Blog: From classroom dream to engineering queen
Graduate quantity surveyor at Balfour Beatty, Stacey McArdle, discusses her journey into engineering in celebration of International Women in Engineering Day.
I first became interested in working within the construction industry when I was about twelve or thirteen. I loved the idea of seeing a building come to life and my interest was sparked further when Balfour Beatty began building my High School in 2010. In between lessons, I would watch the work taking place through the safety barriers, appreciating the complexity of the job in hand, and quickly realising that I wanted to be a part of this industry.
When I found out that Balfour Beatty was sponsoring an ‘Excellence in Technology’ award, which recognised students excelling in technology subjects, I jumped at the chance to be involved. The prize was a work placement on site, shadowing planners, architects and design managers so I couldn’t believe my luck when I won and my dream of working on a construction site had come true.
My relationship with Balfour Beatty grew from there. I always knew the organisation to be a large and respectable construction company, however it was their encouragement, support and willingness to allow me to experience the industry first hand that appealed to me most when applying for a graduate scheme.
I was keen to venture into architecture, however as I learnt more about the various opportunities available in the industry, quantity surveying stood out as the job for me – I love numbers and as a quantity surveyor I would be able to forecast project costs in addition to working alongside the finance department to process payments for clients and subcontractors.
Since graduating as a quantity surveyor from Glasgow Caledonian University, I’ve continued working with Balfour Beatty full time, working on many projects across Scotland from the Bristow SAR Helicopter Hangar project where I was supporting the Quantity Surveyor, the Scotland TranServ Joint Venture Highways Maintenance project where I was the Quantity Surveyor responsible for three main roads, and now the Gatty Building project in St Andrews where I am assisting the Project Lead.
Challenging the old stigmas
So far, I’ve had a really good experience as a woman working in engineering. I am treated fairly, supported fully and feel really comfortable working within the industry. When I tell people that I work in construction, they do tend to be a little surprised. There is certainly still a perception that the engineering sector is a male dominated environment, and this is true to an extent. However, the industry is rapidly changing with more women bringing their expertise to the most challenging and intricate projects.
My advice would be not to feel put off by the old stigma that ‘the construction industry is a man’s world’ – it’s not! If it is something that interests you then go for it. The number of support networks within the industry is growing; Balfour Beatty’s Women in Business Affinity Network and partnership with the Young Women’s Trust all work to encourage more young women into the sector and provide excellent support and guidance for women working in all roles.
It’s been an amazing journey so far and I’m looking forward to the future where I hope to experience a wider range of projects and gain my Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) accreditation - Balfour Beatty has already provided me with a mentor, information and advice every step of the way.