventually, I’d like to branch out into project engineering.
I also want to keep raising awareness of my deafness to encourage more people with disability to explore and join our industry.
The construction industry is quite big and broad. Try contacting the companies directly and investigate courses at TAFE and university to get ideas about where you can take your career.
Tarini works as a Senior Project Manager. She started her career in the construction industry by studying a Bachelor of Design and Master's in Architecture from the University of Technology Sydney. We asked Tarini questions about her pathway into the construction industry and experiences working on site.
Nagham works as a Project Engineer. She started her career in the construction industry by studying Civil Engineering. We asked Nagham questions about her pathway into the construction industry and experiences working on site.
Sian is studying a Bachelor of Construction Management and Property at the University of New South Wales and working as a Cadet at the North Sydney Public School redevelopment. We asked Sian questions about her pathway into construction and experiences starting out in the industry.
Industry and Employers
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