The firm’s national framework director on the need for greater industry collaboration, juggling her career and motherhood, her favourite roast dinner and her dislike of blocky concrete buildings

Rebecca Hartshorn

Rebecca Hartshorn returned to Sisk in 2021 from Bowmer and Kirkland, where she was strategic framework lead. She previously worked at Sisk for two years from 2017 as bid manager and pre-construction manager

Why did you choose construction as a career?

I didn’t! Having initially been told at a young age that construction “wasn’t really a career for a woman”, I decided to study law at university, with a view to becoming a lawyer in the Royal Air Force. However, my love of architecture quickly prevailed and after a year I changed course, which started my journey into the construction industry.

What are you most proud of in your career to date? 

Receiving a British Empire Medal for services to skills and the construction industry.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date? 

Navigating a leadership role and my career aspirations while ensuring that I was a very present single mum of a young son, ultimately accepting the futility of “mum-guilt” and embracing both roles equally.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be? 

The industry still operates very much in silos; I would love to see collaborative change happen at a much faster pace. The pandemic demonstrated how cultures could evolve at speed. It would be great if we could see a joined-up approach deliver impactful change across many aspects – from our approach to tackling the skills challenge, to inclusive leadership, to the mental health crisis in construction.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given? 

My late friend and mentor, the contracts manager Malcolm Forth, always said to me, “What’s meant for you won’t pass you by”. That has always kept me motivated.

Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright

Source: Shutterstock

Fallingwater is a house designed in 1935 by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania

Name your favourite building in the world? 

Fallingwater, by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Which famous building do you most dislike?  

We took an architectural field trip in university to Berlin and studied the work of Gropius and the Bauhaus. I am not a huge fan of “blocky” concrete architecture. I remember disliking the Alexanderplatz, which really stuck with me.

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on? 

Sydney Opera House.

Alexanderplatz Berlin

Source: Shutterstock

Alexanderplatz is a large public square and transport hub in the central Mitte district of Berlin named after the Russian tsar Alexander I

What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

Be authentic. 

Who do you most admire in the construction industry? 

My mentors: Sandhi Rhys Jones OBE and Katrina Dowding. Both are huge role models given their own leadership achievements and have encouraged me to “dream bigger”.

What is it like being you (and doing your job)? 

Hugely rewarding and fast-paced.

Do you have a life philosophy? 

Kindness above all else.

What do you think your best quality is? 

I am incredibly resilient.

What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people? 

I am a perfectionist, so I set really high expectations for myself – and I don’t like laziness in others.

Name three things that you like

Coffee, art, making a difference.

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have 

I am an experienced watercolour artist.

What is your most prized possession? 

My late father’s seven-piece drum kit, which now belongs to my son.

Early bird or night owl? 

Early bird.

What is your favourite food? 

A roast lamb dinner.

What would your superpower be?