When Jodie Pope graduated from university with a degree in fashion, textiles and retail, she had no idea that her future lay in an altogether different industry. But now, at the age of 30, she is making huge strides in the world of construction and is relishing every moment of the challenge.
Jodie is a technical co-ordinator at Berkshire-based developer Bewley Homes, managing four developments of her own. What’s more, she is studying part-time for a master’s degree in construction management at the University of Reading.
She explained that her introduction to the construction industry began during holidays from her degree course at Manchester University. “I took a summer job at a firm of developers and worked on and off for them during my degree,” explained Jodie, who lives in Newbury.
“I got a good understanding of construction, working in lots of different departments like sales and commercial. One day I landed in technical and really enjoyed it.”
Despite this early grounding in the construction world, Jodie worked for seven years as a retail buyer in London after completing her degree. “I eventually left the job because I wanted more opportunities than the sector could give me,” said Jodie. “There just wasn’t the room for growth I was looking for, so I moved back home to be closer to my friends and family.”
Happily for Jodie, a job role as technical assistant at Bewley Homes arose at just the right time, and the developer’s excellent reputation attracted her to the position. “I knew Bewley was very well respected as a housebuilder, and that they were known for their high quality homes,” she said.
Three years on, Jodie has since been promoted to technical co-ordinator, and says she really enjoys her working life. “I love the autonomy of managing my own projects while working in a team environment,” she said. “One of the strengths I took from my retail buyer job was the ability to juggle lots of things at once which is vital for this role.”
Jodie is now responsible for Bewley Homes’ Nursery Gardens development in Tongham, Surrey along with Loddon Oak in Spencer’s Wood, Berkshire. She has also recently been entrusted with two new sites in Reigate and Arborfield. On a day-to-day basis, she could be reviewing architects’ drawings, ensuring plans adhere to council regulations and managing a team of consultants amongst a wealth of other tasks.
“I also assist other departments such as sales and commercial. It’s very varied which keeps things interesting,” she said.
And, not one to rest on her laurels, Jodie is just months away from completing her two-year master’s degree. She explained: “I study for a full week at university every few months and then go away and work on an assignment in the evenings and at weekends. Working towards something tangible has given me lots of self-confidence, and I’ve tailored the course to my job role as much as I can.”
She added: “We’ve been studying global issues that affect the construction industry, such as Brexit, and it’s been great to get a broader knowledge of what’s happening in the world. I’d like to go into management one day so it’s really useful to have this kind of insight.”
Jodie said that her colleagues at Bewley could not have been more accommodating, since she started both her role and her studies. “They take on as much as they can for me while I’m away studying and are always there if I need to ask questions,” she said. “I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more supportive company, in this industry or any other.”
She added: “I’d really urge other women to consider a job in construction. It’s traditionally been very male-dominated and not something that’s been attractive to women. But I don’t think there is enough awareness of the job roles available and how interesting they are. I hope more is done in schools to recruit women into construction in the future.”