People of Constructing Excellence share their stories

May marks the National Share a Story Month and as part of this, we want to shine a light on some stories from our brilliant Constructing Excellence family! This storytelling campaign aims to break down the myths around careers in the construction industry and, nonetheless, help people connect and relate to one another, establishing stronger relationships.

People are at the core of Constructing Excellence, and we hope their stories will inspire you, move you and put a smile on your face!

Alison Nicholl, Head of Constructing Excellence

I joined a small intelligent buildings consultancy after university. My role was in market research, but the other half of the company focussed on market development for intelligent and green buildings. I quickly realised my passion was for driving change and innovation and changed roles to manage the INTEGER project. I got to work on live demonstration and pilot projects, in the UK and overseas, capturing and communicating best practice and learning points.

I joined BRE to manage the Knowledge Transfer Network for the Built Environment where my role was to help innovative companies find connections and access funding to make their ideas a technical and commercial success. I got to work with so many amazing innovators. The brilliant thing about the built environment is the scale of the opportunity for innovative solutions to make a real difference.

My role at Constructing Excellence allows me to work with fantastic organisations and individuals who are committed to driving forward and transforming the construction industry. My energy comes from pushing forward and challenging the status quo, finding ways to innovate and do things better. I think it’s important to find out what truly motivates and drives you.

Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive Structural Timber Association

Having joined the UK construction industry straight from school in 1977, with building material giant CRH, it was 21 years later that I really found my calling. Sir John Egan’s ‘Rethinking Construction’ report had recently been released and I was sitting in a conference listening to Zara Lamont, seconded from Carillion at the time to be the Chief Executive of the Construction Best Practice Programme. It was her passion for collaborative working that sold me on the principles of Constructing Excellence and is something that has positively affected the rest of my career. From being an out and out ‘salesman’ I’ve transformed into somebody passionately interested in the change agenda especially when it comes to how it can positively affect people’s lives both within the sector and end-users. I feel privileged to be able to now practice what I preach in my capacity as Chief Executive of the Structural Timber Association as well as supporting others to do the same in my capacity as Chief Executive of both CESW and CE Midlands. It changed a job into a career and a career into a lifetime passion!

Phil Wilbraham, Co-chair of Constructing Excellence

Working collaboratively with a broad range of colleagues has always been for me the most productive and fun way to get things done! There are many examples of this throughout my career but one that stands out recently is the team that came together to create Project 13. Everyone was committed to creating a ‘better way to work in the construction industry’ and the output was really valuable and thought-provoking. Moreover, the Project 13 community is going from strength to strength.

Dr Robert Illes, Lead Researcher at Construction Innovation Hub

I first worked on sites way back during school holidays for a local contractor. I did everything from general labouring to eventually being entrusted to put up shelves, skirting, do painting and even erect partition walls. The money was welcomed; the experience invaluable. I learnt some great trade skills. Importantly, I also learnt how not only to survive, but thrive in the ‘culture’ – by working hard, ‘having a go’, and laughing at myself when at the brunt of the odd practical joke (e.g. ubiquitous left-handed screwdriver or spirit level bubble).

I’ve since been a teacher, academic, engineer and am now a researcher in the construction industry. My experience ‘on the tools’ helps me remain grounded and to put myself in the position of construction workers when thinking about new schemes and initiatives.

Lydia McGuinness, Assistant Site Manager at Henry Boot Construction Limited

I am currently working on a construction project that is in the centre of my home town. When I told my mum about the building I am refurbishing, she told me that it used to be a bar, and it was in that bar where she told all her friends and family that she was pregnant with me. Twenty-three years later, I am working in that building every day, where my mother once stood pregnant with me and transforming it into a beautiful space, where many more families and friends can talk, laugh and share good news.

Jack Cook, Estimator at F. Parkinson Ltd

When I left school at 16, everyone at school told me I was wrong to do an apprenticeship in joinery. After completing an apprenticeship, higher-level qualifications, and internal training plans, I am now successfully working as a construction estimator working at the same company I started my apprenticeship with. This then shows how undervalued the apprenticeship route is, and more needs to be done at schools to highlight to people what you can achieve just from doing an apprenticeship. At the end of the day, I am one of many people who has now got an amazing career that started from doing an apprenticeship!

Laura Santry, Assistant Project Manager Communications, Construction Innovation Hub

I’ve always been fascinated by the ways in which we connect to the spaces around us – how significant buildings can shape the direction of our lives. Supporting the mission to transform construction allows me to contribute to the future of a thriving built environment that can be enjoyed by generations to come.