Friday, 22 February 2013

Is it all worth it in the end? Twenty things construction taught me…

Yes, no and maybe. You see, this question depends upon the role you work in, the people you work for, the company you work in, your personal support networks, your ambitions and your views on work/life balance. 

It can be worth it; examples like Anna Stewart show that it is possible for a woman to rise to the top of a major construction company on her own merit.

It can also not be worth it; there are unfortunately a lot of people who have left the sector because of the way they were treated, not because they did not enjoy the work.

Maybe; because there are many people who have found themselves somewhere they did not expect - in education, training or running a business, as a result of the environments they worked in.

I can only speak from my own experience, but I feel it was worth it. Whilst I was not able to achieve my original ambitions of building flagship projects and winning the Construction Manager of the Year Award, I have been able to accomplish many other things that I would never have thought possible, such as running my own business, undertaking a PhD and speaking in the House of Lords. Without my career in construction, good and bad, I don’t believe I would have been able to create the varied, challenging and rewarding career I have today.

So whilst I can’t tell you if it will be worth it in the end, I can tell you what working in construction has taught me: -
  1. People don’t always know what they are talking about, or care.
  2. There is a point when you get so wet in the rain that it ceases to matter.
  3. What hard work really is.
  4. The best sentence in the world is “I built this”.
  5. Some people will go a long way out of their way to help you progress, and never ask a thing for it.
  6. How to multi task.
  7. How to problem solve.
  8. How to manage, cold, wet, angry people.
  9. How to get up really bloomin’ early.
  10. That the impossible can be achieved as long as you have a programme and a good team.
  11. The importance of being kind, especially when someone is stressed
  12. How to run a business, before I ever ran a business.
  13. I cannot drink as much alcohol as ground workers.
  14. You can tell the amount of concrete in a wagon by the number of wheels it has.
  15. How to handle complex and interesting work.
  16. Trigonometry isn’t that difficult.
  17. Some people like being nasty.
  18. People will do extra work for you if you give them Jaffa cakes.
  19. Most people just want to be appreciated.
  20. Floating concrete is one of life’s small joys.

If you look at life as a journey and don’t consider the experience of working on site as an end point, but look instead at all the experiences that make up that picture, I personally think it’s worth it. If you get a good company and good managers that will help you achieve your ambitions - then brilliant, we wish you well. If you’re not so lucky, there is still a lot that can be taken away from the experience that will help you succeed.

Whilst I no longer get to build buildings, something that I miss very much, I get to run a business and possibly change an industry - two things I am only capable of because of my career in construction.

So yes, I think it’s worth it.

Happy building, Chrissi.

To view previous Constructing Equality Ltd. blogs please visit:


  1. Chrissi,
    Absolutely brilliant! Your eloquent description has captured the daily roller coaster ride that we consider normal.
    The design & construction business is challenging, maddening, and very satisfying when you get it right.
    It's worth it.

  2. Yonelle Baptiste, MBA • Via linkedin
    Great post. I can relate to some of your experiences and yes working in the rain or in below freezing temperature can be very trying at times. However when the job gets done successfully, and your team feels proud of the work the've accomplish, it's worth it. I always reflect on the experiences I went through and look at the lessons learned.
    Chrissi, just like you, I have started my own company last year, so if there is any you would like to share as a result of building your own company please feel free.


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Mihaly Slocombe ‏@MihalySlocombe via twitter
    From an architect's perspective: 1. Produce good documents 2. Pick the right builder 3. Listen to his / her suggestions @CChrissi 4. Keep designing to the end 5. Pay attention to the detail

  5. Dillon Lechkobit ‏Via Twitter
    I feel like this is so true:
    I wish that every person involved in this industry should learn and enjoy the things you have listed out, but not everyone will.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Chrissi, it's apparent from your 20 points that you've been in the trenches and you've articulated what many of us who have loved and succeeded in construction feel. Having built numerous steel structures in various parts of the world,in a management role, I can relate to the feeling of " I've built this ".
    By Stanley Baker, PMP via linkedin

  8. Thank you for your comments, Id love to hear further comments regarding what construction has taught you and if its worth it from your experience.

  9. Janet T Beckett via Twitter
    @carbonsaveruk @CalibreSimon @CChrissi @CIBSEWomen
    Construction taught me ...."that most people are really lovely with only the very occasional b*stard, normally the boss"