March 7th 2023

Women in Construction Week 2023: An interview with Business Development Manager, Debbi Keatings

With over 18 years of experience within the construction industry, we recently caught up with Business Development Manager, Debbi Keatings who tells us more about her role at Kirkwood Timber Frame, what she would like to see change within the timber frame industry and how other women can get involved…

Women in Construction Week 2023: An interview with Business Development Manager, Debbi Keatings

Despite accounting for just over half of the UK population, the number of women working within construction still remains scarcely low, with the number decreasing further when you remove office-based construction jobs such as management, design or administration roles.

In order to help eliminate gender stereotypes and encourage women to enter construction, Women in Construction Week aims to celebrate the contribution women make to the industry.

With over 18 years of experience within the construction industry, we recently caught up with Business Development Manager, Debbi Keatings who tells us more about her role at Kirkwood Timber Frame, what she would like to see change within the timber frame industry and how other women can get involved…

Name: Debbi Keatings

What is your job title?

Business Development Manager

How long have you worked at Kirkwood Timber Frame?

“I’ve worked at Kirkwood Timber Frame since June 2021.”

Can you tell us a bit about your background - is this your first role within the construction industry or have you worked in the industry for a number of years?

“I've been working in the construction industry for 18 years, since I left school and started college.

“At college, I studied architecture and construction where I went on to achieve a HNC in construction, HND in Architectural Technology and a BSc in Construction. During my studies, I worked for a roof truss company where I managed to grow my knowledge within the industry and progressed my career. Over the 10 years I worked at the company, I was lucky enough to progress through a variety of job roles including estimator, designer and technical sales manager.

“After this, I decided it was time for a change and moved to another company where I started my role as a timber frame designer which involved designing and managing multiple housing development projects and multistorey apartment buildings. I then made the transition to a business development manager at a different timber frame company where I had the responsibility of managing my own team and running a satellite office. This led me to my current position at Kirkwood Timber Frame.”

What inspired/led you to pursue a career in construction?

“From a young age, I’ve always been interested in construction, whether it was playing with construction sets and building my own creations to drawing houses. It has always been something I am passionate about and my interest has only grown stronger over the years.

The more I began to learn about the architecture and sustainability side of the industry, the more I was interested in pursuing a career in timber frame as it offered the best of both worlds.”

What does a day in the life at Kirkwood Timber Frame look like for you?

My role at Kirkwood Timber Frame is mostly customer focused and involves anything from creating leads by researching potential customers and generating enquiries to collaborating with senior team members to create seamless processes for staff and customers. My role also touches upon more technical aspects including collecting and reviewing information/ drawings from the customer to assist with estimates and collating documentation to aid with the timber frame designs.

“By speaking and meeting with potential and existing customers, I’m able to find out the needs of the customer - particularly builders and developers - and provide them with relevant solutions. Besides this, I often support the marketing activities of the company too, by creating useful content and tools for the customers.”

Do you have a favourite project you have worked on? What made it stand out?

“Despite being involved in a variety of different projects, my favourite one so far would have to be the blog post I wrote on ‘8 steps to self-building your dream home’. It’s the first piece of blog content that I’ve ever written and provides guidance for those looking to embark on their self build journey while also sharing some of the knowledge that I’ve gained during my years throughout the industry.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge of being a woman in construction?

“I think the biggest challenge women in the industry currently face is outdated views. Although improving, these expired views within the construction industry still exist and from an outsider's perspective can be off-putting for other women looking to pursue a career in the industry.

“Thankfully, as more women that are equally talented and passionate enter the industry we begin to see these views shift. Despite still having a lot of work to do when it comes to equal representation, I certainly have noticed a difference over the past few years.”

How do you see the timber frame industry changing over the next five years?

I see innovation being a driving force behind the change in the industry over the next couple of years. The construction industry is striving towards achieving its net zero targets and timber frame plays a large role in this. Building regulations are now enforcing better thermal efficiency in homes and buildings which timber frame has already been exceeding, this will serve as a crucial part of helping developers comply with regulations.

“Despite timber frame being used in construction for many years, improving efficiency by continuing to develop off-site construction methods is only going to grow. An increase in off-site manufacturing methods will create roles outside onsite construction which may attract more women to the industry and help tackle the skills shortage.”

What advice would you give to other women looking to get into the construction industry?

The first piece of advice I would give to other women is to find a good mentor as having a mentor - whether it be male or female - is a great way to gain invaluable support, value and motivation. Seeing females in senior positions is very important in helping to inspire others to join the industry and also shows that there are clear career progression opportunities, encouraging women to pursue a long and prosperous career in the industry. You need to believe in yourself and have the confidence to apply for any role that you’re interested in.”

What do you love most about the industry?

“I love the teamwork aspect of construction, as our jobs are often based on working together to complete the end goal. Regardless of whether it’s a big or small project, it’s always rewarding to see the completed build come to life. At Kirkwood Timber Frame, we are constantly collaborating with other employees, businesses and customers with a new challenge or project always on the horizon meaning we never stop learning!”

Anything you’d like to see change in the future?

There is an opportunity for construction businesses to demonstrate their inclusivity and flexibility when recruiting new team members and promoting internally. Companies that demonstrate diversity stand out as an attractive employer and Kirkwood Timber Frame is doing just that by giving women a platform.”

Anything else you’d like to add?

“I think there is still work to be done when it comes to encouraging women to enter the industry - simple things such as having more female representatives at career fairs or even educating children from a young age about the job opportunities available in construction are easy ways to increase female representation in the workforce.

“There are also many benefits of increasing gender diversity in construction as diverse teams produce a wider spread of views and opinions which is very useful when it comes to product and service innovation or problem solving. Having the ability to offer a variety of perspectives means we can better align with our customers, particularly in the self-build market, which can be a great advantage to construction businesses.”

Learn more about Kirkwood Timber Frame

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