The year of Cyclone Tracey in Darwin, and a year that Brisbane experienced extreme floods, I was born in Perth, Australia. For a long time in my life it seemed that axis of bad luck overshadowed me. This week I am the cover girl for the second anniversary release of a women’s empowerment magazine, “the thinking woman’s”, magazine as it markets itself. YMag. It’s been a process.
I never had much belief that other people would see me in this way. I had a long journey through self-worth, confidence and I required a massive amount of resilience to overcome the circumstances of my early childhood to gracing a front page of anything!
I’ve worked in the construction industry for about 30 years now and that is a tough gig. Not because I am a woman, although that provides a few challenges to some of the men, but because it is a harsh industry. Extreme conditions, tight deadlines, limited budget and long hours. I feel like I’ve worked three jobs for my whole life – it is usually 13 hour days, it can be 7 days a week, and it is relentless. Buildings, roads, rail, your water supply – these things don’t happen by magic, they happen because of the sweat, the effort, and the talents of many people. I am one of those people.
It took me years to see that my ability to solve problems, manage and encourage people, understand legislation and interpret technical data are incredible talents. It took me forever to acknowledge to myself that I was not just good at what I do, I’m great at it. You don’t get positive feedback in the construction industry. Or, as one boss put it when I was seeking some form of input as to my capabilities, if you are still working, if you are employed and not told to “get out” you are doing your job well enough. And that’s the extent of the positive feedback.
Times are changing, slowly and somewhat reluctantly, but that idea that if you still have a job you are doing okay, still pervades the industry. It is why I am a respected project manager, because I re!ember all the things I struggled with, and I make sure my team doesn’t. I communicate, engage and provide positive feedback. Because I never had it and I would have been even more motivated to work harder. If that was possible, because I am an all-or- nothing kind of person already.
There is no fence-sitting for me. I make decisions decisively, which is an attribute that has flowed over into my personal life. In fact I project manage my own life just as much, if not better, than I manage my construction projects. The skills I fought so hard to learn in my career have been invaluable in my personal life and have caused me to be determined, to never give up, to just make it work, and to not waste time on regret, chagrin, beating myself up over errors or waste emotions on things I cannot change.
It has caused me to win awards, to be recognised as delivering quality, to be known as something who just gets things done. I never let anyone see how alone, how solitary and how disconnected I was from the view of others. That imposter syndrome that no matter what feedback I did get, it was highly unlikely to me that it was true.
It is only since taking on mentoring females in the industry about 15 years ago now, seeing this support and knowledge I can provide to them, their reliance on my input and relief that there is someone who gets it, who has been there, who can reassure them that they “got this” that I realise that I didn’t have that. There was no one, as I developed my career, who could provide that for me, because there were no other women around who had been there and done what I had. There were so few of us in the industry at my level, that we didn’t even know of each other, let alone support each other. It is dark and lonely in the oubliette. This relates to trades as well an engineer’s and project managers.
It is changing now and so many more women are making their mark in such brilliant ways, but not 30 years ago. It is why I do what I do, because I experienced what it took to make it through that journey. The Labyrinth of self respect, self regard and self worth. But it wasn’t until I had this experience reflected back at me through coaching and me tiring others, that I understood just how tough, how remarkable, how resilient, how confident I had to be in order to get to where I did. So it was time to own it. To stop seeking validation externally and start providing it internally. I never knew how confident I actually was until I started showing someone else how to be confident.
So when the chance to really showcase myself was presented, I took it. I didn’t doubt, or worry about what others would think, about whether I was the right type of person, or even if anyone else would get it. I just did it. Like I have my entire career, I just backed myself and leapt. I held onto my self-worth and my self-belief and said to my imposter syndrome – you have no power over me. I said yes. Yes to showing the world that I have come from a land so distant to me now it’s just a fairy tale of my childhood, through hardships untold and dangers unnumbered, I have powered my way to this cover girl, to take my place on the cover of this powerful magazine. For my will is as strong as it ever was, and my abilities greater than I could ever see while I was developing them.
It is another milestone, another achievement, one that I am very proud of, but I won’t be stopping any time soon. There are more adventures to be had. Join me if you dare to realise your greatness too.