Gemma Sapiano tells Sonia Soltani about her speedy rise to the role of construction manager
At 25 you're already a construction manager. How did you get there so quickly?
While I was working at Willmott Dixon I had a day relief to take a degree in construction management. I learned a lot more and quicker because I was working and studying at the same time. It was a lot of work because I condensed the five-year degree into four years. And building site hours are not exactly nine to five.
Don't you feel that you've missed on the carefree student life by working so hard?
The only thing I did miss was the university social life. I didn't have any of that. I was doing my university work at the weekend. But it was well worth it. I completed my degree in February with first class honours. It was definitely a sacrifice, but now I have a good job and a good salary.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your job so far?
Running a GP's surgery project by myself. It was brilliant. I loved it. It was a LIFT project in Acton in west London, just under £1m, and I had very little ground work experience at the time. It was a steep learning curve. I worked on it for 32 weeks and delivered it on time. I learned so much because I was the only supervisor of a team of 40 on site. It really was swim or drown. Every day I had to make decisions and I didn't have anyone to discuss them with.
Will it be difficult to work on a project where you're not the boss?
I've just started work on a £8m school but this time under senior staff management. It's weird going back to where I was before the surgery in Acton, but this school is technically challenging and has high specifications, so it's better to have supervision than being dumped on my own.
What would you like to do next?
I'd like to get another project on my own where I could use the background knowledge I developed on my first project. The LIFT scheme made me more thorough. I'm already a very organised person, but it was interesting to work in a big team and see how work is distributed.
Are you taking life more easily now?
Well, I am actually studying for a
CITB-ConstructionSkills qualification at the moment, I am mentoring a female surveyor trainee and I am working for the Willmott Dixon strategic team on sustainability …
Would you like to see more women on site?
It would be nice. I have only seen two on site in the past five years. Men in the industry recognise that women are very organised and are good at project management. It's nice to hear that because they don't say it in a sexist way.
Employment history: In September 2000 started at Willmott Dixon as a production trainee and is now an assistant building manager in Willmott Dixon’s construction department.
Qualifications: Construction management degree at the University of Luton
Lives: Hitchin, Hertfordshire
Hobbies: Shopping, watching football and DIY