How did you get to where you are now? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I always thought I would work in the law in some way. For a while I wanted to be a policewoman or work in the prison service. I left school at 18 after A levels (English, History, Communication Studies) and S Level English Literature. I worked for a few years before deciding to go to university. I had never thought university was for the likes of me. My parents and sibling did not go to university. By the time I realised I could go to university I knew I wanted to do a degree in a subject that I could get a job with, so I studied law.
After completing my degree I had to complete a post-graduate course and then two years of mandatory training. During that training I had experience of criminal law first then completed a six month ‘seat’ in the construction team. I realised then that construction has all the best parts of law – contract, tort, property, trusts … it’s a great area to specialise in.
Having worked in a law firm for about five years I left to join a big construction company. After about 6 years there my husband and I got the chance to move to Australia for a while and when we came back to London I returned to a law firm until my current job came up.
The company I work with now has a terrific culture and values, which really appealed to me. It is terrific to be part of an organisation that has strong values.
What does your Senior Role actually involve?
My job is so varied! Sometimes I can be drafting documents; preparing and creating training, undertaking investigations and working with the many divisions in our group of companies and the functions that support the business, like IT and HR.
Ultimately, I am there to help anyone in the business who has a legal query.
The legal function exists to help the business grow faster, more sustainably and with fewer mistakes. We are a business support function.
Construction is the best industry. We contribute to the built environment and the places people work, rest, play and learn in.”
My name is Helen Mason, I'm 51 years old and I've been working within the industry for 23 years now.
Since qualifying as a solicitor in 2000, I have worked both in private practice at law firms and also in house with big construction companies. When the role I now have came up I was working in a law firm and I realised that I missed working in an environment where I could make a direct impact. As a solicitor working in a law firm you give advice to your clients and the client decides what to do next. Working in house gives more freedom to make decisions and have a direct impact.
What is it like being a woman in a Senior position and how does it feel? Especially as overall, the Construction Industry is still male dominated in senior/boardroom positions…
Construction is the best industry. We contribute to the built environment and the places people work, rest, play and learn in. I am very lucky to work with many talented professional people.
Having a support network at home and at work is really important. Never underestimate how willing a person is to help you if you ask them. Sometimes you need to ask for several views to gain perspective on an issue or a problem. A problem shared is very much a problem solved.
Despite any challenges you may face, what’s the best thing you like about your role?
The variety of the work is the best and the people I work with are sensational. I get to answer questionnaires like this!
What advice would you give a young woman aspiring to progress to senior level in the industry?
Do it! The construction industry provides a varied career for everyone. Reach out for help and ask your colleagues for support. Seek a mentor to help you through the promotion process if need be. If you are looking for a promotion make sure you tell people that is what you want so they know to help you achieve it.