Alessia Osti is an Italian native who has worked her way up the construction industry, taking in some of the most iconic projects in London and the Middle East on the way. She took some time out to talk to The Industry Leaders about her journey.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Definitely not promoting myself as many people do in our industry. I credit hard work, resilience and a determination as a woman to succeed in a male-dominated industry.
I was thrown onto one of the most prestigious site projects in London around 20 years ago, "Paternoster Square", without knowing the language or much about the job – either you survive, or you drown! I remained in London for about ten years working for two of the leading industry specialists on prestigious projects.
I later transferred to Dubai, working my way from specialist sub-contractor to Regional Head of Façade at a global, blue-chip main contractor. So, here I am; I think I've survived!
What kind of work does your role involve?
I can simply answer that I need to make things happen on time and on budget while managing different teams on different projects. Projects are fast track and always, along with the team involved, unique. Thus, you must balance and understand the needs of both the project and its people to make it successful. It's not only about your work experience but also about your attitude and personality.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Our industry can be very demanding, especially if you work in the field on construction projects, as I have always done. Each day is different with different challenges, and I've been very lucky to work on several iconic projects. The excitement to pass by a finished building and say "I have done this", is priceless.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
When I decided to stay in the UK and leave my Italian company in 2005 and not return to Italy, I was new in the industry and at the beginning of my career. I was only able to arrange one interview which, for me, meant the world.
The hour before going to meet the interviewer, my senior colleague told me not to bother to go as, with my poor English, I would fail. It was the best advice from the standpoint that it incentivised me to be more determined to succeed and, from that day, I've never looked back.
I didn't go back to Italy, and I stayed for almost a decade in the UK working for the best names in the industry.
What, or who inspires you?
One of my University Professors who guided me until the thesis has been a big inspiration for me.
And guess what? She is a woman as well.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
I undertake short-courses, in-house training, discussion with colleagues in the industry, and attend industry seminars.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
The Address Downtown in Dubai in 2016. I was at home in Italy watching on TV when the hotel building, unfortunately, caught fire during New Years Eve celebrations. Six months later, I was on-site with the company I had just joined and which had been engaged to undertake the hotel's rehabilitation and refurbishment works.
The challenge was to understand what was still structurally safe and redesign whatever changes the client (Emaar) wanted to upgrade during the re-construction stage in time for the new opening only one year later.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
It would not be sincere to say that I wouldn't resign the day after! However, I would first the perfect substitute to handover my job :)
How do you switch off after a day at work?
In construction, you can't switch off, especially if you are in the middle of a live project. However, a yoga class and a glass of Prosecco can help after a stressful day at work.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
As a pioneer in my industry, it would be interesting to see the construction sector dominated by women, especially in operations and key positions. I think we still have very far to go, even to reach parity, as it's one of the oldest and most traditional industries in the job market.
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/alessia-osti-57508520.
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