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International Women's Day #ChooseToChallenge

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

This year the theme for International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge

We are celebrating women it the Surveying and construction industry. Read the interview with Victoria Howson form Integrate Construction and Niamh Cliodhna, a student from Ireland

What's the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?

Victoria: I hate to say it but men!!! Thankfully things have changed so much now but 20 years ago construction sites weren’t very welcoming for women and I’d say it was more a case of having to put up with all the teasing that does niggle away at you over time and became very tiresome and draining! Happy to say now since I run my own business everything has changed and I have such a laugh and great relationships with all the people I work with however I do feel that comes with experience and confidence and thats why I’ll always support my apprentice's emotional wellbeing on site as I believe its very important regardless of gender it can be a tough high pressure environment.

Why do you think women should consider a career in Surveying?

Niamh: Women should consider a career in surveying as it is a really useful skill that can be transferred between career fields, for example women could work in construction, research, environmental and many more fields. They would not be limited to working in only one place as they could work in many countries and in different environments, meeting new people. You do not have to be tech-savvy to start surveying, as you learn by doing and using the equipment. It keeps your brain stimulated as you will face some challenges while surveying but you will learn through trial and error and from the help of others. It can be diverse as you could be in the field one day and in the office the next.

What piece advice of career advice would you give to your younger self?

Victoria: Set up your own business sooner and be braver to give things a go and who knows where I would have ended up! Most importantly believe in yourself and be brave enough to stand up and speak up. Keep it about the job not gender and have more confidence in my ability to be taken more seriously and command more respect instead of being pushed around with fear of being treated differently because of being a woman! And breath! When it’s tough it’s tough you have to learn to walk away when things get heated and the pressure is intense and simply not take things personal. Re-focus on the solution and be clear what needs to be done to achieve it.

What piece of advice would you give to yourself when you were choosing what to do as a career?

Niamh: It is definitely trial and error and as we grow our interests change, so do not feel that you have to stick with your original choice you may make at a young age. Follow your heart and not what is popular or what your friends are doing. Imagine yourself in different careers and how you feel about working at that job for the long -term. Your passion does not have to be your career, it could stay your hobby and passion. Think if you want to work or live abroad and if so, what skills could you take abroad and what jobs can you get overseas that you would like. What working environment would you enjoy- outdoors/ office/ one that involves travel?

Why should women consider a career in Surveying?

Victoria: I would say these days it can be a benefit being a woman in construction as we are a welcome member of the team and as such it’s just so much fun. Every day is different, meeting new people and bumping into colleagues from past jobs. Every contract has new problems to solve and new things to learn. It’s always evolving and developing so I simply love that it’ll never stop fascinating me the things I see and learn about construction and how we apply our skills to helping everything run smoothly.

What's the biggest challenge you have overcome in your career?

Niamh: I have lacked confidence in my position and felt at times like I was not good enough or did not know enough in my field. I realised that this pressure was coming from myself and not from others. And reminded myself that we cannot know everything about our field of work but we can keep learning and gaining skills.

And…anything else you this would inspire other women.

Victoria: Quite simply being your own boss in this world is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things you can do as everything I do is to deliver the best service possible to my clients and it is the best feeling being asked back for repeat business and the massive trust and faith and responsibility they award you. I feel proud every single day and proud that I can also pave the way for young people working as my apprentices and it doesn’t get better than getting positive feedback from the client about their work too. It’s all about building the right team around you and then it’s not work it’s something I enjoy doing every single day with some amazing people.

Niamh: Give things a try if they interest you. Most people are worried about what other people think at some stage, so don't let that stop you from giving things a go, or else you might regret this later. For years I have been nervous about public speaking, and my voice has shook many times during presentations. Remember that everyone experiences fears and anxieties at some point in their life and career but we when we face them, we gain strength and courage.

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