Director of Stride Treglown stresses the importance of role models and the need to make the industry more inclusive. She becomes chair of Women in Property on 1 March 

Rachel Bell National Chair Women in Property 2021-22

What has been your biggest career challenge to date?

Every day there appears to be a new challenge – I love that about the industry and it’s what keeps me excited about my career. One of my biggest challenges was being seconded to join Heathrow as design manager working on a Grimshaw project. I loved it!

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

Inclusion – we must ensure that the industry attracts a diverse workforce. This is about having role models, working hard at our outreach and giving a platform to people from different ethnic, socio-economic and gender backgrounds. It’s also about improving the industry’s reputation, for example the pervasive “long-hours” culture.

Why did you choose construction as a career?

I was extremely lucky and had family who involved me in the industry from a young age. My dad, an electrician, took me to site to help wire the homes my uncle was developing. I loved art and CDT at school and architecture seemed to combine all the things I enjoyed.

What have you worked on that you are most proud of?

On some of my earlier projects I was involved in beta testing of Revit. We developed a folded copper roof which couldn’t easily have been designed and constructed without the software.

Most helpful advice you were given?

When I have sought coaching and support, some of the clearest guidance led to me being able to say no to certain things, which in turn enabled me to say yes to others. I was then able to focus on what met my values.

sagrada familia

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is Rachel’s favourite building

What’s your favourite building in the world?

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia – I’m desperate to return and see the progress on the structure, since I last visited in the early 2000s.

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

Keep your options open, take every opportunity to gain as much experience in as many different aspects as you can. Then decide if you want to specialise in one area.

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

Really difficult question, with so many inspiring people out there I can’t just pick one!

What famous building do you wish you had worked on?

Sydney Opera House – we have visited it twice and the elegance of the structure and iconic nature of the buildings are just exceptional.

What’s it like being you?

Maybe I’m a bit of an anomaly! Completely frenetic but also extremely chilled.

What do you think your best quality is?

I bring positivity into all my relationships, along with energy and a smile!

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

Setting unreasonably high expectations of myself.

I also find it hard when I feel that people aren’t being themselves - I believe everyone should be able to bring themselves to work, to be authentic.

Do you have a life philosophy?

My role is about building strong relationships, I use this Maya Angelou quote a lot: I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Name three things that you like

Being out in nature, walking mostly; a new love of podcasts and all that I can learn from them; travelling and all that it gives you through new experiences.

What’s a secret skill that we don’t know you have?

Most people who know me know that I love yoga but my favourite pose, which is taken from my years of gymnastics, is an inversion and I love a headstand!

What’s your most prized possession?

I procrastinated about getting a smart watch and now I have one - which tracks my steps and all my activity - I can’t believe I didn’t get it sooner. The best thing is reminding me to stand every hour – which is great, at the moment, with back-to-back Zoom calls.


Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in the background. New Zealand is Rachel’s favourite place on Earth – if only she could get there more quickly

Early bird or night owl?

An early bird always – I’ve been taking lots of great tips from Adrienne Herbert’s Power Hour podcast on my morning walks recently.

What’s your favourite food?

Thai green curry – I’ll always chose that from any menu I see it on!

What would your superpower be?

I would love to be able to teleport, meaning I can easily get to my favourite place in the world, New Zealand, without having to spend 24 hours (and more) travelling there.

Rachel is a board director at Stride Treglowan. She is head of business development, director of defence and director of infrastructure and a former student at the University of Bath