Sustainability roles in construction will help to attract more diverse talent, explains Liz Zijing Li, self-monitoring concrete inventor and chief operating officer of Mimicrete
What is a typical day in your job?
As the co-founder and COO of a construction start-up, the tasks vary every day.
I usually begin the day by checking emails and responding to any urgent messages. Then, I attend a daily stand-up meeting with the founders to discuss the status of ongoing projects, timelines, upcoming milestones and any other pressing issues.
This is followed by project stand-up meetings with the project teams to review progress, address any issues and align with team goals.
The rest of the day is packed by engagement meetings with key stakeholders, including partners, investors and suppliers.
It is always critical to allocate time each day to meet with the technical team and find ways to optimise operations and accelerate product launch.
Finally, I conclude the day by following up on critical action items and preparing for the next day’s schedule.
What specific skills, knowledge and attributes do you need for your role?
Hybrid skillsets in construction industry knowledge, project management, financial acumen, collaboration and communication, technical knowledge and problem-solving abilities are all essential to fulfil the needs of my role.
I always say to my founding team that I am the bridge between the business and technology. Seven years of technical research experience in academia and a solid understanding of business development from management consulting and entrepreneurship make me the right person to deliver the message to both sides.
In addition, a construction start-up requires agility and adaptability in order to respond to ever-changing circumstances.
My role should be able to pivot from one project to another, as needed, with minimal disruption. In addition, a results-driven mindset is essential, as I need to have a strong focus on achieving business goals.
It is always critical to allocate time each day to meet with the technical team and find ways to optimise operations and accelerate product launch
What are your work values?
Efficiency is my core my work value. In the construction industry, time is money. Valuing efficiency is critical so we can ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.
Efficiency also involves allocating resources effectively, whether that means maximising labour or minimising waste.
Additionally, construction projects can be complex, involving multiple stakeholders and intricate logistics. My role needs to be able to streamline processes and eliminate unnecessary steps, making projects more efficient and cost-effective.
Efficiency can also support risk management. By identifying potential pitfalls and developing contingency plans, this can help to minimise risks and ensure that projects are completed successfully.
Innovative and advanced materials are key to driving sustainability in construction. What is your view on how sustainability-related roles can help to attract more diverse candidates to STEM careers?
Sustainability-related roles in industries such as construction can play a significant role in attracting more diverse candidates to STEM careers.
One way to achieve this is by showcasing the positive impact of STEM careers on society and the environment.
By providing a broader perspective on what STEM jobs entail, and highlighting the societal and environmental significance, it can appeal to a more diverse range of candidates beyond the traditional STEM fields.
Additionally, mentorship and networking opportunities can help minority groups gain access to opportunities within STEM fields. By providing role models and mentorship to underrepresented groups, we can inspire more diversity in STEM fields.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) recently named you among the top 50 Women in Innovation. What’s next for your career and your business, Mimicrete?
It was a pleasure to be selected as one of the UKRI’s top 50 Women in Innovation. This achievement will hopefully attract more young females to careers in the built environment.
For Mimicrete, the next step as a construction sector start-up would be to focus on product validation and growth. My role is tied to helping the company grow.
This could involve targeting new customer segments, developing new products or services, or investing in more research and development to improve operational efficiency.