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White Brick Wall

What made you want to step up into your Senior Role? 

I have always been very ambitious, career driven and competitive.  I am always looking for the next challenge to stimulate my brain and I have an eagerness to learn and develop myself to become a better person, manager and mentor to others.  Stepping into the Head of Temporary Works Engineering role was an opportunity that arose and a logical progression route for me in my career. I had already acquired the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience so why not take on the responsibility of managing a department for a global construction company? 

Another reason is me simply wanting to excel in whatever I do; construction and engineering is no different, I want to take my career as far as I possibly can and hopefully all the way to the top to smash out the glass ceiling. I want to push myself as far as I can, be the best that I can whilst also being a visible and supportive leader and encouraging others, especially women and minority groups, to pursue their dreams so they can achieve whatever they want if they put passion and hard work in.  

How did you get to where you are now? Did you always know what you wanted to do?

Although I followed a “traditional” route to engineering, like many others, I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career at all.  I knew I loved to build things.  I knew I loved Lego.  I knew I loved solving problems.  I took Maths, Physics & Economics for A-Levels to give me broad career options. Maths and physics to take me into engineering, maths, and economics to take me into business.  I was fortunate that a family friend was a Civil Engineer and suggested that I would make a good engineer.  

After my A-Levels I was still unsure of what I wanted to do so I took a leap and chose Civil Engineering as a subject to study at university.  Once I graduated, the UK was in a recession and there were not many opportunities in construction available.  I applied to many places and was rejected many times; I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to land my first job.  This period, right at the beginning of my career was quite hard and I was thinking that I wasn’t good enough.  Eventually, I was called with an opportunity to be an assistant engineer on a project, this should have been good news, but I was mortified.  I had a degree in Civil Engineering, I thought I was already a civil engineer so in my mind, I wasn’t interested in being an “assistant engineer”.  

After a long conversation and a self-kick up the backside, I agreed to be an “assistant engineer” on a part time basis. I put the phone down and then thought to myself, I just agreed to work 3 days per week so what would I do on the other 2 days?  I called the person back and agreed to work full-time and 3 days later started work on my first construction site as an assistant engineer on a section of HS1.  3 weeks into my early career, I was presented with an opportunity and was offered a place on the company’s graduate training scheme for engineers, this is what I wanted from the beginning.  Although I took a traditional path into engineering, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it might have been.  The moral of this story is, take your opportunities even though they might not be exactly what you want and be humble. My ego told me I was better than being an “assistant engineer” but as it happens, starting as an assistant straight out of university was exactly what I needed as I didn’t know anything about what an engineer did or what they needed to do until I started working on site and with a team. 

My career progress followed a path from assistant engineer to graduate site engineer, design engineer to section engineer, senior engineer to senior project engineer and now Head of Temporary Works Engineering.

From not knowing what I wanted to do and taking a leap of faith I realised that I do have a passion for engineering and construction, 23 years later and I am still here. I have tried to steer my career into the direction I want and have been very fortunate that the projects I have worked on and the people I have worked with have been amazing.  Each new project or company has brought new challenges and with that, another step up the career ladder.

What does your Senior Role actually involve?

Being the Head of Temporary Works Engineering involves a combination of technical expertise and leadership skills.  Temporary works (TW) engineering is an important but very much under rated and overlooked aspect of construction, yet it is impossible to construct anything without it and the consequences of failure can be catastrophic.  

Effective communication and being a good listener are key skills to my role as I work with so many different people and cover so many different topics daily, no two days are the same and no two people are the same.  There are very few “typical” days in my role however a day could cover the overall management of teams of appointed persons across all projects, ensuring we have competent TW managers on each.  Writing, reviewing & auditing company process and procedures to ensure we are compliant with industry standards and corporate governance, problem solving TW issues that arise on projects, people management, health, safety and quality management, business improvement and optimisation and the development and upskilling of our operational team.  I also invest time into spreading TW awareness across the industry as a Director for the Temporary Works forum and committee member for the Construction Group of the Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH).  I am passionate about the future of construction and also actively contribute, by working with schools, colleges and universities, in encouraging more people (especially women) into the construction industry as a it is an amazing industry to work in.

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White Brick Wall
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Get comfortable being uncomfortable, grow your comfort zone, stretch yourself, learn new skills and have new experiences.  You can do anything that you put your mind to, challenges are there to be overcome.”

My name is Siu Mun Li and I am a Civil Engineer currently working as the Head of Temporary Works Engineering for Multiplex Construction Europe.  I am based in London, UK.

I am also a Director of the UK’s Temporary Works forum which is a Specialist Knowledge Society of the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) which aims to promote temporary works best practice in the construction industry.

