Jade Nicholson: Driving positive change

With her determination, perseverance and resilience Jade Nicholson is making her mark in the construction industry. Now a Project Manager with Multiplex Constructions, Nicholson has worked on a broad range of projects which have each shaped the professional she is today.

When it comes to passion, Nicholson has it in droves. Coming from an all-girls school in Sydney where construction was never spoken about as a career choice, the now Project Manager for Multiplex paved her own path into the construction industry.

“I’ve always lived and worked by my motto – if you want to see the change, you’ve got to be the change that you want to see,” says Nicholson.

So, following school graduation and a 12-month gap year in Europe, Nicholson changed her university preferences to pursue a degree in Construction Project Management at University of Technology, Sydney.

With her father, uncles and cousins playing various roles in the construction industry– Nicholson says it has a strong influence on her career – “I’ve always loved architecture; I’ve always loved buildings; so, choosing a degree that marries those two things was second nature to me,” she says.

“My dad said to me, ‘Jade, do you know what you’re getting yourself into’, and suggested that I get a job in the industry to understand foundationally what it’s about.”

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Nicholson took her dad’s advice, and in her first year of university secured a role as a building cadet for Laing O’Rourke. She spent five years with the company whilst studying for her degree, navigating the ropes of the fast-paced construction industry and full-time study.

In 2012, with her degree in hand and industry experience, Nicholson secured a Site Engineer position with Multiplex. “There’s always been something about Multiplex that has resonated with me. It’s a company I knew I wanted to be a part of,” she says.

Nicholson was quickly promoted to Project Engineer in 2015, then Design Manager in 2016, before achieving a long-term career goal of becoming Project Manager in 2021. “I’ve been in the industry for nearly 16 years and so far, it’s been a very rewarding career. If I look back and I think about the diversity of projects that I’ve worked on, the people that I’ve worked with, what I’ve learnt and how much I’ve grown, I find it incredibly rewarding and fulfilling,” says Nicholson.

When speaking of the projects she’s worked on, Nicholson says she’s proud of every single one, particularly during her time with Multiplex. “The thing about the projects I get to work on is they’re all unique, they’re all complex with different challenges, but with them comes an amazing opportunity to grow, develop and hone your skill set,” she says.

Though, Nicholson says there are a few projects that have had a major impact on shaping the Project Manager she is today, like the Charles Perkins Centre at The University of Sydney Camperdown.

Her first project after joining Multiplex, Nicholson worked with architecture firm FJMT to deliver their bold design for the Centre which was completed in 2013. As Site Engineer, she was responsible for the façade and the structural steel which were both key architectural elements for the project. Nicholson was awarded the National Association for Women in Construction (NAWIC) Achievement in Construction, Refurbishment and Fitout for her role in delivering the project.

“It’s a beautiful looking building with an amazing atrium. There’s a structural steel stair that cantilevers off and transitions by 15-degrees each level. It’s clad in a moulded plasterboard that wraps and adjoins the atrium balustrade, which has resulted in a ribbon like effect. The prefabricated engineering solution meant we mitigated considerable work, health and safety risks which also resulted in an installation that provided improved construction efficiencies,” says Nicholson.

“It was a difficult build that I can proudly say we finished on time.”

In 2014, Nicholson started on another complex project, helping to deliver M&L Hospitality’s redevelopment of 161 Sussex Street, Sydney, now the Hyatt Regency. The project included refurbishment of the existing hotel, the construction of a new 3,450 square metre convention centre and a 25-level tower constructed over the Western Distributor.

Nicholson says this job in particular taught her about the importance of good stakeholder management, communication and why managing expectations is key. “We were doing construction works 24/7 in a 24/7 operational hotel. In order to balance construction activities with hotel operations, we would have daily meetings with hotel management. I worked with them to understand their operations whilst clearly outlining our works and the impacts they would have. There was a lot of collaboration and compromise made by both parties, which is key to any successful project,” she says.

“In the end it was a successful job that I now reflect back on and appreciate how much the project shaped who I am.”

In 2015, the Sussex Street project ended up being recognised by the Australian Steel Institute (ASI) and was awarded the Site Award at its National Health & Safety Excellence Awards.

More recently Nicholson worked on a commercial building, with the purpose of the project to bring together 10 displaced entities in the healthcare system and deliver a purpose-built building which focused on collaboration and integration. Completed in 2020 for Health Infrastructure, Nicholson managed the jobs entire design from beginning to end having worked front end to secure the project for Multiplex.

Now the Project Manager is delivering a high school in Mosman for School Infrastructure, managing a team with 35% female representation. Nicholson is incredibly passionate about the positive careers that exist within the construction industry and can see firsthand the benefits of diversity and inclusion. She is an advocate for women in construction and an advocate for creating inclusive teams. Right now, Nicholson says, “The team is thriving; it makes me proud to see everyone go about their work, collaborating in delivering what is another very complex project in a fully operational environment.”

Her team is using new technologies including a new digital materials handling booking system, and although there was some resistance in using it in the beginning, she’s starting to hear great feedback on the ground.

“The efficiencies and productivity we’re getting out of the technology are immeasurable, but more importantly the data we are capturing and able to use to inform our approach to materials handling is worth it,” says Nicholson.

When talking about the best thing about her job, Nicholson says it’s the diverse mix of people she gets to work and interact with every day.

“On one hand I might be dealing with a complex engineering/buildability issue with engineers and architects or sitting in a client meeting outlining our approach to a particular element of work. But on the other hand, I’ll be onsite having a discussion with a subcontractor who’s been doing their craft for 40 years,” she says.

“The people that I get to work with in all facets of the industry, from clients to consultants, subcontractors and the Multiplex team, are diverse and all bring something different to the equation.”

Another rewarding aspect of her job is seeing a job through to completion. In the construction industry projects have the ability to shape and influence people’s lives. Society is surrounded by the built environment and the buildings Nicholson works on today will be a part of the community long into the future.

“For me, being in the construction industry is not a career, it’s a lifestyle choice, and there is nothing more satisfying than finishing a job and obtaining Practical Completion,” says Nicholson.

Her advice for anyone looking for a career in the construction industry is, “Be your authentic self, value what you bring, and back yourself. A career in the construction industry is incredibly rewarding. It’s a dynamic industry, with every part offering unique opportunities and challenges. Don’t forget to speak up for what you want – my advice is be overt.”

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