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Women in Construction – Sam Wright, Technical Manager at AJC Group.
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Sam Wright, Technical Manager at AJC Group, has been working with the contractor for almost two years. After studying the build environment and sustainable homes during her Environmental Science degree, at the University of Southampton, Sam decided to invest in a career in construction and technical management. Sam discusses her unusual route into the construction industry, as well as her ambitions for aiding AJC Group build more sustainable homes. 

1.Tell us about your current role and your day to day at AJC Group.

“My role entails managing the technical and design aspects of the construction project from planning to completion, coordinating the various designs and details from consultants and manufacturers, to ensure the overall compliance with Building Regulations and other industry standards and statutory authorities requirements. My day-to-day role includes reviewing technical documentation and plans; managing utility and legal agreements, problem solving with the project team and contractors onsite. I love collaborating with different people and learning something new every day.”

2. What led you to pursue a career in the construction industry?

“During my Master’s Degree at the University of Southampton, I spent the last two years researching sustainable homes. I became fascinated in the different technologies and products that can be used to make up a house and their environmental performance benefits. This has now come full circle and I am putting my passion from when I was studying into fruition. With AJC Group and the wider technical team, we have been working to construct more sustainable homes, with our recently completed Herbert Avenue scheme being PassivHaus accredited. 

“I knew I wanted to join the construction industry and join the Technical Department. Although it took me almost seven years and four different roles to get here, I have benefited greatly from the numerous roles and experiences I’ve been exposed to. Think it’s made me more holistic and view problems from numerous different angles.

“Normally many see the route into construction as either doing a construction based degree or working on site, however I am proof that that doesn’t always have to be the case, and shouldn’t deter women interested in starting a career in the construction industry.” 

3. What do you enjoy most about your career? What is the best part of your job?

“I love taking a derelict building or empty plot of land and seeing it develop over months of hard work, into someone’s home, or school or workplace. Through considerate construction, we have the opportunity to greatly enhance a community and local area.

“I also love the initial review of drawings at the very start of the project, as it’s when the site really starts to come to life and we’re able to positively enhance a local area. AJC Group currently has several exciting projects at this stage, including some planned developments in The New Forest. 

“With my role, I spend up to two to three days a week on site and no week is the same. AJC Group builds in beautiful areas in Dorset, so it’s nice to travel to the different areas we are developing in. I thoroughly enjoy the flexibility and variety that comes with this job role, as I couldn’t spend all my time in an office!

4. What makes you proud of the work you do?

“Returning back to a completed site a couple of months after handover and seeing all the landscaping fully established and seeing residents moved into their new homes. Particularly when you look back at the hurdles that you as a team have had to overcome to get to that point, it puts everything into perspective and makes me immensely proud.”

5. What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date?

“Prior to joining the Technical Department in 2021, I was a Site Manager for another local contractor, Drew Smith. I spent 18 months during COVID managing the construction of 35 timber frame houses and flats for Winchester City Council. It was my first project I ran as the number one and it was the most challenging, but rewarding period of my career to date. Without a doubt, my proudest achievement.

“I would also say working on Herbert Avenue is a notable highlight of my career, as it was the first PassivHaus development I had worked on. It was a massive learning curve, as logistically the 24 apartments were compact spaces, however filled to the brim with numerous different renewable technologies from mechanical ventilation and heat recovery and air source heat pumps.  It proved to be a great success and we were proud to receive the recognition.”

6. What was the most challenging part of your job when you first started?

“Honestly, I think being young, inexperienced, and female on site meant there was a lot of bias and prejudice that I had to get through. Particularly when being asked to manage trades that have been onsite longer than you’ve been alive. But, I think being keen to learn and open to the views of experienced managers and subcontractors made a great difference in getting through those early years. Being humble enough to say ‘I don’t know how this works or what to do, can you help me please?’ is so undervalued in construction. If you are willing to learn, most people respect that.”

7. Why should a person consider a career in construction?

“If you enjoy variety, then construction could be the perfect route. It has a number of different roles and skill sets that are required for the projects to run efficiently. From land buying and pre-construction, to accounts, to office operations, and then to surveying, technical or build. Every different role is necessary and vital to the build process of a construction project.” 

8. What are the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

“Eight or nine years ago there were very few women in construction, however more and more are entering the industry. At AJC Group this is the largest team of women I have worked with, with women in all areas of the business, including operations, quantity surveying, accounts and land buying. It’s so encouraging to be part of a strong female team. 

“I think one of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry is that men and women naturally think and see things differently, from alternative angles. Therefore, we can bring another point of view to projects or issues that arise.” 

9. How do you think construction can attract more female candidates?

“I think firstly it needs to start in schools and be more widely discussed. Children need to see women in these roles, even if it’s only a couple at the moment, and see the opportunities that careers in engineering and construction offer, and not just see it as a man’s world.” 

10. What advice would you give to someone interested in working in construction?

“Don’t be disheartened if you don’t know exactly what role you think you’d be best suited for. I have had four different roles in construction, from Customer Care, to H&S, to Site Management and now in Technical. At the end of the day, experience is invaluable. Most companies will encourage people to work with different teams to see where they are best suited.”


Posted on: 8th March 2024
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