From opera singer to site manager – Morgan Sindall’s Kate McAdam sings the praises of her new role in construction

“You’d be surprised at the amount of transferrable skills that I have used as both a performer and site manager. The loud voice definitely comes in handy on site!” – Kate McAdam, Graduate Site Manager, Morgan Sindall – Construction & Infrastructure

When a health condition curtailed her promising career as an opera singer, Kate McAdam wasn’t about to be defeated – she pursued a new career path as a graduate site manager with Morgan Sindall and hasn’t looked back since.

Kate joined Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure’s Albion Primary School rebuild in Rotherhithe, south-east London last year, and the project is proving a huge success, receiving an innovation for an educational game.

Outlining the circumstances which led to her career change, Kate said:

“Unfortunately a health condition meant I was unable to pursue my operatic career, but I was determined to find a new path that would keep me energised and challenged, albeit in a different way to that of a professional musician.

“At the time my partner and I were in the process of renovating our second property. I got a real kick out of managing the whole process and was even glad to get involved in the construction process myself.

“I had originally thought interior design would suit me, but after a stint of working on a few projects for friends, I realised I preferred something a little ‘grittier’ and where I was able to work within a team of people. The decision to go into construction management suddenly became the most obvious thing to do and I knew it would be right up my street.”

Constructing a new career

Kate joined Morgan Sindall in June 2016, just after the former Albion Primary School had been demolished. As well as the demolition, the 94-week project required the construction of a 3,500sq/m new build on the same site to allow for an additional 100-pupil intake.

“I was very fortunate to start my career at this point in the project. It has meant I have seen the build go from the groundworks stage all the way through to the handover.

“This has provided me with the opportunity to learn as much as possible. My role wasn’t defined at first, as they allowed me to decide what I felt

suited me most. I settled on site management in the end as I love being out there seeing it all happen!” Kate said.

The Best Practice Hub asked Kate a few questions about her role and working as a woman in the construction industry:

What do you like about your current role and working within the construction industry in general?

“My role as site manager has allowed me to meet people from all walks of life; I find this a totally humbling experience as I believe everyone has something to offer. Seeing a project gradually come together is also incredibly rewarding. Being part of a venture which affects so many people’s lives makes me feel as though I am making a small difference in a positive way.”

What are the main challenges associated with the role?

“There are always new problems to solve on a daily basis on site. This can be unnerving when you’re new to the industry, but my confidence has grown over the last 18 months and now I enjoy the moment a subcontractor comes to me with an issue that needs sorting.

Also being able to adapt your management style so as to get the best out of your team and subcontractors is really important. This is probably one of the challenges I enjoy most.”

What advice would you give to other women or girls who might be considering a career in construction?

“Go for it! Women really mustn’t get hung up on being a woman in this industry. We all have our strengths and everyone I’ve worked with has nothing but encouraging things to say about seeing more women come into the industry.

Should I ever come across the old fashioned attitude of ‘building sites not being a place for women’, I always remain confident that my hard work and capability will prove that the fact I’m a woman is irrelevant.”

Kate’s innovative game plan

Kate’s brainchild on this project was the educational mobile game, Build my School, which was recognised as an innovation by the Scheme and enabled the pupils to see exactly how their new school was constructed through a series of mini games.

Project Manager, Michael Bragg said:

“Our contracts manager, David George asked Kate to come up with something that we could give to the school as a gift after handing over the new school; something of a lasting legacy, you might say. On previous school projects, Morgan Sindall had created a book with photos of the build’s progress accompanied by small captions.

“Kate felt she could design something that would appeal more to the children whilst educating them about how their school was actually built. An app, which also encourages healthy competition between classmates, means that as an educational resource it will be used continuously.

“For the younger children in nursery and reception years we also published a book with a poem and illustrations of the school being built.

“We’ve also given the children an active role in improving the app to ensure that it works as well as it can. The kids know best after all! The school has been given a set period of time of exclusivity with the app before it is made available for public download from the App Store.

If the feedback from the pupils continues to be positive, Morgan Sindall will certainly consider using the app for other primary school projects. Kate said:

“It’s really important to try and give something back to the community in which you are working. In terms of schools, we all know that building sites aren’t safe places for children but that shouldn’t mean we can’t teach them how buildings are constructed.

“Indeed, educating them now gives them an understanding of how important safety is on site. It’s crucial that Morgan Sindall and all main contractors consider the future of the industry and we can never plant the seed too soon. Inspiring children at this age will ensure we have a steady flow of men and women to join our sector, whether as operatives on site or as part of the design and management teams.”

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