As we look forward to celebrating this year’s International Women’s Day, we’re speaking to some of the brilliant women working at Oktra to learn more about their career journeys, and what they see for themselves and the industry in the future.
Here at Oktra, we’re proud of the inspiring spaces we get to create for our clients, but we know we’re only able to make that happen because of the amazing people we work with. While the world of design and build has historically been thought of as more of a man’s world, that’s been changing for some time, and we wanted to introduce some of the incredible women who make what we do at Oktra come to life. Innovators, leaders, risk-takers: we’re speaking to women about what they love about their roles, how they see their careers continuing to develop, and advice they would give to women coming into their fields today.
I’ve worked in design and build for almost five years now. I was initially contacted by Oktra to just see how things were going, and then six or nine months later I was working here and I’ve never looked back!
There’s loads I love about my job: it’s definitely a very competitive market and I’m quite a competitive person! I think that combination has actually improved my skills. It’s really interesting speaking to different people every day, keeping up with London’s property market and also bringing exciting projects to the table. My previous role was based in the Thames Valley and it was very different to London. We’re in one of the most exciting cities in the world when it comes to real estate, and to know that we play a major part in that is really fulfilling. Being at the very front end can be a lot of pressure, but we’ve got the right people in place and a dynamic, driven team, as well as a really strong leadership team. Personally, I also find being in a financially incentivised role works well for me as a tangible motivator.
It’s been a real journey working at Oktra during the pandemic. It’s given me a lot of faith in how the business is going to grow in the future. If I had to give any advice to women coming into sales, and I do think there is a lack of women in design and build sales specifically, I would say remember to hold your own, challenge your peers, be firm and recognise the value you can add as a woman.
I joined Oktra around 18 months ago now: I was approached for the role and it was an opportunity that straightaway caught my eye. It’s not often you get to join a business that’s new and the whole prospect really excited me. The job satisfaction in my role is huge: we work closely with the design team but also with pre-con all the way through to delivery, so we’re one of the only teams within the business that get to really see projects the whole way through.
There’s a really nice balance – you’ve got your design element with choosing the furniture, but we also do all the costs and project manage the furniture on site, so it engages your brain in both ways. I’ve actually got a law degree and I didn’t go into law because I didn’t want to be doing the same thing every day: I spend a lot of time on site and one of the things I love about Oktra is that every day, every job and every client is different.
Looking to the future, I’m excited for the team to expand and for us to become more of a main player in the North, because we’ve got a great team and the foundations are there. I think that people still have that conception that design and build and construction are a man’s world. It’s lessened a bit, but my advice to women entering the industry is that nothing should stop you from doing what you want to do. On the job, the best way I’ve learned is by listening to people with experience and taking their advice. Go and speak to women who have been through the same thing, ask what they’ve done and how they would do it; don’t be afraid to ask questions because that’s how you learn.
The way I joined Oktra was actually a bit of a fluke! I was managing a team of ten at my previous role, but then Oktra approached me and I was completely sold on what design and build is: how creative and fast-paced the industry is, how exciting it would be to grow the team in Oktra South. I started off shadowing people from all parts of the business, to really learn the industry, and before I knew it I was working!
One of the things I love most about the job is that I know it’s going somewhere: I know we’re building the team, I know I can share my ideas and get heard; it’s really very open-door. And I feel like here, you’re not just your job, you can do more: I’ve helped out with Project Managers on Day Two stuff, I’ve gone to site and met clients; it’s not just a case of booking a meeting and then handing over, I’ve actually sort of been able to design my own role.
The immediate team of sales people I work with are also incredible: it makes such a difference, especially with flexible and remote working, to be working with people you genuinely like! The biggest buzz of the job is of course, a win: whether that’s from a marketing or networking lead, seeing something come through is a great feeling. It’s been a real journey working through COVID as well, and so inspiring: that we’re coming through it and we’re actually doing well means that we must be doing something right somewhere, speaking to the right people in the right ways. As for the future, I really like this business development side, so whether that turns into consulting or something like that, I’m looking forward to how we grow. Something I have learned throughout my career is definitely to play to your own strengths: there are always times you’ll feel you should do things a certain way, but you’ll know in your gut that doesn’t work for you, and it’s about learning when to be confident challenging a no, and when to accept it.
I joined Oktra as a Marketing intern in 2017. What’s great about Oktra is that you have the opportunity to grow and work your way up, so from an intern, I’ve gone on to work as a Marketing Assistant, Digital Marketing Executive, and now Digital Marketing Manager.
Marketing as a field has a lot of different elements to love. We’re at the heart of the business: we support other departments, and engage with our clients and future prospects in a creative and constantly revolutionary way – and that is a powerful thing! No two days are the same, and the rise of digital marketing means that my job is always full of variety. As a digital marketing specialist, being on top of the latest digital trends is something that I love (as geeky as that sounds), as well as learning more about how to best use data insights and tools to help the business and our industry be more discoverable and memorable.
I’m looking forward to the future bringing new and exciting opportunities for the design and build industry, continuing to support our own teams and to helping our clients feel confident about the future of their workspaces. My advice to anyone coming into this industry is to never stop learning: our industry changes all the time. Keep reading industry news and proactively seek out learning opportunities from other successful women in the business, because people are happy to empower other people. Don’t be afraid to work with women across the business to help grow your confidence. And one day you might return the favour for other women who are just starting out!