Kathryn Gundry, a Project Architect at WWA, has made a brilliant start to her career in the construction industry. Her passion lies in inclusive and people centric design. She is already influencing the direction of both WWA and the wider construction industry in these areas, gaining recognition at a National level. We are delighted to invite our 2021 G4C Future Leader Award Winner – Kathryn to give her insights on her journey to becoming a future leader.
What made you decide to work in construction?
Initially, I loved drawing and wanted to be paid to do it but as my understanding of architecture progressed, I wanted to make a difference and help people. Through university I found myself gravitating towards subjects about social injustice; from facilities for people with learning difficulties, to extra care – not normal go to student subjects! My own life experiences pulled me towards inclusive design and accessibility where I found my Passion. Initially, I was naïve about what the construction industry would be like, what jobs I wanted to work on and the position I wanted to be in, but found a haven in design with purpose.
What is your journey to your current role?
My journey has been quite direct, as I knew from a young age I either wanted to be a lawyer or an architect. Therefore, I was fortunate enough to have chosen subjects at school that helped me get into university. But nowadays with the apprenticeship, subject choice doesn’t necessarily close doors to you. Through experience I found what I liked and what I didn’t in the profession; from typology, to office culture, etc. Serendipity brought me to Archadia (now West Waddy Archadia), a practice that specialised in areas I was interested in; social housing, design for disability and older people housing. My current role as a Design Associate was spurred on by the previous associate leaving, she had been a mentor and role model; I felt the urge to try and step up and fill her shoes. I took on some of her responsibilities then grew the role into my own areas and passions. My current role really came from getting involved in as much as possible as a young professional and saying “Yes” as often as possible.
What was your biggest challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?
Every day I face new challenges which I didn’t expect before. As a young professional, I struggled with confidence. I learned that patience is a virtue and don’t be rushed by others to make decisions. I have found students sometimes fear saying “I will come back to you”, which is acceptable and preferable than a wrong answer.
What was the most useful advice given to you in your career?
Through Women In Social Housing, I learned that silence is a powerful tool in meetings and presentations. Silence can make a presentation, give gravitas to a key point. It can be powerful and provoke thought or calm a situation. I am also fortunate enough to have a Mentor at work, Jean Hanna, she supports me daily within the office and taught me to give myself time, space and focus on what is important at each step.
Is there words of encouragement you would like to say to your fellow peers?
I hope these are true at all stages of life: firstly, follow your passion, there is often a job that suits it in some form or other. Secondly, get as much experience as possible in as many areas, always try new things and be open to change. Thirdly, if you can improve a situation always advocate to do so, but don’t get disheartened that the industry isn’t necessarily with you yet. We need to set the example and the industry will follow, hence the SECBE awards – celebrate the best and inspire the rest.