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Natalie Gale-Sides on working for an SME, and busting myths about construction (Q&A, part 2)

18th August 2021 |

Natalie Gale-Sides has spent the past nine months settling into her role as Pre-Construction Manager at John Perkins Construction. She reflects on the highlights, the setbacks, and why she’s passionate about getting young people into the construction industry. (Here’s part 1 of the Q&A, in case you missed it.)

How is working for an SME different to your previous roles in big organisations?

Previously, when I worked on bids, it involved a lot of coordination and delegation. At JPC, the pre-construction team is me and Ian (with input from the directors, of course). I’ll develop strategies for the bid. I’ll write the programme. I’ll go to the site visit. It’s much more hands on, and it involves a lot more variety, which is what I love.

Working for an SME also has much more of a team feeling. It’s refreshing. Within a small company, everyone knows what everyone else is doing. It makes you more willing to invest your time effectively, because it affects you all, the whole team. And, when there’s a problem, when you push back, the directors listen.

Biggest lesson learned:

There’s lots of time management involved as a Pre-Construction Manager. I’ve learned that I need to block out time in my diary for certain tasks, because if I don’t, those time periods will end up filled with meetings.

Standout project:

So far, Lower Knowle Farm. It is a project involving the construction of 7 dwellings in Knowle, Bristol, for Co-Housing Bristol.

I was able to get involved early, working closely with the client team and S2 Architects, to develop the project through the Pre-Construction stage, making sure JPC were able to meet the client’s needs. I’m thrilled to see the project on site. I think the time spent at the front end will really pay off with a great construction phase.

What about the construction industry are you most passionate about?

I’m passionate about bringing young people up through the industry. People’s perceptions of construction are that it’s just a hard hat and a high-vis jacket, but there’s so much more to it.

I’ve volunteered with the Women in Property South West at their Roadshow events for several years, and have been involved in a number of school based STEM events with CITB, and I love getting out there and educating young people about the opportunities that exist in construction.

There is still a stigma about women in the industry. I don’t have all the answers, but I will do my best to fully support and encourage and celebrate women in the industry, because that’s what’s needed.

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