In 2015, I was thrilled to be announced as the HIA-CSR QLD Business Partner of The Year. This has brought about many exciting opportunities for me over the 12 months that followed including many public speaking engagements, including one at the end of last year for the HIA. The Women in Building Industry Lunch and Panel Discussion gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing women, who were generous enough to share their stories with me. One of the women I then when on to have contact with is Danielle Berry, who was the 2016 Business Partner of the Year. Today she is sharing her story with you, and an inspirational one it is.
Could You Introduce Yourself and Let Us Know What You Do.
My name is Danielle Berry, and I am the Office Manager at Brisbane Bathroom Renovations Pty Ltd, a small family business that specializes in complete bathroom renovations.
I am the oldest of five children, our childhood was spent in North Queensland surrounded by open space and plenty of area where we could enjoy being outside running around, riding bikes, and doing laps around the yard in our go-kart wearing a track in the grass (which our mother loved very much!). Our parents took us away camping often, and our other holidays were road trips to visit our relatives dotted along the east coast of Queensland.
My personality certainly suits being a big sister, as I tend to be a nurturer and an organizer and I am always thinking ahead – my middle sister calls me ‘Contingency Dan’, as I am the one you go to if you require a band-aid or a safety pin!
Please Share A Little Of What Lead You To Your Chosen Career?
I actually didn’t choose to be in the building industry, I had friends who owned a small bathroom renovation company that was beginning to expand. Previously, the wife of one of the partners took care of the paperwork, and the ‘guys’ would answer the phone. When they had their first child, it quickly became apparent they would need someone who could exclusively manage the office. My friends knew I was dissatisfied with the job I was in at the time and wanting to do something different, so they offered me the administrative role within the company. I started working for the company 3 days per week in January 2008 with limited duties, but as I got to know the business and became more confident, I was able to assume more responsibilities and implement some systems I had learned working in larger companies. Over the years the company and I have grown together, and I now work 4 days per week. Most of the time I am in the office, but I also spend time on the road, picking up supplies, visiting job sites to see clients or take photographs of our finished projects.
How Did You Go About Finding Your First Job/Apprenticeship?
I began my first job a few weeks after I finished year 12. In the 90s you searched for jobs in the local paper, in response to one of these ads I sent in my resume (that was diligently prepared in high school) to a local motor vehicle dealership, and was successful in obtaining a receptionist/administration job.
I still remember what a shock it was to my system when my younger siblings finished school and were on 6 weeks of holidays, and I realized I had to get up every morning and go to work!
What Was Your Experience Those First Few Years?
I look back very fondly on my first job. I worked very closely with the business owner and his wife, and despite my young age they entrusted me with a lot of responsibility for my young age in the business. I remember several occasions when I was given tasks to complete, but no specific instructions on how to go about it. This gave me an opportunity to flex my administrative muscles, and develop office systems in conjunction with the business owner. During my time there, a new dealership was constructed, and we moved over and settled into our new premises. After two years I trained a new receptionist and office assistant, and left NQ to settle in the south-east corner.
Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?
I hope to be happy and healthy and enjoying what I am doing with my life. I want to add several more stamps to my passport.
What Changes Do You Believe Are Needed In The Construction Industry?
Safety on the job site is such an important issue, every time I hear of a fatality on a construction site; the thought goes through my head that it didn’t have to happen. The culture on a construction site needs to be such that a worker feels free to speak up about any dangerous (or potentially dangerous) situations, and not fear negative repercussions
One Lesson Would You Share With Women Thinking Of A Career In Construction?
Even if your role is not ‘on the tools’, acquire as much knowledge as you can about the industry and the company you work for, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! The guys I work for are always happy to answer any questions I have, whether it is something to do with licensing, or a technical question about cutting tiles. They never make me feel silly for asking questions. The old saying ‘knowledge is power’ is very – the more you understand about your company and the industry, the more you can contribute. I can confidently speak with clients on a wide variety of subjects, and I no longer need to bother the guys on the job to answer client questions and make decisions.
What struggles have you found and how have you overcome them?
