School of Property, Construction & Project Management
An interview with Kate Dawson – Alumni of the Construction Management Undergraduate degree.
Where are you working now?
“Kane Constructions Pty Ltd (RACV Cape Schanck Resort Redevelopment $125mil)”
What is your role and what activities does your role entail on a daily basis?
“Contracts Manager. My primary role is being responsible for all aspects of financial management, procurement, administration procedures as well as project, services, design management and coordination. I am based on site, no day is ever the same. Problem solving and thinking outside the square is a part of my everyday work life.”
What was your favourite part of your degree?
“I really enjoyed the technology classes. I didn’t come from a building back ground, so everything I learnt at RMIT was new and exciting. The lectures were well structured and realistic which suited my learning style and made the transition to working life smooth and relatively easy. I am able to look back now with fond memories am thankful that the lecturers were always well informed with p to date current practices.”
What do you like best about your role?
“My role is diverse and no day is the same. I specifically enjoy the fact that in order to let the contracts for a project you need to understand how all the trades will be interfaced, get an intimate understanding of the project details and understand the project as a whole. This enables you to build the project in your head before the project has even commenced. In order to do this, we need to dissect the project and therefore understand all aspects of it. It sounds overwhelming when you try and explain it, however, it soon becomes a natural process. Personally, this process has given me and continues to give me great joy. When you love your job, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work, but it is also very rewarding when you see the building come to life.”
What attracted you to your role?
“At Kane, it is somewhat a natural progression. I started out in the estimating department where I was able to assist and work on my own tenders. This gave me great insight into how to read plans, understand commercial construction terminology, refine my communication skills and understand how hard it is for companies to win projects. My time in estimating gave me great respect for the estimating department and provided me with the tools and techniques required to confidently head out to site. When on site I started from the bottom and started to work my way up. The diversity of the contacts management and administration role is great. Depending on the size of the project and the skills of your team determines the role you will actually play. There are days where you can be doing your job as well as taking on the role of Site Manager and Project Manager, whilst always implementing the skills I had previously learnt in estimating when submitting variations. My role is diverse, hectic, stressful, as well as a whole lot of fun.”
What is most important to you when looking for a job?
“I talked to a lot of people who worked for various companies. At Uni, I took the opportunities to really listen to all the industry professionals that came to class to tell us their story. After undertaking a fair bit of research I decided that I ideally wanted to work for a company that had similar ethics and morals as I did and who built projects that interested me. Personally Kane Constructions were outstanding on both fonts. I have been at Kane for nine years now, since the end of third year Uni.”
Tell us about your career journey so far
“After working at a hardware store during the first three years of university I commenced work for Kane Constructions at the end of third year University at RMIT. I worked in the estimating department where I was able to learn how projects are tendered, understand how to read and interpret project documents and refine my communication skills, while at the same time learning how projects are dissected and then brought to life. This was an extremely influential point in my career, to which I am so thankful that I started out here as I was able to take these basics out on site. When I started out on site, I started at the bottom and have slowly worked my way up. I have worked on a variety of different projects of varying values. I have needed to be organised and methodical as when you are working on site, no day is ever the same. Having a structured core ensures you are able to get your essential work completed whilst dealing with the ever changing environment around you. This is the fun part of my job, dealing with whatever the day throws at you. I have worked in a variety of operational environments including aged care facilities and hospitals and on stand along new builds. I have come to realise if you treat where you are working with respect you will reap the rewards as the final product will be as user friendly as possible. I enjoy working collaboratively with architects, consultants, clients and subcontractors alike. If we can all work together we are able to create a building that most suits the user’s needs and requirements. I work for a builder but I love to think beyond the plans and try and think of how the end user will be using the space, if something seems wrong or slightly askew I will always speak up. During my time in construction I have been lucky enough to be mentored by extremely talented people, in particular Kane’s only Victorian female Project Manager, Monica Fontaine. I encourage all members of the construction family to find a person who you respect and who can help guide your way through the crazy career you are about to set out on. In 2014, I was awarded the Master Builders Young Builder of the Year Award. An award that I am immensely proud of. I deem it to reflect not only on my efforts for the hospital project I was working on, but the efforts of the whole team I was working with. The Kane team, the consultants, subcontractors and the client. This is a fast pasted industry, take the time to learn and master the basics, having a solid foundation will help in the long run.”
Tell us about the challenges and triumphs you have faced as a female in a male-dominated industry
“The construction industry is a male dominated industry however it doesn’t have to be. The road is hard and the industry is harsh at times to work in, but the more women that get involved the easier that it is going to get. In the nine years I have been in the industry I have seen improvements but that it is a work in progress. There is a huge range of roles that women can do and are doing just as well as men (if not better!). Communication, organisation and practical skills are imperative in any role. From trades/subcontractor, consultants, engineers, client representatives, project managers, builder management, contracts management and suppliers we are able to contribute to all aspects of construction. It is great to see more and more women around, I encourage anyone who is considering it to take the plunge and give it a shot. It is a challenging and tough industry whether you are male or female. The days are long and time constraints are always tight and budgets are ever present and problem solving and paperwork are a day to day must. It is however, extremely rewarding. To complete a project and say that ‘I helped build that’ is a fantastic feeling. The best bit is that any trade or person who works on a commercial construction project is able to walk in and make a difference. It takes thousands of people to build a commercial building and construction is all about team work. Respect is one of the most important things you can give someone and that someone can give to you. This goes a long way in the construction industry. If you treat others how you would expect to be treated you will do just fine.”
If you could say one thing to young females looking to enter the industry – what would it be?
“I definitely encourage women to enter into the industry, we have a lot to offer. I would say be yourself, be true to yourself and believe in yourself. There is no better person than you. I wish you all the very best on your own journeys ladies, take risks, always give new things a go, study and work hard but most of all enjoy what you do and do what makes you happy.”
Read more about the International Women’s Day event: Women Building Futures: Careers in Property, Construction and Project Management here: