International Women’s Day
Head of Engineering Kirsty Walton shares: Why I love engineering and why construction is "Not just for boys"
As part of the #WomenAtHilti campaign and to celebrate International Women’s Day, I recently sat down to discuss how I became interested in a career in the construction industry, why I love engineering and what advice I have for other women who might be interested. Here is the full interview, feel free to ask more questions on my LinkedIn post!
How long have you been at Hilti?
I have been with Hilti for just over 11 years now, joining in December 2005.
What led you to a career in Engineering?
My interest in Engineering started very early - I like to know how things work. To do that sometimes you need to break things down to see their component parts then you can build them back up again and get them functioning. If this involves finding another solution even better! To be able to do this, then take that back a step further and 'design' something from first principles - and to do this as a job? Engineering became the obvious career for me. I also find I apply this interest in my private life - using the same principles for designing and creating leather handbags and purses (my husband is happier that I satisfy my handbag addiction by making them than just buying them!)
What led you to a career in construction/at Hilti?
I left university with a B.Eng. (Hons) in Mechanical Engineering. At the time I struggled to find a job in Engineering and continued with my 'Saturday' job at a local supermarket. A vacancy at Hilti was advertised in the Customer Services team and it fit my profile perfectly - the opportunity to support customers coupled with a sound technical understanding. Once joining Hilti I was introduced to the Engineering team in which I have now undertaken a number of roles - each one different and as challenging as the last.
What does a typical day look like for you?
In previous 'customer facing' roles, as a Project Engineer or Support Engineer every day was different. I would plan my time and my visits with the customers but that would only be the start of the conversation - there was no predicting what would be the result. It means the roles are demanding but inspiring and exciting in equal measure. Working on the rooftop of an airport to check designs for air handling unit supports, in a TV studio designing lighting brackets, defining the correct anchors for the seating in a Commonwealth Games stadium or designing the raised flooring in a theatre or data centre. The experience is different every time. The Engineers at Hilti are there to support our customers from design all the way through to installation so the tasks we perform are extremely diverse in nature. In my current role as Head of Engineering I take all of my previous Hilti experience and work with the Engineering Managers across Northern Europe to define the vision and approach of the engineering team to align with and support the overall company strategy
What is your favourite part of your job?
One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is dealing with people, both within the Engineering team and in the leadership team at Hilti. We are an incredibly diverse group of human beings and the mix of cultures and backgrounds allows for some fantastic discussions and opportunities to learn every day from each other. When it comes to being out in front of our customers - in their office or on the construction site, I have the opportunity to grow and develop myself whilst supporting others - an extremely satisfying experience.
What surprises people about your role?
For some reason it still seems 'unusual' for a woman to be able to provide a technical solution to a problem, and perhaps to head the engineering team of a construction company - thankfully at Hilti, gender is not relevant. We hire the right people for the job irrespective of who or what they are. I enjoy this element of my job, I am confident in my abilities and the trust Hilti shows in me reinforces that in many ways.
What would you say to any other women who are considering a career in the construction industry?
If you take satisfaction in designing / creating / finding a solution and then seeing that solution come to life then the construction industry could be for you. The construction industry is so varied in nature it’s an exciting industry to be part of.. Every person in every role of the industry is creating their own legacy on every site they work on, as the projects we create today exist for the next generations to enjoy and admire long into the future.