Overall, I have over 23 years’ experience working in the construction industry, 23 years and 9 months to be precise. 

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…

Being in a senior position is both rewarding and challenging.   To have reached a senior position gives me a great sense of pride having achieved a leadership role in a field that has traditionally been dominated by men.  I also feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment as I can make decisions and influence the direction of a project or organisation and shape someone’s future. Being female in a senior position can also be a very lonely place, there are still biases and discrimination, both overt and subtle.  At times I’ve felt as though; I don’t have the support or the right support, that I must work harder to earn respect and demonstrate that I am good enough, I need to prove that I am capable and that belong in a senior role. Despite these obstacles, I keep pushing on as I fully believe in myself and my capabilities. There are not enough women in senior or board positions, especially in the construction industry yet we have amazing and competent women out there.  I for one will be doing whatever I can to help other women up the career ladder to achieve their goals within the construction industry. 

As someone in your role, how do you deal with challenges (personal and work role related)?

I think I am a levelheaded and calm person however I was not always like this, I think my persona now is something that has come with age and experience. I deal with challenges at work by generally look at the bigger picture first and then follow a series of steps to break down the challenge into smaller elements to simplify the solution.  For projects, tempers sometimes get frayed when issues arise as these obstacles can either cause delays to the project or cost more money to resolve.  I try to diffuse situations and take the emotion out of them so we can look at the challenge objectively and resolve it as quickly as possible.  Identifying the challenge and understanding the root cause of a problem allows you to develop a plan to address it.  Once you have a plan, the key is to communicate and then implement the plan to resolution.  Communication is something so simple but generally, things break down due to poor or miscommunication.   

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On a more personal level, I try to adopt a similar style although sometimes it is more difficult to take the emotion out of a situation and in some instances, my calm persona has antagonized a situation altogether.  I only tend to worry and concern myself with things that I have an element of control over or can influence to change, everything else that I am unable to control or change, I try and not get so engaged in.  Sometimes I need to go into my own “zen” mode, this could involve anything from seeing and playing with my dog as he always makes me smile, going for a walk to clear my head, having a chat and spending time with family or friends (a problem shared is a problem halved), playing tennis as I am a bit of a tennis freak, going fishing which is something I didn’t expect I would ever do but it’s fairly calming just being by the sea or just simply listening to music or taking a few deep breaths to clear my mind and get things back into perspective. 

How do you stay motivated to keep going everyday and push past the challenges of your role? What actually keeps you going?

Staying motivated to keep going everyday is easy when you love what you do, I love what I do and I love working in the construction industry.  I have built a fantastic career doing something I enjoy and I think that’s half the battle.  The challenges we all face in our careers and in life are mini bumps in our path, but we push on to overcome these challenges which builds resilience and gives us a sense of pride and satisfaction on completion.  A world with no bumps would be too simple and quite boring, I think.  I’m a natural problem solver and I love puzzles.  Challenges to me are the puzzles I need to solve, persistence, stubbornness and an unwillingness to fail is what drives me to push past them. 

The future of the construction industry and leaving a positive legacy is also something that keeps me motivated to keep pushing on.  I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to recruit and work with our graduate intake every year.   By passing down the wealth of knowledge and experience I have gained over the years and seeing how my actions and words can shape and motivate future talent to keep pushing on also motivates me to do the same.

Despite any challenges you may face, what’s the best thing you like about your role?

I love the variety of my role and delivering amazing buildings and structures.  Doing the role that I do; I get to do something different every day and I also get to meet and interact with a diverse group of people.  I get to work with every team, and I get to see every project.  My role also allows me to develop future talent and upskill and educate the industry. I get a great sense of satisfaction from seeing projects that I have worked on come to fruition and I am often caught walking past these structures saying, “I built that”!  What’s not to love about my role? 

What advice would you give a young woman aspiring to progress to senior level in the industry?

Just go for it.  

Embrace challenges, don’t be afraid to take on challenging projects or come out of your comfort zone.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable, grow your comfort zone, stretch yourself, learn new skills and have new experiences.  You can do anything that you put your mind to, challenges are there to be overcome.


Network, network, network.  Building a strong professional network is essential in any industry so attend industry events, join professional organisations, connect with people in the industry and build up relationships.  There are plenty of people within the industry willing to provide advice and assistance, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask.  

Find a mentor, someone who has experience in areas that you are interested in, someone who can provide guidance and support to help you work towards your goals.  Mentors can also help you navigate the industry and introduce you to new opportunities.

Be confident in your abilities and advocate for yourself.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas and opinions, they are equally as valid.

Always remember to stay true to your values and principles.  Upholding high standards of ethics and integrity can help you build a strong reputation and earn respect. 

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Siu Mun Li

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