- Name: Laura
- Age: 39
- Job: Builder
- Where from: Chichester, but I’m a happy southern softie migrant to Sheffield
- Favourite place in Sheffield: Meersbrook Park for the sunsets
- Favourite food: Anything that involves a trip to Ozmens supermarket for ingredients
- Favourite animal: Cat. Chicken. Cat… Chicken?
- Spirit animal: Cat (size and species determined by how my day is going!)
- Favourite podcast or series: Gotta be Good Omens, surely?
- Favourite musician: Richard Hawley
- Selfie or polaroid: No thanks
- Favourite saying: Yes, but no, but
- Pet Peeve: Finding the cat curled up on my briefly vacated seat
- Inspirational woman: Lauren Laverne – she does what she loves and she does is magnificently
Laura set up her own building business a few years ago after her friends kept asking her to work on their houses. It snowballed from there and she hasn’t looked back.
Why did you want to be a builder?
I was brought up in a house brimming with DIY enthusiasm and two engineers for grandfathers. I was surrounded by strange tools and curious equipment (much of which would be outlawed today on safety grounds!) that caught my imagination.
So I had a very can-do attitude to making things and always enjoyed being hands-on much more than sitting behind a desk. I learnt loads firstly by helping my parents out at home and then by doing up my own house. I loved seeing the results of all my own hard work. I remember having our extension built when I was about 12. The builders were impressed that my older sister and I did pretty much all the decorating. That approval might have been the start of something.
How did you get where you are?
At high school my teachers saw my love of the physical world and encouraged me to study Architecture. Fortunately for me this brought me to Sheffield to do a degree. I loved learning how buildings were constructed and how they worked. Less fortunately it steered me away from my real love of being hands-on in my work.
I dropped out of studying architecture and tried a few different office jobs, and then took the plunge to be a builder when my friends started asking me to do work on their houses. It snowballed from there.
Best things about your job?
Every day is different and at the end of the day you can see exactly what you’ve achieved with your time.
Building is a really rounded profession – you develop loads of skills and knowledge, keep fit and can take your career where you want to, no matter where you start.
Who or what inspired you?
The TV programme Changing Rooms! No, seriously.
I also get inspired working with fellow tradespeople (men and women) and working out ingenious and creative solutions to challenging projects.
Have you encountered any sexism, and how do you deal with it?
Mainly positive sexism, to be honest. The guys at my local builders yard tend to look after me more then they do the other men, they carry my stuff to the van. Sometimes I just wish they’d treat me like one of the lads, although I have to admit I don’t complain too hard. They’re good people to have on your side, especially when they cut all your timber for free.
What do you family and friends think about you being a builder?
They think it’s absolutely brilliant, especially when I offer them mates rates.
What would you like to be doing in 10 years time?
I love being self employed but am starting to think that I’d like to grow my business further, potentially employing other people or having an apprentice. To do this I’d want to specialise in more environmentally responsible aspects of building such as retro-fitting existing houses to make them greener. There are big opportunities for being green in the construction industry, and that’s an issue that is close to my heart.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
Enjoying good food with good people, and burning off some of that food on my bike!
Advice to girls thinking of becoming builders?
The construction industry has a wide variety of people and attitudes in it. I mainly come across enthusiastic and genuinely lovely people, but I do think it has a lot to do with your attitude and expectations.
Don’t be put off by what you hear about the building industry being macho – the guys on site are real softies at heart (even if they won’t admit it). They respect anyone who works hard and is keen to learn. You’ve got a long career ahead full of exciting opportunities for anyone willing to take them.