I always expected to go to university after school. I did well with my studies but could have done better. I liked to chat and make friends – perhaps a bit too much. So instead of university I chose real-life experience.
While my friends were getting their degrees, I worked for Thomas Cook as a wedding coordinator in Zante, Majorca and Tenerife for three years. Meeting new people, solving problems, growing up and making people’s dreams come true. It was brilliant.
At 21, and having always lived at home, it was a whole new world. I organised hundreds of weddings and loved every second of it. I worked with people of different ages and backgrounds.
I dealt with complaints face to face. And I found out that building relationships with people came naturally to me. The life experience I gained at Thomas Cook has helped shape my career. It was my first real job so I felt very sad when the company went into administration.
I didn’t think I’d ever come back to England but I needed a job to see me through to the next wedding season in Malta. I started temping in the despatch office at Naylor Industries, the construction materials manufacturer based in Barnsley.
Even though it was a temporary post, I always like to give my all to a job and make a good impression – you never know when you might want to come back.
It wasn’t long before the sales manager offered me a permanent contract as an internal sales support manager for the South East region. It was time to get a grown-up job, so I went for it.
I was a young female in a male-dominated industry working with people who were much older and who had much more technical experience than me. I knew nothing about plastics or pipes. I spent the first two weeks crying to my mum each night as I didn’t think I’d ever be good enough. But I made the effort to learn about the products and the technical aspects of the business. One day I realised it had all clicked into place.
Naylor Industries is a real family business. Edward Naylor, the chief executive, makes a point of knowing everyone in the company. That was a big thing for me – the guy who owns the company knows my name and remembers me. The team, the support and the fact that people genuinely care about each other and want you to succeed is what keeps me here.
I’m now a key account manager for the Naylor Plastics division, looking after clients in England and Wales. My job is busy so I need to be organised. I start my day at 6am with a coffee. I check workflow and make a list of what I need to do. No two days are the same. I could be in Cardiff one day and Newcastle the next.
I love being on the road, building relationships with our national customers – Jewson, JDP and Wolseley as well as buying societies which help independent builders merchants get a better deal by buying products in bulk. But it’s fun as well as hard work and we enjoy perks such as taking our clients to the Edinburgh Festival or to sporting or charity events.
Our pipes are used for cable ducting and drainage and we sell millions of metres a year. We’ve kept launching new products and expanding our range – we recently spent £5m on a new line to manufacture large diameter plastic pipes on our Cawthorne site. It can be a real challenge to bring a new product to market but sales are increasing and our team is making great progress.
There are very few women working in the construction industry. At industry events, I could be just one of three or four women in a room of 400 men. But there are opportunities for women – we need to get into schools to share our experiences and encourage more young women to join us. Research has shown that 60 per cent of people working in the construction industry will retire in the next ten years – that’s as many as 500,000 people.
I’m getting more involved in our customers’ trade association, the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) with an ambassador role aimed at helping the industry become more attractive to women – we will really need them in the future.
I hope my success can inspire my young colleagues to go for it with their own careers.
I never imagined myself working in the construction industry. But I’d choose Naylor Industries every time. I would love my younger self not to have stressed so much about grades and missing university. I have learnt that life experience counts for just as much and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.