Anna Nasalska-Olczyk

As national treasurer for the NAWIC, Anna, 37, based in London, has discovered a love of mentoring young women in the construction industry and has been mentored herself, in turn meeting a lot of women like her who are passionate about the work they do on site, further driving her to pursue her chosen career path.

Day to day, Anna works with architects and engineers at The Rushgroves, an L&Q development in north London, on the initial designs of a site and follows it through to execution. She facilitates workshops with designers and trades, considering each design element, including structural and mechanical elements and is responsible for ensuring that everyone involved in the process, understands and buys into the design of the buildings. She find it incredibly fulfilling to see families then move into and live in the homes she has worked on, knowing how her design decisions will be contributing to their quality of life.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am a Design & Technical Manager for L&Q, a leading residential developer. I have been working at The Rushgroves, a new development in North London since the start of the design process after being approached by L&Q. My role involves working with architects and engineers to design the homes we’re building, and carrying out the designs on site. My day to day role can vary, however this might include attending workshops with designers, builders and product manufacturers considering each design element of structure, mechanical and electrical systems. I work closely with everyone who is involved in the process, to ensure everyone understands the concepts and buys into my designs. This exciting development will offer 387 new homes and is designed with community at its heart.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Growing up I always enjoyed observing how people live and how the built environment can impact people’s lives, as well as their health and development. This interest led me to undertake studies in Architecture and Town Planning. After graduating I worked as an Urban Designer and researcher at the Warsaw University of Technology. Early in my career I was determined to become an architect and design houses, however further on I have recognised the importance of being able to take a design and convert it into a building. The complexity of the subject, together with its design, sustainability and financial elements gave me an opportunity to develop myself professionally. I then went on to complete my engineering studies with a commercially-focused course.

I later took a career break to support my family and when my husband relocated to London we all followed. I took this opportunity to consider my options and decided to go back to university. This time I studied an MSc in Real Estate and Planning at UCL, which focused on the planning and investment required by property developers to create world class architecture in London. Once I graduated I applied for a position on a construction site, and secured a job as a document controller. Working on site I witnessed the process of completing buildings and people starting to use the new space. I worked as a document controller for a year before I stepped up to work in technical and design management.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Studying and adapting to my new role after university as a new mother was a challenge! During this period however I found the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) helpful for meeting a network of likeminded people who were able to help me with adapting to these changes.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I have always had a positive experience on site, I work with a great team! However I know not all are so lucky, and I would love to see more opportunities offered to women. Within the industry I would like to see focus on merit and ability, as is the case at L&Q and The Rushgroves.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

As part of my involvement with the National Association of Women in Construction and RIBA Fluid Mentoring, I have had the opportunity to be a mentor as well as be mentored by others, and I find that it’s a fulfilling and positive resource for all. Being part of an organisation like NAWIC has allowed me to meet lots of interesting people in the industry and find out about all the different opportunities and type of roles on offer. This information is extremely useful when you’re starting out and don’t know what part of the industry is of most interest to you. NAWIC organises regular tours of different building sites which helps us all to learn about different trade skills and techniques. L&Q supports NAWIC initiatives and just recently we organised a visit for members at The Rushgroves.

Being part of NAWIC means I have met lots of other women who are passionate about construction, and this really encouraged me onto the career path I am on now.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in construction?

Construction can be a very fulfilling career, as you can watch your efforts transform an empty site into a place where people can thrive for years to come and it’s definitely something many more young women should be considering. The results of your work are tangible and can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

More young women need to be told early on while they are at school about the benefits of careers in construction and the opportunities open to them. If more of us working in the industry can go into schools and colleges and talk about our work, it could make a tangible difference. Personally, I really enjoyed Maths and Science when I was younger but also have a creative side so would particularly recommend it as a career for young women who are looking for a job which allows them to utilise both of these skills. There are such a variety of management roles which women could be excelling in and I think it’s important that girls know that these options are available to them!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My current focus is to see the project at The Rushgroves through to the end and welcome the residents into their new homes. This role presents lots of design challenges – for example we are creating a neighbourhood space which incorporates some complex solutions to store rainwater and direct the flow back to the nearby Silk Stream – however I am really enjoying finding ways to create a development that puts the residents’ needs at its heart. This will be a great achievement when we reach it, and I’m looking forward to see the final product of our efforts and my designs.