By Charis Allison
Two months ago I was tagged by Ms Tomaz in a LinkedIn post, promoting the new GirlBoss Advantage Program. Not thinking much of it, I began the application process and pressed submit. A couple of weeks later, I received an email, congratulating me on my acceptance into the ‘GirlBoss Advantage Programme: Powered by Fletcher Living and Fletcher Construction’.
My first thought was, “must be a scam” and then it clicked. With a smile on my face, I ran up the stairs yelling, “I got in! I got in!” but the absent looks from my parents stopped me. Big oversight; I never actually told them about the application. So after catching them up to speed we had a mini celebration before they asked me when it was. I gave them the dates and mum responds, “oh, so the second week of the holidays”. Sorry, what? The holidays! Heck no.
A month later I was standing in the Fletcher Building Reception area. Construction, architecture and design were just some of many things on my list of potential future careers. I felt as though my spot should have gone to someone who knew that this was an industry they wanted to go into. Alexia, CEO of GirlBoss New Zealand was quick to reassure us all that we were chosen for a reason. Over 370 girls applied for this programme yet for some reason they picked me. I wasn’t quite sure if I found that reassuring or even more terrifying.
Over the course of the week, I certainly found my reason. I was there because I love to lead. I love to get involved. To help. To serve. To innovate. To design. To enjoy. To inspire and be inspired. During the week I had the opportunity to dive into every one of those characteristics and refine them. To gain more knowledge and understanding about them. I have upskilled and taught myself how to better use them.
For five days we covered just about everything, from workplace etiquette and networking skills right through to design, architecture and sales. We had the incredible opportunity to head out to Waiata Shores, Fletcher Living’s new development. While there we visited ‘project hipster’ a small site that we had to develop over the coming days. On Thursday we went to the Waterview Tunnel and watched some interesting videos of tunnel antics. One truck driver decided he didn’t want to go through the tunnel and attempted to drive back the way he came, along an 80km/h motorway. Another group of boys dropped their phone out the window while in the tunnel, stopped the car to get it and proceeded to blast the radio and have a dance party! Next time your driving through there, don’t think you can enter the tunnel at 80, exit at 80 and they won’t know you really hit 100 going through!
Thursday afternoon and Friday were the craziest 24 hours. We were split up into groups, assigned mentors and asked to design, develop and then pitch our concepts for ‘Project Hipster’, a small village of tiny homes within the Waiata Shores community. My team were given the target market of ‘Uni Students’. In short, we identified 6 aspects of uni life; living and working, playing and learning, connecting and participating. From there, we developed our land into 4 areas. In between the two rows of houses would be ‘connect’. Towards the end of the section would be the ‘live’ building that housed utilities such as washer/dryer units and e-bike charging stations. On either side of live is ‘play’ and ‘learn’. Once we were ready, we went downstairs to meet all the other groups and get ready to pitch our ideas to four executives. It was the scariest thing I have done in my life! We had to present them with a full 7-minute presentation and then answer any questions they might have. They certainly did not go easy on us! It was such an incredible experience.
This mini internship has completely opened my eyes to the construction industry. I have learnt so much but have also been encouraged and supported along every step. I loved hearing the stories of people’s journeys into their current roles and have found that most of them have a background in a very different area. I found this hugely comforting to know, especially while I prepare to leave school and feel the pressure of choosing the right course, that actually in an industry such as construction, your initial qualifications are actually not as influential as I had thought.