I didn’t decide to enter the construction industry until my mid-twenties. I was working as a telecom engineer, with two young children and really wanted a career change. It was during that time that I had recently completed a refurbishment of my house and enjoyed it so much I thought a career in construction would be enjoyable.
Within a week of enrolling, I started studying the Construction Engineering and Management Course at the University of Ulster and graduated in 2006. In 2010 I was in London on holiday when I passed a McAleer and Rushe building site and was amazed. Here was a small company, based just down the road from me, who were building in the heart of Leicester Square and I knew I wanted to be part of that. I joined their team and, in 2015, I was asked to project manage the construction of £22m City Centre Office development for Belfast City Council. It was my first experience as a project manager and opened my eyes to the fascinating and complex industry I work for. In fact, it was my work on this scheme that led me to being nominated for the Construction Manager of the Year Awards in 2017 which, to my delight, saw me named the first female overall winner of the award!
As a project manager you have ultimate control of every aspect of the project from design and cost, to programme and health and safety. It is hugely challenging role which rewards you with an equal amount of job satisfaction. What I love the most about my role is the variety, no two days are the same and every day brings fresh challenges that require innovative thinking and problem solving. What I also love is the great team that I have. When I joined the industry, there were very few, if any, women sat beside me in meetings and at events. Now, there is a whole host of women in different roles across the industry. We have women in office and site based roles, working as surveyors to site managers to estimators and engineer and, like me, they all love construction.
From L-R: Freda McCluskey (Senior Quantity Surveyor), Julie McGuigan (H&S Manager), Jacinta Gillespie (Design Manager), Emma Gormley (BIM Manager), Aisling Barr (Planner), Margaret Conway (Project Manager), Aoife McCarron (H&S Officer), Eimear Doyle (Senior Site Engineer), Suzanne McCabe (Setting Out Engineer), Charlene Millen (Quality & Environment Manager), Caroline Hughes (M&E Coordinator), Julie Smyth (Estimator) and Julie Sweeney (Bid Manager), all from McAleer & Rushe.
Jacinta Gillespie – Design Manager
Having completed a degree in Interior Design I went to work for a construction company in Sydney as an interior designer but I wanted to get more involved in projects from start to finish. I returned home to N. Ireland and progressed into Design Management. As a Design Manager, I ensure our design information is compliant, coordinated and in line with employer requirements. In my role I feel central to the project and I love working with a great variety of people in the office and on site to create something that will benefit the community. The role is challenging, and every day is different.
Emma Gormley – BIM Manager
I graduated from Queen’s University, Belfast with a BSc (Hons) in Architecture in 2009. I went on to work with pre-construction teams for several Building Contractors and during this time, became increasingly aware of the need for more collaborative digital workflows. I joined McAleer & Rushe in 2016 as BIM Manager and my role is ever evolving and includes keeping up to date with emerging technologies and processes in the industry. In construction there are lots of opportunities for innovative ideas to improve outdated processes and help us work smarter, not harder, as technology develops.
Aisling Barr - Planner
I took part in the Get Set into Engineering programme which gave me a great insight into civil engineering with some hands on experience. I went on to study civil engineering and did a placement on a windfarm as a site engineer, before moving into a new role as a construction planner. This new job involves forward thinking and researching information in order to sequence all the jobs involved in the completion of a project. We then monitor the progress on the job to ensure it is running as planned. We also try to improve the efficiency of a project to ensure it finishes ahead of the allowed timescale.
Aoife McCarron – H&S Officer
I have a background in Environmental Health and worked as an EHO in Australia. I had an interest in Health and Safety and believed it would be a good alternative to Environmental Health as it is also a compliance-based job. I applied for an administration role with McAleer & Rushe, seeing it as a stepping stone to a role in Health and Safety in Construction. I was fortunate enough that management recognised my qualifications and previous experience as something that could be transferrable to the role and I was given an immediate opportunity to become a H&S Officer on one of our sites in Belfast.
Eimear Doyle – Senior Site Engineer
I studied Maths at both GCSE and A Level and really enjoyed the subject. I wanted to do a degree that would allow me to use maths in a functional way, and enable me to have a viable career path at the end of my degree. I attended the University of Ulster, Jordanstown where I graduated with a BEng Hons in Civil Engineering. My job entails everything from overseeing and setting out of the main structure and utility services to dealing with sub-contractors on site and co-ordinating site activities. Whilst the job has a mathematical and pragmatic element, the many challenges encountered on a construction site allow me to use my creative side. It's a truly rewarding career where hard work pays off.
Charlene Millen – Quality and Environment Manager
I graduated with a degree in Communications, Advertising & Marketing. After working in marketing for a couple of years I decided to change career paths and completed a diploma in Environmental Management and a Masters in Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility. I realised I could combine my passion for Environmental & Sustainability issues with my marketing skills! My job involves ensuring the company complies with Environmental legislation and that are sites are achieving their Environmental targets. I also ensure that all projects are working to our quality procedures. I love how broad and varied the role is, I am never bored and there are constantly updates with changes in legislation or company standards, so it is always challenging.
Caroline Hughes – M&E Coordinator
At school I excelled in subjects where there was a practical side more so than theory-based topics, I found that I lacked interest in subjects which I would not put into practise in the outside world. I went to Newry Southern Regional College to study construction and then studied Renewable Energy and Building Services Engineering; which led to me my current position within McAleer & Rushe. Working as a services coordinator gives me the chance to take a project from design stage right through to the handover to the client, allowing me to be involved from the first day to the last working both in the office and out on site.
Julie Smyth – Estimator
I enjoyed STEM subjects best at school and, with A-levels in Technology & Design, ICT and Geography, I completed the Construction Engineering and Management Degree at Ulster University. I graduated in 2016 and started working as an Estimator for McAleer and Rushe. I am office-based but have the opportunity to visit sites to understand the full construction process. The estimating role works well for me as I like having deadlines to structure my workload around and, with the short tender period, it means I see a wide range of different projects in a short space of time.
Julie Sweeney – Bid Manager
I started my career in Marketing after completing a BSc Degree in Business and Marketing but I had always had an interest in the construction industry, strongly influenced by my family’s construction business. With the background in Marketing and experience gained within the construction industry I was attracted to the role of Bid Writing. My job involves preparing technical bid proposals for large scale projects within the hotel, residential, student accommodation and office sectors and every project is different with its own intricacies, so there’s ample opportunity for continuous learning and sharing knowledge within the bid team.