Last month, we were delighted to welcome Eileen Faherty to the Modula team. Eileen joins in the role of Commercial Manager and brings with her a wealth of experience in the electrical industry. Having served her time initially as an electrician, Eileen has developed a very successful career in estimating, quantity surveying and construction law. Most recently, she acted as Lead Electrical Surveyor across a number of large and challenging data centre, semi-conductor and industrial projects. By way of an introduction, we asked Eileen the important questions.
1. Before starting out as an apprentice electrician, what interested you in pursuing a career in the electrical industry?
I didn’t leave school deciding to pursue a career as an electrician, from memory, the option wasn’t presented as part of career guidance. I was relatively young doing my leaving certificate and was undecided on my path. I picked a course in college and decided very early on it was not for me. I then decided to do something where I could earn money and learn at the same time. I did a FÁS Pre-Apprenticeship course where I had a taste of carpentry, plumbing and electrical. I enjoyed the electrical side and made it my business from there to get an apprenticeship.
2. Having initially leaving third level education and subsequently going back to it later in life, how has this helped your journey to your current role?
When I was unsure about what I wanted to do at a young age, an apprenticeship was a great way for me to do a job but also learn and do some study within it. Following completion of the apprenticeship, I undertook a third level course part time whilst working in the role of electrician and doing some estimating work. In college, this gave me a great advantage, as I was in the industry and had real life experience to support my studies. I think construction can open up many paths and the apprenticeship route started that journey for me. And, for me, third level education was better suited later, when I had a better direction of what role and career would best suit my skillset. I had a much better understanding of this later on in life.
3. You are working in the Irish electrical industry now for over 20 years. In your opinion, how has the industry changed in that time?
I have seen a huge increase in the standard of building sites, regarding facilities and safety – when I started my apprenticeship, you would be lucky if there were any female facilities on site. The way projects are procured over the years has changed dramatically too. When I started out in estimating, it was a very traditional approach based on a fully designed project being tendered, priced and delivered. Now, given the complexity of modern construction, there is a much more collaborative approach to projects, where the design is developed with the stakeholders and done whilst the project is being undertaken. This also leads to continuous updates to budgets and costs alongside the projects.
From a commercial point of view, the introduction of intelligent measurement software, that can be used alongside BIM, has allowed us to produce commercial information faster and in more detail, allowing large projects to be priced and commercially managed efficiently. The only downside to this can be a reluctance for people to visit site, as we have it all at the touch of a button. Nothing can beat a walk around a project to get the full picture and final details.
4. The CIF estimates that women account for just 1 in 10 of construction-related jobs, which is chronically low when compared to other industries. Given your experience, how can we encourage more women to pursue a career in construction?
I think it needs to start out at school where construction third level courses and apprenticeships are encouraged to female students. The CIF and construction industry employers have done a huge amount of work on this in recent years, and I have been involved with some of the campaigns. This type of coverage and social media presence will help enormously to open up the world of construction to women.
In addition to that, I believe the industry needs to be diverse and inclusive, and encourage different perspectives or ways of thinking. It is important for companies to demonstrate their commitment to this and ‘walk the walk’. Flexible work solutions, that match the needs of men and women alike, are important to attract and retain talent in the industry. This is becoming more commonplace now, so it will no doubt make a difference.
5. What advice would you give to anyone starting out in a construction-related career?
To be flexible, a lot of roles in the industry can have multiple legs to them and your idea of what an engineer or a QS does may not be how each day is. The diverse nature of construction and working ad hoc gives great experience, which will stand to you in the end. A career in construction can be demanding but rewarding and, if you work hard at it, there are great opportunities and different paths to be explored.