In Conversation with AECOM Executive Maggi Marx
The HardHat Professional had a chat with Maggi Marx (MM), BSc (Hons) QS, PrQS, PMAQS Executive, Program, Cost, Consultancy, AECOM Africa.
THHP: Briefly tell us about your background
MM: I was born and raised in Pretoria and studied at the University of Pretoria. After I successfully completed my Honours degree in Quantity Surveying in 2002, I worked as a professional QS in London, United Kingdom. Durban became my new home in 2005. Currently, I am an Executive for AECOM in our Umhlanga office. I co-manage a team of fifteen Quantity Surveyors.
THHP: Why did you choose a career as a HardHat Professional?
MM: It was really by coincidence and a bit of a gamble. When I had to make a career decision at the age of 17, my two choices were dentistry and viticulture. My goal was to do something that I will enjoy and to earn a respectable income. I was accepted for both but made a complete u-turn when our school educational psychologist introduced me to quantity surveying. I would still love to become a garagisté one day.
THHP: What has been your greatest moments in this career?
MM: There have been numerous highlights, but some of the ones that stand out for me was my first job at a developing company, earning a salary and becoming independent. Another highlight was joining AECOM in 2008 and being exposed to commercial, retail, residential, industrial and major engineering projects like Durban Harbour Entrance Widening.
I became an Executive in 2017 and was afforded numerous opportunities by AECOM.
THHP: What has been your experience as a female in this male-dominated industry?
MM: Does it matter that I am a female in the industry? Does it matter that I am on many occasions the only female in a construction meeting? It does not matter to me as my role is to be a quantity surveyor and to be successful at the end of the day. The only problem I see is that there is still far too little woman representation in the construction industry.
THHP: What are the challenges you have experienced and how did you overcome them?
MM: I have worked with some wonderful people over the years who provided guidance, shown integrity and treated me with respect. Unfortunately, male chauvinism still rears its ugly head occasionally. I have learned not to take this personally and not to partake in hostile conversations.
As Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high”.
I became a mother in 2017, and after being on maternity leave, I was very reluctant to return to work. The fear of leaving my child at home, juggling motherhood and my career was too overwhelming. Thankfully AECOM provides a supportive and flexible working environment which meant that I did not need to choose between the two.
THHP: What would you advise aspiring female HardHat Professionals?
MM: Do not ask yourself why you cannot be successful in a male-dominated industry. Ask yourself why and how you are going to do your job better than anyone else out there!
THHP: What value do you think females bring to this industry?
MM: The feminine touch does make a difference. The aim is for all to be treated as equals, but our advantage is that we are naturally more caring and polite by nature. As a female in the construction industry be gracious and polite even if they are not polite to you.
I believe it is important to BE FEMALE. We can open a door for ourselves but let the gentlemen of our industry open a door for you, pull out a chair for you, let you walk into a room first, etcetera. Do not let the industry determine your feminity.
THHP: What are you doing to ensure more female HardHat Professionals come up the ranks?
MM: Providing guidance and mentorship is very important to motivate females to join the industry as well as prevent women from leaving the industry.
THHP: How are you celebrating Women’s Month? Does it matter to you?
MM: I make sure my husband brings me breakfast in bed (laughs). On a more serious side, yes it does matter as many women fought hard for the opportunities that are now available to females. We should also show gratitude to all the women out there standing up for our rights.
We must celebrate the journey and what is still to be achieved by women.
THHP: Who are your role models in the industry and why?
MM: I think it is important to learn from as many leaders out there as possible but someone that currently stands out for me is Lara Poloni, AECOM’s Chief Executive for EMIA.
She is also our first female Chief Executive and well versed in the challenges faced by women and very confident in the fight for equality. Construction News has recognised her as one of the “15 people to watch in 2018”. Leading AECOM’s 20,000-strong team across the UK, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, Lara is working on a range of services to deliver solutions to some of society’s most complex infrastructure challenges. Need I say more!