We sat down Naila Akram to discuss her role as Community Investments Manager at Balfour Beatty, the perks of a career in construction and exciting upcoming projects.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role within Balfour Beatty.
I’m Community Investments Manager for Scotland. My role is to support the business, to leave a positive legacy in the communities in which we build and add value to the employability and skills agenda, from jobs centers, colleges, universities, school kids, right down to grass roots community projects. My roles is to make real sustainable difference, from employability to environmental impact.
What is Balfour Beatty’s Emerging Talent Project?
Emerging Talent looks at supporting a handful of people across the UK to enter careers in construction. These are partner university programmes, We take on engineering graduates or construction management graduates and give them active roles within building sites as well as supporting them to develop their leadership skills and general management skills.
What is your background and was it that lead you to applying for this job?
My background is Public Affairs, Communications and Community Engagement. A few years ago an opportunity arose for me to join the team here at Balfour Beatty and I nervously took it, not really knowing what it would involve, but I’ve really enjoyed it. My academic background and experience working in communities, being able to manage reputational risk and my brand awareness really helps me in this role.
What do you love most about this job?
No day looks the same! I like being able to add a real social value to our projects as well as raising the profile of Balfour Beatty in a positive way. In my role I get to meet lots of different people and engage them with Balfour Beatty- that could be being a neighbour, a potential employee or a young person who isn’t sure if a career in construction if for them. That level of people contact is what I enjoy at work.
Have you experienced many barriers working as a woman in a field dominated by men?
At Balfour Beatty there’s a drive to make the sector less male dominated, and in my role, I don’t really feel it because I’m quite public facing, dealing with women from all walks of life. I imagine in one of the STEM based professions you could feel quite isolated, but as an organisation we are really pushing to break down those barriers. On a personal level I can’t see anyone having an issue with someone being a woman, having met a number of the key personalities. I don’t think the barriers are coming from industry, they are coming from society.
What exciting projects do you have coming up?
In Bellahousten Park, where we are building the new hospice for the Prince & Princess of Wales, we have just finished an art competition with the local school children. We ran a campaign to say ‘don’t come on the building site’, but in a way that didn’t deter the children’s curiosity and in a way that could inspire the next generation. We got them to paint pictures about why they shouldn’t come on the building site, they are now displayed on all of the boarding surrounding the site.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in infrastructure?
Ask if you can do some work experience, follow a business on LinkedIn; show an interest!
Are you inspired by Naila’s story? Join the chat on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re looking for a role in construction with an excellent salary, contact email@example.com.