Careers

This much I know: ‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the norm’

Good communication is the key to working in construction, says Jennifer Bradfield, project director at John Sisk & Son.

What made you go into construction?

I was always curious as to how things came together to create something new – whether I was building Lego, taking apart old radios and attempting to put them back together (albeit not very successfully) or watching my grandfather update the home.

By the time I was in secondary school, having watched my mum manage our home being built, I was drawn to construction, technical drawing and physics to learn more about the built environment. This led me to studying architecture, then construction and project management.

What do you remember from your first project?

For my first onsite project I was a site manager on refurbishment work in a pharmaceutical factory in Donegal Town. Coincidentally this was a factory my father had once worked in and I had visited. So it was exciting, and humbling, that the factory corridors I once walked through as an inquisitive little girl were now the corridors I walked as a young woman starting her journey in construction.

What was the best advice you were given?

Be able to talk to everyone equally and effectively. The ability to communicate is one of the most important skills you will ever learn. Having lived abroad for 10 years, working with international teams, it is vitally important to learn how to effectively communicate with everyone, which sometimes involves more listening than talking.

Is there anything in your career you would do differently now?

I would have learned to stop doubting myself and my capabilities and encouraged myself to take more risks from an early stage in my career.

What advice would you give to someone starting in construction?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and proactively challenge the norm. People will do things the way they know works, which may not always be the best way.

How would you make careers in construction more appealing?

The industry is on an upward trajectory for diversity and inclusion, but we need to be visible with it. There are endless opportunities and we need to make that visible. The immediate benefit of a more inclusive industry is that it widens the spectrum for innovative ways of thinking, working and delivering projects.

What has changed most since you’ve been working?

The industry is becoming more dependent on technology – which in many ways is beneficial, however there is a balance to be made. People are forgetting that sometimes having an onsite discussion in front of the problem is 100 times better than looking at it through a computer screen. Conversely bringing technology on site in effective ways is changing the way we work.

Do you have a motto that applies to your work and if so, what is it?

Grace Hopper once said: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” If you have an idea that will help the project or business, don’t be afraid to bring it to the table.

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