"We build homes and better environments for people to live in. I’ve always been fascinated by buildings and the idea of putting something together from start to finish, so I always knew I wanted to do something with building structures."
When I was really young, I wasn’t aware of civil engineering at all! I would say I wanted to be a Technical Designer, but this then changed to an Architect. After doing my GCSEs, I realised that being creative under pressure wasn’t for me and I enjoyed Maths and Physics a lot more. This led me to do some research where I found civil engineering.
What route did you take to becoming a Site Manager?
For my A levels, I did Maths, Physics and Geography. This led me to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering. On completion, I went to Kenya and did 2 internships - the first as an Assistant Site Manager working for the County government on the first ever foot bridge in Mombasa, Kenya, and the second one with a company called East India Construction, working as an Assistant Project Coordinator. I then returned to London and completed a masters in Structural Engineering.
As a Site Manager, what does a typical day at work look like for you?
Within my role, I manage the project throughout all the stages of design and construction and make sure we are building to the right standard, following the Cost Plan, Programme and H&S guidelines. My typical day begins with setting all operatives to work. I manage and run the day to day activities, while planning ahead for future works and ensuring all design, health and safety and quality elements are in place.
One thing I really love about my job is the diversity of tasks and people I meet on a daily basis. I work with Architects, Engineers (Civil, Structural, Mechanical), all Building Trades (e.g Bricklayers, Painters, Landscapers), Commercial (Quantity Surveyors, Cost Controllers, Estimators), and Clients (Developers and Borough Councils).
What are some challenges you personally face at work?
The construction industry is a tough one to be in, from busy long days to high levels of responsibilities. Apart from the responsibilities of a site manager, I have also faced being overlooked and suffered imposter syndrome. As a woman in a male dominated industry, it can sometimes feel like you’re constantly trying to prove yourself and your position. You can feel unworthy, mainly because of being overlooked and undermined, purely on the basis that people are not accustomed to seeing people like yourself in positions like mine.
The best advice I can give to any young woman considering a career is to work hard in whatever you choose to do; your worth in a role can only be determined by your ability and not by your sex. We are capable, so don’t shy away from whatever it is you want to explore in an industry that does represent you. You can start it and influence many if you just give it a go!
"I like that every day is different and I get to learn and experience so many things and people daily. I really love sustainability and try to implement it where I can in every aspect of design/construction."
I enjoy problem solving and as a Site Manager it’s what we do.”
I’m Sofia Noor, a 26 year old Site Manager working for Bouygues UK. I am a Kenyan born and British raised young professional who grew up in East London. I studied civil engineering in Kenya and a masters in Structural Engineering.
I've been in the industry for 2 years and 8 months.
How do people react when you tell them your job role?
Many people are very surprised to find out what I studied and do as a job. Some don’t understand exactly what it is that I do, and for those who do, they don’t really understand why I do it. I’d like to believe some people are impressed by what I do, as it's not something that females usually do.
What is it like to be a woman working in your area or profession?
It’s been an interesting ride with a lot of mixed views from my peers, colleagues, family and friends and now employees. I think the most challenging thing for me was being questioned and overlooked - People stare at me on site and wonder why I'm there. It doesn’t help that I'm also 5ft 2” and young, so I don’t fit the ‘typical description’ of a Site Manager.
However, I’ve learnt that if you do your job well and earn the respect of your colleagues, it isn’t all bad. I had to adapt this attitude from university, as I was one of the 10% of females in contrast to the 90% males in my class. I also had practise from school, as the ratios were the same in A levels Maths and Physics classes. I’ve actually had a student tell me I shouldn’t be there and I was silly to think I could be an Engineer. It can be really draining to have to constantly validate your position, purely because there aren’t a lot of people like you doing it. However the Industry is gradually changing!
The job market is changing and there’s definitely space for us, so do not be afraid to try it! As a mentor, I love to help, inspire and encourage the young people to break stereotypes and do what they want to do.
What do you aim to do next in your career?
Become a Senior Site Manager then a Project Manager; through this I’d like to understand the entire process of building and be able to take my skills back home to Africa.