CIOB member Lesleyanne Forman, a pre-construction manager at Ashe Construction, explains why it is important to bring professionalism and personality to your work
Why did you choose a career in construction?
I have always had an appreciation for buildings. When I was at school, I did my work experience with an architect. I was awarded a five-year apprenticeship opportunity and went down the contractor route as this gave me an appreciation of all the contributing roles in a project.
I was named Trainee of the Year and achieved a first class CIOB Honours in my Construction Management degree.
I actively encourage people to consider the industry. It’s such a rewarding and diverse career. It has supported me through the ups and downs of life and I always finish every day feeling like I have learnt something new.
What is a typical day in your job?
I’ll prioritise my tasks, identify tenders to be submitted and look at the quotations that have come in from our supply chain before attending meetings and interviews.
In simple terms, I make sure our projects do what the client wants them to do and ensure they are compliant.
A woman who smiles and generates warmth can still be professional. I have always tried to encourage my mentees to use their natural personality to bring something different to the team
I’ll coordinate consultants and key subcontractors and check that our bid takes into account the embodied carbon of the solutions we plan to use.
I’m really interested in the sustainability aspects of construction and how we can add social value.
I’ll resolve any queries that arise and identify the impacts our scheme will have following delivery and operational use of the project.
Relationships are really important in my job, so I dedicate much of my time to working closely with clients to understand their needs and gain their trust.
Thankfully I work for a progressive company that offered me flexible working before it became the norm. I’ve been supported through progression in the business and I’m able to be there for my children while having a rewarding career.
How do you keep your knowledge up to date?
I attend as many CPDs and webinars as I can on the key topics in construction. I hear about these through social media and my CIOB membership.
I also participate and lead in framework and industry sustainability and innovation forums, where I hear about industry developments to ensure we offer our clients the latest innovative solutions.
I have always felt appreciated for my hard work and the effort I bring to a team. Even when I am wrong, I approach this with a sense of learning.
Mistakes are never a failure but an opportunity to learn something new and remember for the future.
What piece of advice would you give to other women thinking of joining the industry?
Years ago, a female mentor said something to me that I will never forget: “Don’t smile so much Lesley, it’s not professional to be so happy.”
I never understood this and it has stayed with me ever since, because it’s the thing I’ve received most compliments for in my career. A woman who smiles and generates warmth can still be professional. I have always tried to encourage my mentees to use their natural personality to bring something different to the team.
How do you approach being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Sometimes I walk into a meeting and I know I will need to win the room round, but I smile a big smile and get right down to the agenda.
Whether they’re the apprentice, subcontractor or the most senior director, colleagues should always leave feeling fully informed and listened to. Male or female, we all deserve to be heard.
I can see the balance gradually shifting, and in some recent meetings I’ve noted that nearly half of the room has been female. I can’t wait for the next chapter.