Megan Van Tonder is the Operations Manager for UAE at JLL. She took some time out to talk to The Industry Leaders about how advice from her father inspires her, and why she's excited to be part of the construction industry's ongoing digitisation.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I would love to say that it was by grand design, but the truth is partly luck, partly being in the right place at the right time, hard work and taking a great deal of pride in my work.
I studied Industrial and Organisational Psychology, and while this has no direct relationship with my job title, it has a massive influence on my ability to understand people, what drives them and how to build better relationships. The drive to understand people more and help them achieve more effectively is something that I thrive on and get a great deal of satisfaction from. I believe that philosophy in life will always stand you in good stead when it comes to living and life.
What kind of work does your role involve?
I'm the Operations Manager for UAE for JLL, so I do a little of everything, but most days I try to focus on marketing, people management and putting together bids and proposals.
What gets you excited about your industry?
The opportunity to literally build the world around us, as well as being part of an industry that is on the cusp of major disruption.
While the construction industry is 13 % of the world's GDP, it ranks lowest in terms of digitisation and adoption of technology. It's time to put the faxes and pagers away and get the Construction Industry into the 21st century. I'm really excited to be a part of that transformation and digitisation.
I like to think of my desk as a blank canvas, eagerly awaiting details on that next project. Working at a global leader like JLL in Dubai means I get to be involved in some iconic and revolutionary projects. The UAE is at the forefront in terms of construction, and its bold approach is paving the way forward.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My Dad always said, "If you are going to do something, do it right the first time".
This has translated into me, striving to give my best in everything I do and raising my personal standards. I believe that if you live by that philosophy, it's a matter of not if you will achieve your aspirations, but when!
What, or who inspires you?
My children. Becoming a mother changed my view on everything, and now I constantly strive to be a great example to the little people in my life.
After all, it's less about what I say and more about who my husband and I are, that they become.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
Networking, because people are the drivers of change, and then some decent Googling.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
Pre-COVID it would have been putting together a billion-dollar project proposal for a 3-way joint venture. I was coordinating with various stakeholders across three different organisations, that all do things in their own way, working towards a fixed deadline and putting in a best in class bid. Unfortunately, we didn't win that bid, but I learnt an incredible amount during the process.
Post-COVID it's been balancing family, work and life with the challenges of Covid19. Shoutout to all the teachers and frontline workers in the world. They have my absolute respect.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I would buy a few hundred acres of the bushveld in Africa and set up a nature reserve with no people allowed.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
My two little generals don't really allow for me to switch off. I'm either in "Work Meg" or "Mom" mode!
However, as a family, we love visiting the waterpark or beach as often as we can on the weekends. The kids love being outside and enjoying the water, and this is something I want to encourage in them. I prefer this rather than them being stuck in front of a screen for hours.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
To have two wishes to start with!
My first wish would be about sustainability. We all need to drive disruption and impactful change in everything we do. I believe technology and digitisation can make a difference in the construction industry and help move us to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly place.
My second wish would be to give people equal opportunities through investing in children/young people to learn and discover who they are and realising their potential beyond their social conditioning.
How should people connect with you?
You can contact me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/meganvantonder/.