The face of construction is changing. As the industry sheds its brash reputation, it attracts more professionals into long-term construction careers. To discuss this and more, we had a quick chat with Aisling Goff, Business Unity Quality Manager at Mercury Engineering.
Aisling, how did you get into the construction industry, and can you tell us a little bit more about your career journey to date?
If I’m honest, it was an accident! Originally, I was training to be a teacher when I realised it wasn’t for me. I took on an admin role in Mercury with the view it would be a short term role, while I figured out what I wanted to do and have been here ever since. I have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic people over the years who took the time and patience to teach me things and I am now the Business Unit Quality Manager for Mercury’s data centre business unit.
Early on in my time at Mercury, I decided I wanted to do a master’s degree in business which Mercury sponsored. It was a big investment to make in me, and I was fortunate and grateful to be given lots of opportunities to grow. Over the years, I have spent time working in and across different departments and quality assurance teams learning more about the business and the industry. I’ve also been lucky enough to travel with Mercury and have spent time working in Sweden, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany. I feel this has helped me to become more rounded in my role as I learnt so much about other cultures and observed other ways of working across jurisdictions.
You’ve travelled and worked in lots of different countries across Europe in your current role, what are the main differences you’ve experienced when it comes to approaching construction jobs?
There can be substantial differences to the way construction projects operate across Europe—if you drive for four and a half hours from Amsterdam to Frankfurt, the regulations can differ significantly and this affects how you execute the project from start to finish. This can be from how you deal with local authorities to subcontractor partners, or the contract structure. It’s been fascinating and rewarding to learn about these diverse ways of working.
How do you think we can attract more females into the industry and what changes have you seen over the years when it comes to women in construction?
Years ago, I could have walked into client and project meetings and been the only woman in the room but it’s great to see that this is changing and quickly. When I look around our data centre business unit in Mercury, I see many more women in a variety of roles demonstrating the industry is diversifying and attracting more female talent. Recently, I’ve been involved in reviewing applications for our graduate programme, and we’ve seen some really strong CVs from young women wanting to break into construction which I think is fantastic. There’s still a long way to go but I feel confident that in a few years the gender balance in construction will be much more equal.
Traditionally, the construction industry is perceived as being very male-dominated and perhaps a hard industry for women to work in as a result. I used to find the culture seemed very ‘blunt’ and confrontational; I do think women and men are built differently when it comes to the way they adapt to work cultures. However, I think that this too is changing. The industry is becoming a lot more professional, whereas in the past we were a bit further behind other industries.
The industry is open to many different types of people and personalities now—it’s not the traditional aggressive industry full of confrontation that many people may view it as. There are opportunities for all kinds of different roles. I believe that technology and innovation are helping to scope out new roles and opportunities. My advice to any woman thinking about pursuing a career in construction is to give it a chance. Don’t be put off by anything you may have heard previously. The classic approach to construction is gone. The industry is embracing new ideas and ways of working which will bring important benefits to all.
How has technology helped you in your role?
Technology has provided me with a greater overview on projects and a level of transparency that I didn’t previously have. From a quality perspective, being able to deal with any issues upfront when it occurs is so valuable. On our construction sites now, our field teams have tablets to take photos so we have almost instant access to relevant data. This provides us improved insight and a sense of control which means obstacles can be easily resolved.
What’s the one piece of technology that you couldn’t live without?
In my personal life, I’d say my phone – I don’t think anyone can live without their phone! From a professional point of view, BIM 360 and the data and information which all our teams input daily help me do my job more efficiently every day.