From working as a receptionist for a construction company to becoming a site manager on one of London’s biggest building sites, Rachel Moore from Creeslough, Co. Donegal in the north west of Ireland says the construction sector is one that women can now make a successful career in and there has never been a better time to join the industry for females.
Through a mix of hard work, determination and education she has proven that women are more than equal to men when it comes to becoming site managers and while it was not easy early on she now says things have improved greatly in the industry and many women are filling important roles on some of the biggest projects in the UK.
Rachel is the daughter of the late Robert “Willie John” and Anna Moore of Cashel where she grew up before leaving for the UK.
She is now based in London where she began as an office worker before fate handed her an opportunity to retrain in a new field.
“I left for a summer when I was 21 and I never came back. I’m longer away now than I was at home,” Rachel explains.
She still returns home to see her siblings George, Noel, Robert, Caroline and Lousie, and wider family but says she is happily settled in London and resides in Wanstead.
Now she is busy carving a successful career in the construction sector which is very different to where she started out when she headed across the water.
“When I first came to London I did various jobs and then I got a job with a company for two or three years where I worked as a receptionist and also did docket control. They then sponsored me and I went back to University where I completed an honours degree and I became a construction manager. I didn’t do that until I was 30, so I had gone back to Uni and I spent five years studying there part-time before I graduated. I stayed on working for that company for about ten years in total. From there I left and moved to a few other companies and about five years ago I joined Multiplex and I have been with them since,” she explained.
She said her return to education set her on a course to her current role and she enjoys the work and says construction is now very much a sector open to women in the workforce on many levels and she would encourage anyone with an interest in the work to go for it as it is a rewarding challenge.
“I sort of had a lack of knowledge early on and I didn’t know what I was capable of really and I simply wanted to do something more that what I was doing in the early part of my life as I felt I wasn’t being challenged and I was given an opportunity. I recall speaking with a co-worker and saying that I felt I was old at aged 30 and I couldn’t go back to college at that age and he started to laugh. He said I had 30 more years to work so why would I not consider going back.
I thought “You know what, he’s right” and with that I went back to study and enrolled in university. That was 15 years ago and I’m 45 now. I often think and imagine what life would have been like if I didn’t go back to education?”.
With her newly acquired qualification Rachel says she soon had to get accustomed to working as a fledgling site manager.
“It was a big curve for me. I was pretty much thrown out to work on site and was just getting on with it and I did the work. I didn’t have a clue really. I hadn’t a notion and I didn’t know how to handle myself. It wasn’t just the building bit, it was how you handle yourself out on site working with other people. It was hard and they were a bit ruthless and they took no prisoners. It was a steep learning curve but I learned to handle it. In many ways it was good because you learn a lot and get much better at reading people and learn the best ways to approach people to get what I need to get done.”
Rachel is currently working along with many other Donegal and Irish people on the site on the redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks in London which is something she says adds an element of fun to the work as not all the sites she has worked on have had as many people from home.
Indeed she says that many of the Irish she works alongside now are often the leading specialist or management on the sites.
“I’m on phase four of the project here at Chelsea Barrack and it is a big project but I have worked on bigger projects. It is still one of the largest sites in London at the minute. It is such a treat to have so many Donegal people here. I’ve never really had that before. They are mainly working for other firms like Keltbray and others but my accent is getting strong again and my slang is coming back as well. It is just so nice to have the craic with them. I’d say there could be as many as eight Donegal people on site here and that is a such a treat as I’ve never had that before,” she laughed.
She says she is enjoying the challenges her role brings on site and she has her sights set on becoming an overall site manager of a major project in the future.
“One of the things I like most about living in London is the diversity of cultures and so many different people on site. You get exposed to so many people and culture and that is nice. I enjoy that part of it. I still love going back to Donegal and I love being at home but I also like London and I enjoy it. I’d like to work at my career and get more senior and keep going. When I first got into construction there were very few women on site unless they were engineers or quantity surveyors, there was no female site managers as such. It took guys a long time to accept me in my role as a site manager. A lot didn’t really like it and there was some hard times but now it is really common to have women onsite so no one really takes any notice now . Times have changed,” she added.
Rachel recently joined with her fellow Donegal people on site recently for the launch of well-known charity stalwart Brendan ‘Tiny’ Vaughan’s annual calendar that supports the work of the Donegal Hospice.
She says by sharing her story it might encourage other women with an interest in construction management to take steps to get into a career she says she finds very rewarding.
“It is very common for women to work in construction and they really encourage and highlight women in the industry. It is the best time for someone to get into construction because they want the diversity as well,” she stated.