This is part of a special report produced in partnership with Gleeds

“I started my professional career aged 19 and, at that point in time, I did not have any concrete ambitions or aspirations,” says Siti Norman, director of digital for the Southeast Asian region at Turner & Townsend.

“Growing up from a lower-income family, the only goal I had was to help out my family financially.”

Siti Norman (1)

Poised to graduate from Singapore Polytechnic when the iconic Marina Bay Sands project – a mixed-use waterfront development located on 16ha of reclaimed land –  broke ground, Norman was told by a classmate undertaking an internship with Aedas that the company was recruiting.

This was how she secured her break into the sector, working as a technical co-ordinator at an architectural consultancy firm.

>> Special report: Women in construction

She says this is where she first became aware of the significant role advisers could play. On day one of the job, she met her f irst mentor, Phil Lazarus, then BIM leader for the Marina Bay Sands project for Aedas – and now Lendlease’s head of virtual design and construction for the Americas.

“He noticed that I was very curious about all the features in Autocad and took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know about BIM in the early years,” she says.

Norman spent the next 10 years mastering BIM and its standards, and implementing best practice on projects.

She says that keeping up with new technology and learning to use it to solve problems is not only part of her job but also a passion, something she says has been helpful as it allows for her to be strategic and add value to the projects she works on. 

Inspired by her own experience from the very first day on the Marina Bay Sands project, Norman now invests a significant amount of time and effort outside of work sharing her expertise and passion for digital construction with those working towards their involvement in the sector. 

She not only serves as a lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic on basic BIM implementation but is also a member of Women in BIM, a growing community that works with women globally to support career development and attract young women into digital construction.

Despite her clear passion for both the sector and her work within it, Norman does not shy away from the challenges she has faced as a woman in a maledominated sector.

Two of the key hurdles she has faced are dealing with imposter syndrome and handling people’s natural instinct to stereotype and make quick judgments.

“Credibility helped me overcome this. I let my hard work and the results I achieve do the talking, as they speak for themselves. I make sure the work I do is of high quality to help solve problems for both colleagues and clients alike,” she says.

“The years of experience and body of work I have under my belt has helped me to reconcile with the fact that I am capable, and challenges are always learning opportunities that prompt me to think out of the box and improve over time.”

Asked what she believes the industry needs to do in order to attract more women into it, Norman says the answer is simple – visibility, as it is difficult to be what you cannot see.

“When I was growing up, I didn’t see women in the positions that I’ve since taken up, so I didn’t know or even think it was a possibility – and we still have a lot of work to do in this space,” she says.

“It is important for others to see you. By doing that, you are proof that dreams are achievable and others can reach out to you. You can take this opportunity to guide future leaders in the construction sector.” 

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