As Redrow’s Project Co-ordinator for Plasdŵr, the £2 billion, 900-acre garden city taking shape in north west Cardiff, Jessica Owen is not short of responsibility. The housebuilder, headquartered in north Wales, is lead developer of the project bringing 5000 jobs, up to 7000 homes, five schools, a town centre, health, leisure and community facilities and more over the next 20 years.
As Wales’ largest development and a greenfield site vital to supporting the city’s economic growth, Plasdŵr’s team includes experts in planning, transport, ecology, transport and infrastructure as well as architects and urban designers. So project coordination is critical to its progress.
“My role is right at the centre, bringing everyone and everything together, ensuring that we push the programme on and meet our target dates and budgets,” she says.
“It is a lot of responsibility, it’s challenging and can be frustrating too, but I love the fact that I have the broadest knowledge of something that will bring massive social and economic benefits.
“No two days are the same. I may be at a project board meeting one day working with a team of professionals who are all leaders in their fields, on site the next and then, pre-Covid of course, in a community meeting talking to our neighbours.”
A first class honours Biology graduate of Swansea University, Jess joined the Redrow graduate scheme in 2016. She was offered a permanent role 18 months later and promoted the following year.
“My dad, who was in the construction industry his whole working life, advised me to choose Redrow because of its quality product. Then the desire to invest in talented people really came across in my interview, so joining was an easy decision to make.
“It had all I wanted from a grad scheme: you rotate between all departments so you get unbeatable experience, make the right professional choice for you and work with other teams from a position of understanding. Plus, your regional MD is your mentor, so you have ready access to a huge amount of experience.”
Jess is the only woman at the project board table, but says she doesn’t really think about that.
“I don’t feel being a woman has helped or hindered me in my career. Redrow is certainly playing its part in addressing the gender imbalance in the construction sector, both at entry level and by encouraging us into leadership and management roles.”
As well as attracting female applicants to its apprenticeship and graduate programmes, Redrow has a Women’s Network, currently operating online, where female colleagues can connect, ask questions, blog, share ideas and support each other. It also offers mentoring to support women with their career plans.
Jess herself is keen to make use of her own experience and Institute of Leadership & Management mentoring qualification, as well as pursuing further professional development.
“I want to explore becoming a mentor in the construction sector and to do a Masters in the next couple of years and I’m working towards my next promotion.”
Her advice to other women is to consider the construction industry as a potential career choice.
“Construction isn’t just about the manual labour you see on site – so much work goes on before you can even put a spade in the ground and, as a multi-disciplinary sector, it is generally alive to the fact that it needs a diverse workforce,” she said.
“I’m passionate about the sector because it contributes so much to society and the economy and, if you’re passionate about something, you shouldn’t let being a woman stand in your way. I’d advise other women to explore what opportunities the sector can offer them.”