I am someone who takes my responsibilities very seriously, which means I can find it difficult to switch off from work when I am at home or in other situations. It is vital to delineate between these two aspects of your life – work is important, but I strongly believe that you work to live, not live to work. I have implemented simple strategies, such as not checking my work email when I am at home.
Working with friends also provides a unique challenge, my office is based in the home of the Project Manager, so I regularly cross paths with the family! It is very important to understand and respect the privacy of the family, despite the fact that I am working in such close proximity to them. We regularly cross paths outside of the work environment, at these times we have to make a concerted effort not to talk about work!
On reflection Danielle went on to write about one challenge she faced in her early life, which I felt compelled to share.
I really enjoyed working and all the ‘grown-up’ things that came along with it. I had a little car that I loved driving around in, a bright orange 1974 Mazda1300. It had no carpet and would leak when it rained, so my Dad and I pulled the bungs out of the floor to allow any water that came in to run straight out again! I had friends I enjoyed spending time with, I loved my family, I was earning my own money and saving heaps as I was living at home. Midway through 2001, I began feeling unwell. I was losing a lot of weight, I felt tired and irritable all the time, and drinking litres of water per day (and visiting the bathroom almost as often). I felt hungry and wanted to eat, but when I did I felt sick. I had an infection in my toe that would not clear up. Some days my mother would have to drive me to work, as I didn’t even feel well enough to take myself in my beloved Mazda. One day I had a headache at work, and while collecting some pain killers from a workmate, he suggested I should drink more water. When I told him I already drink litres per day, he said that doesn’t sound good – maybe I had diabetes? That night I related this conversation to my mother, and unbeknownst to me, she pulled out our family health encyclopedia and began researching. The next day she arranged a doctor’s appointment for me – the receptionist’s tone on that phone call showed she didn’t think much of my mother’s suggestion that her daughter may have diabetes. However, my mother and my workmate turned out to be correct – at age 19, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, a chronic, auto-immune disease where my immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in my pancreas. I immediately started on insulin – I was so thin, the doctor needed me to lean forward so he could pinch a tiny roll of fat on my torso for my very first injection.
A chronic illness doesn’t go away and doesn’t get better. I give myself five injections per day, and test my blood sugar levels five or six times daily. I have appointments with specialists several times per year, and regular blood tests. Occasionally these tests reveal something that needs attention – if you have an auto-immune disease, there is a greater likelihood of developing other health issues. When this happens, I work with my doctors to incorporate any new medications and adjustments into my routine. I do tend to get very tired, so it is important I get sufficient sleep, and understand what my body is telling me – when I need to rest, I need to rest! Many times in the past I have pushed myself too hard, and ended up falling in a heap.
By maintaining regular contact with my health care professionals, eating well, keeping active, and knowing my limits, I can successfully manage my Type 1 Diabetes. I don’t feel it has prevented me from leading a normal life, I don’t view myself as sick, I am just a normal person, and if you are around me at meal time you may happen to see me inject. (On a side note, children are fascinated by my needles, and will crowd around and pull the funniest faces when I inject!).
Work & Diabetes
Having supportive and understanding employers is such an asset to anyone managing a chronic illness. Working 4 days per week allows me to get sufficient rest, which means I have the energy to fully enjoy and participate in activities and responsibilities not related to my work. Usually my specialist appointments fall during normal working hours, but this is never a problem – I just inform the guys, and they know that I may not be contactable during that time. Many times I have been told that if I need to start late that is no problem, and if I am feeling very tired or a bit unwell by the end of the day, often I am encouraged to “Just pack up the office and go home early Dan!”. Unfortunately I usually have too much work I am trying to finish off to feel comfortable leaving the office – I know if I don’t do it now it will be waiting for me in the morning), but it is very reassuring to know I have that option, should I need to take it up.
Thank you for sharing Danielle, I feel to is so encouraging for us as women to share freely our experiences within the construction industry especially when they are positive ones. A great positive story is enough to give us all hope on our bad days.
Danielle works for Brisbane Bathroom Renovation who you can find online here.
If you have a story you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org