During Black History Month we made a promise to celebrate our black peers and colleagues from across the built environment, sharing their experiences, insights and perspectives. This month, we are in conversation with our own Diana Deans, a Senior Account Manager at Copper.
1. Can you please provide your job title & a brief role description?
I’m a Senior Account Manager at Copper Consultancy. My main account is working on the Laing O’Rourke and Murphy joint venture in its delivery of enabling works for HS2. My work involves supporting the LM Community Engagement team in the delivery of HS2’s stakeholder engagement strategy.
2. Can you tell us about your journey to reach your current position?
Like many of the children of the Windrush generation, I was the first in my family to graduate from university.
I really wanted to work for a charity in marketing and communications I wrote to lots of charities but struggled to find a way in without experience. At this time I joined recruitment agency who were seeking someone to work temporarily for the National Blood Service in the Marketing and Communications teams. I can still remember being offered this role vividly as I was making the first step in my career. I’m still thankful for the belief they showed in me and the experience I gained from the role.
I very much enjoyed my time and learnt lots, but I wanted more job security. The agency then asked if I’d like to be put forward for a permanent role with npower leading community engagement at Fawley and Cowes Power Stations, which was my first exposure to the infrastructure sector. After 4 years, I was ready for the next step in my career and took the opportunity to transfer to the Horizon Nuclear Power project to work on their communications and engagement, both internally and externally. I had enjoyed my time in the power generation sector so much that I relished the opportunity to be involved in the construction of a new station. Sadly, the project was unable to secure the funding it needed and, after 7 years, I was made redundant.
The experience I gained in working in the power generation sector were communications and community relations, being a good neighbour and ensuring that the benefits of those stations and development projects were articulated to communities and the benefits could also be felt by those communities in which they were in. These crossed over very well into my next role at Bristol Airport. Even though they may seem very different industries, there are many parallels and I’ve been able to carry the knowledge gained from all these areas into my work with Copper.
3. What were the main 3 challenges that you faced in your career?
Like many new graduates, I found it hard to get on the career ladder with many companies requiring experience to land a junior role but without the opportunity to gain that experience elsewhere. I was also living away from home and renting which meant I could not really consider unpaid internships or work experience. I also found that I did not seem to have the networks or the personal connections which I know can help a great deal, but I’ve now been able to build these over the course of time.
I’ve had to move jobs more often than I would have planned because of reasons beyond my control such as job security and redundancies. This has meant I’ve had to learn new roles and industries regularly. At times I’ve found this difficult, but it’s taught me to be resilient and also given me a well-rounded skillset.
As a black person you can feel that you’re under extra scrutiny because of your race and there is a pressure that comes with often being the only black person in the room. This makes you feel like you’re representing more than just yourself.
4. Do you see changes in representation in the industry, positive or negative
There has been an improvement over the years in showing a wider range of ethnicities working in construction, which helps young people see that there are people like them in a sector they might not otherwise consider joining. However, I still think there is a long way to go until we see more balance in the workplace. The good thing is that the construction industry is aware of this and is taking steps to address it. Groups like the BPIC network are doing great things in improving the representation and retention of ethnic minorities in the construction industry.
5. Do you have any advice for someone with a similar career goal?
Be true to yourself and try not to compare yourself to others. It doesn’t matter how you get here; you deserve to be here too.
6. As part of the Black Lives Matter UK #ProudToBe campaign, can you share something you are proud of?
I’m proud to be the daughter of Jamaican migrant parents working on major UK infrastructure projects. They are part of the Windrush generation that came to help the UK recover in the post-war era. I’m grateful to work on projects that care about building a better future for current and future generations.