Sophie Morris, Head of Customer Success at construction tech company Buildots, says International Women’s Day provides a timely reminder of the continuing need to address gender imbalance within the UK’s construction sector.
A civil engineer with UK and international construction site management experience, Sophie Morris works for Buildots, an award-winning construction tech startup and developer of an AI-based platform that utilises wearable 360-degree cameras to connect construction companies with what’s happening on-site by comparing data with original design (BIM) models.
Q: How long have you worked in construction?
A: For the best part of ten years. I came to London to study Civil Engineering at UCL and did internships every summer. I’ve always wanted to work in construction, but had to explore which sector I wanted to be in. I realised quite quickly that I wanted to work onsite and be involved on projects, rather than working in design let’s say.
I was fortunate enough to get on the Mace Graduate Programme which really put me on the path to construction management. I got headhunted by Buildots as they wanted someone who loved site work to help inform the building industry of its technology. Now I am in this tailored role where I am devising the solution that I would have liked onsite. As Head of Customer Success, I am the first port of call for the clients. I drive the tech to match their requirements.
Q: Why have you chosen the sector?
A: For so many reasons. There is so much going on, the pace is quick! I love being onsite, and the people and atmosphere are great. No better place.
The sense of achievement that you feel when you walk around London is inspiring. Over the course of a project, you see a building go from the ground to completion and that is so satisfying to see.
As a sidenote, ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved bridges. I don’t know what it is – it’s probably the engineering! My favourite is either the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, which was influenced by Egyptian architecture, or the Pont des Arts in Paris.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Being a woman in the role that I’m doing! Ultimately, I would like people to never question why I am doing my job, as for me working in another industry was simply never an option. Even though there have been some really tough days, I’ve never felt like I have to stop what I am doing. It is why I’ll always encourage people to pursue the route they want to take – I know that sounds a tad corny but it’s true.
Q: What needs to change?
A: The industry’s gender imbalance is still an issue, there’s no denying that. There is also a tendency for women onsite to be grouped together when it should be more inclusive. However I have experienced first hand meeting more and more women onsite every year, feels like it’s moving in the right direction!
Q: What’s your advice to young women heading into construction?
A: If you have an interest then definitely give it a try. Come with an open mind and don’t let any of the industry stereotypes get a hold of your judgement. It is a tough industry but so rewarding at the same time.
It is an exciting time to be in construction too. There are so many different roles at the moment from design, management, commercial, planning. Contech is so huge right now and the amount of opportunity available means there is something for everyone. This is the aspect of construction that I want people to see; that it’s welcoming, diverse and not just muddy boots!