Meet NAWIC member Laura Cornthwaite

Laura Cornthwaite, National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) SA Chapter President, knew she wanted a rewarding career and after some trial and error found it in the construction industry.

Lauren Fahey, General Manager NAWIC.

In highlighting the diversity of roles and opportunities available for women in the construction industry, we sat down with Laura Cornthwaite to hear about her journey.

When Laura was in school, she says she tried to mould herself into different jobs but found none of them felt like the right fit. At the end of year ten, a teacher gave her some advice that changed her perspective and led her on the path to where she is today.

“She told me to go home and write a list of five non-negotiable qualities I wanted in a job,” says Laura. “As I wrote these down, I decided first and foremost that I didn’t want to work in a traditional office – I knew from my time at school that sitting at a desk all day wasn’t for me.”

“I wanted to travel both in my job, but also earn enough money to travel the world. I set a goal for myself to visit 30 countries by 30 years of age.”

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Laura explains that she wanted to learn something new every day and be in a career with opportunities for growth. After loving having particular responsibilities as captain of her netball team, she knew she also wanted to be a leader.

“Finally, I wanted to meet and work with new people as I love working as part of a team of like-minded individuals,” she says.

Based on her answers, Laura concluded she wanted to be a police officer and upon completing school went to an information session with South Australia Police, who advised her to take two years to gain more life experience.

“I thought the best way to do this would be to travel, but I needed money to do that so started to look for a job,” she says.

Securing a job in retail, Laura soon after decided to apply for an administration assistant position with a commercial builder. Her intention was to work there for a year to earn enough money to travel before joining the force.

“After just six months in the business I knew that the career I always wanted, just never knew about, was in the construction industry,” shares Laura. “It ticked all my five non-negotiables, so I went to university at the age of 25 to study a Construction Management degree and worked in that business for 13 years in various roles.”

“I also managed to achieve my goal of travelling. I have had the opportunity to work on projects in regional South Australia and Melbourne, Victoria; and have travelled to 30 countries by 30 years of age – with Iceland being number 30.”

Now a Project Manager at Walker Corporation, the construction professional works on a diverse range of projects doing what she loves. Laura says her favourite thing about working in the industry is that every day is different. One day she could be waking up early for a 6am concrete pour or working collaboratively with a contractor on a new methodology; the next she could be walking a client through their building before handing over the keys.

“Your days are full, but extremely rewarding,” she says. “The construction industry offers so much.”

“If you think you might consider construction as a career then reach out to organisations like NAWIC and ask to speak to a female working in the industry. Use the opportunity to ask lots of questions and hear about the industry from people who were once in a similar position just like you.”

This story originally appeared on Inside Construction Magazine.

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