Vanessa Borg is a Project Manager at MPA. She is also a Committee Member of Women in Design and Construction (WIDAC). We had a conversation with her on being a woman in the construction industry and how to balance between your professional and personal life.
1. Tell me a bit about your background, how you become a project manager and what drew you to the construction industry.
For about 10-11 years I worked in banking and finance. After giving birth to my daughter, I wanted to get back into the workforce. And I started working as a E.A. to the directors of a commercial construction company. And here I am.
2. Describe your typical day at MPA
Like everyone your day can go from being totally under control to being crazy at the drop of a hat! A typical day in my line of work is on site / in the office by 6.30/7am, catch up on emails that I received over night, check what meetings I have schedule and any preparation that is required, attend site walks, PCGs/Subbie meetings, review variations, RFI’s and review drawings. Lunch is generally a juice and I try and get out of the office by 6pm, I live very close to work so it only takes me 10 min to get home!
3. What is the most memorable client story you've ever got?
I don’t have just one memorable client story it is so hard to just pick one! I have been very lucky all my clients over the last 13+ years in construction have been so great to deal with in and in their own unique way they each have created a story, I would say that each client / project has taught me something new. I have this belief that you never stop learning and I have to walk away from a project with a lesson learnt, if I don’t then that means I have conquered my role (which I know I have so much more to learn!).
4. It looks like you're taking on more than one role at a time. So how I want to know is how you balance between these activities? How do you find time to engage in that many activities in your busy day?
It comes with a lot of organisation skills. I wake up every morning at around 4, then having my coffee, sitting down, reading the paper, at the gym by about 5. I choose to have time for myself in the morning because at nighttime, I'm exhausted. Every two days, I will focus on my personal emails and respond to those items that I need to.
The weekends is my time, especially Sundays, when I spend time with my family. Being organised and being prepared is key. When you enjoy doing what you do, things become a little bit easier to manage.
5. What inspires you to engage in activities that help other women in leadership such as WIDAC?
I came to a few of their events and love what they do. They bring not only women but the industry together. They asked me to join and I noticed that they didn't have someone from a building background, so why not?
More importantly, I have a 12-year-old daughter. I constantly ask myself whether I’m mentoring her?
I left school and have been working full-time since I was 16. I was always told that: “You're just going to do this, you're just going to be this”. I used to be not career minded at all. It wasn't until I started working at MPA that I was really given the boost, the confidence and the missing piece that I needed. I want to inspire my daughter to do anything she wants to do. She's got her whole life ahead of her and my job is to make sure she understands that.
6. So now imagine the world goes through a severe disaster and you can only save one building. Which one would you save and why?
Collins Arch. 447 Collins Street. Because I haven't been there.
7. Something you are very curious about.
I've got a lot of curiosity. What am I curious about right now? It's very cliche, but I'm curious to see how Melbourne is getting out of the pandemic. That's where I live and I'm curious to see how we're going to bounce back. It worries me, but it's out of my control.
8. The biggest challenge you're facing right now.
Making sure that my daughter understands what is going on and that her mental health is OK. Next year she's in year seven, starting a new school with new friends, which is going to be very difficult because she could be starting it online and not having any face-to-face interaction at all.
I keep facing this challenge every single day. My little family of three is my support network and I want the best things for them.
9. Imagine we're soon heading out of the COVID 19 pandemic. What is going to be the first thing you do?
Go see my family. I haven't seen my family for however long we've been in this lockdown. Then go shopping and get a haircut. I need a haircut!
10. What do most people misunderstand about women who work in construction?
I think most people misunderstand the fact that we are not the people that they have at home.
There's two different types of people out there. There's the ones that are accepting and welcoming change. And then there's the ones that are set in their own ways and old ways. And they don't want to welcome change.
11. Billionaires like Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. They dream of going to space and even making space tourism a business. What about you? Is anything that others might say crazy or impossible?
You know what? I want to do Christmas in London, New Year's in New York, but has to be in the same year. In the same week.
12. And why are those two locations?
There are three locations that I've always wanted to visit since I turned 30 and got my passport: Paris, London, New York. And if I’ve done those three, I'm happy.
13. Something that is not work related about you that you like to share with us.
My wardrobe must be perfect. We have a system at home where you take things from the left and you put in from the right. That way there's a cycle, your clothes are constantly getting in and out.
If something is in the front of the wardrobe for way too long, it means clearly I don't like it anymore. They will get donated and that's how I constantly clean up my wardrobe.
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